Not quite sure where the year's gone, but apparently it's December as of yesterday. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us, followed by Hogmanay and then it'll be 2008. Reminds me of the time I misplaced 1992. I was writing a cheque for some bill and couldn't for the life of me remember it was 1993, not 1992. I mean, it's not like I don't remember bits of 1992. That was the year I switched from freelancer to full-time employee, going on staff with Egmont as editor of the Judge Dredd Megazine. I stayed on staff for eight and a quarter years, before quitting to become freelance again.
Now it's December, the pre-Christmas crush comes into full effect. Most creative industries effectively shut down from a few days before the public holiday to a few days after January 1st, depending on when dates fall in relation to weekend and the like. While certain people will have to work some days in that period, the bulk of editors and commissioners are on holiday. As a consequence, material needs to reach them at least a week before they vanish on holiday, or else it simply won't get read. Parties, hangovers and regrets all impinge on reading time.
If you're freelancer, there's a simple fact that pervades life - if you're not working, you're not earning. Royalties and residuals are lovely, but you can't depend upon those until they're already in your bank account. So the festive season can leave a big, fat hole in freelancer finances. It's anyway between two and four weeks where if you don't already have commissioned work to do, you won't be getting any new gigs to pay the bills. Often you won't have a deadline until the end of January, which means you won't see fresh money until the end of February.
So November and December are all about ignoring your Squirrel Nutkin urge to go out and party. Freelancers need to be working, they need to be earning and they need to be stockpiling some money. Bills don't stop coming due, just because it's Christmas, and there's all those presents to buy as well. To cap it all off, the Inland Revenue expects a large payment from freelancers at the end of January. If you haven't been putting money aside, the next eight weeks can become a mad scramble to find the funds that'll foot the taxman's bill. Save now, or regret later.
All of which means there's a lot of freelance creatives working this weekend - and I'm one of them. Wrote five thousand words yesterday, and I need to produce a similar amount today. So, it's time for a spot of breakfast, a bracing cup of coffee and a long day of staring at the computer screen until my eyeballs bleed. Wish me luck.