Welcome to 2017! If you’re sitting at your desk (or at a coffee shop, or even on the couch) wondering how to get back into the swing of things, you’re not alone. It’s pretty rough going back to work for everyone. You are probably looking for some ways to energize yourself and ease back into your freelance career while getting new clients, strengthening relationships with your current clients, and reconnecting with former clients. Luckily, you can you do all of that while recovering from your post-holiday coma. Just follow these 5 simple and actionable ways to make sure you start the new year off right.

Step 1: Get In Touch

Everyone is probably waking up from their post-holiday haze. Keep on your client’s good side by sending them a proactive New Year’s message. Since the New Year holiday falls on a Sunday, it’s probably a good idea to wait a few days to let your clients get back into the swing of things. By January 4th or 5th, you should be all clear to send a reminder message – wait much longer and you might miss getting involved in some 2017 initiatives or key projects.

Your New Year’s message should contain a few things:

  • Write a general greeting – No big shock there. Something positive and generic works. Just keep it upbeat!
  • Give a review of in-progress work – Give a recap of where you were before everyone left for the holidays. Make this list brief and to-the-point. Project name, next action item(s), and relevant due dates. It’s also a good idea to link each project to the relevant file location (on Dropbox, Google Drive, or wherever you and your client store files). That way they don’t need to go digging for files or start working on the wrong versions.
  • Mention proposed projects – Was your client kicking around some ideas before they went on break? Maybe they mentioned getting you involved in a big project, or having you help them with certain deliverables. Now’s a great time to bring it up!
  • Talk about new ideas – This is one of the best ways to get into clients good graces. Think outside of the box, propose cool ideas, give them something to show you’ve been mulling ways to improve the work you’re doing with them in the new year. Often, freelancers anticipate that they need to stick closely to what they are asked to do and not deviate from that model. Now, I’m not saying go crazy and turn in work you weren’t asked to do. I’m saying think of ways to make the work better – more efficient, prettier, more comprehensive, really anything. Just add value to your current work and ask the client what they think.

Step 2: Revisit the Past

Is there a contract that seemed to have potential but fizzled out for some reason? Maybe you did all of the work they needed at that time, got paid, and that seemed like it was it. Don’t let a good working relationship go so quickly! Finding dependable freelance clients that you enjoy working with is great, so keep them around whenever possible.

If there is a previous client that you haven’t heard from in a while, check in! Send them a New Year’s greeting message saying you have some availability coming up and seeing if they have any work for you. Yes, it might seem a little forward, so don’t beg. Now would also be a good time to mention new skills you’ve developed or projects you have done that directly relate to the work that they have. Sometimes getting freelance clients to give you work just requires you to ask for it!

I’ve had plenty of clients say they have more for me to do, they just don’t want to “overload me” because they know I’m working for multiple clients at once. Give them the opportunity to give you the work by asking for it directly.

Step 3: Motivate Yourself

Everyone needs a little incentive to get rolling. For me, it’s coffee. Before I take my holiday break, I am going to go to the store and get the nicest coffee, creamer, and sugar I can find. That way, when my alarm rings and I’m tempted to stay in bed – I’ll have a little extra reason to actually wake up.

Freelancing gives you so much flexibility that it can sometimes lull you into being a bit lazy. This is especially true when you’re coming back from a vacation or a break. You won’t need to go into an office, and there’s often little indication that the break is over beyond an influx of Skype notifications. So do something little for yourself that reminds you it’s work time, but gives you a positive reason to get back to it!

Step 4: Be Bold

Was there a project that you absolutely dreaded coming back to after your break? You know, the one that would creep into your brain during what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, taunting you with unfinished deadlines. Hit that job the hardest and do it now!

Start 2017 off strong by figuring out why this project haunts you, and how you can make it (somewhat) better. Here are some common problems and fixes that might help you on your path to turning your most-hated project into one that you don’t mind working on:

  • Get Clarity – Do you always feel like you are falling short or missing the mark? Then use this as a chance to get clarity. If you are having a hard time pinning a client’s expectations down, then get it in writing. One simple way to do this is to have them submit a form with each work request. I use Google Forms when I need project details. Put in relevant questions (what the client wants and when then want it) and include specifics. That way you’ll have everything in one place.
  • Set Deadlines – Does your client want everything done asap, and always leaves you scrambling? We all run into that issue sometimes, but if it keeps happening you’re going to need to talk to your client. Be nice, and be clear that in order to do your best work you need a reasonable amount of time. If the client is willing, set up a shared calendar where they can put important deadlines and checkpoints. Sometimes people don’t realize how much work they are throwing at you because it comes piece-by-piece. Putting everything on a clear calendar can help them to see what deadlines they are giving you, and might give them some perspective.
  • Schedule Meetings – Is there a client you just don’t seem to understand? For freelancers, that can sometimes be an issue of distance or unfamiliarity. If your irritating client is just a name on a chat app, try and schedule a face-to-face or video chat. You’ll be surprised how much this changes your perception of the client. I’ve had clients that always seem grumpy, only to find that’s just their text-based communication style. If you need an excuse for a chat, just say you want 20 minutes with them to get a sense of your 2017 project scopes and say you’re doing it with all of your clients.

Step 5: Find New Passions

What skills aren’t you capitalizing on? Your work history is probably filled with skills that you aren’t using much, and some of them could be big money makers. As a freelancer, it can be easy to focus on your primary skill set, but this can be really limiting.

If you are great at something that you could use to build (or expand) your freelance career, then start working on incorporating that into your freelance career. If your resume doesn’t have a skills section, then sit down and write out the components of projects that you are responsible. Then, break that list down further into concrete skills. Now that you have a list of skills you are experienced in, which ones do you think are the most marketable?

Remember, you don’t need to be an expert in these skills to get started. One of the great things about freelancing is that you can start doing entry level tasks and build your career up from there. If there are any skills you are interested in developing, take on a job or two that utilizes that skill. Challenge yourself to try something new in the first few months of 2017, you might just find a career path you enjoy more than your current one.

Now Get Started!

Everyone has trouble getting back into their routine, which is why you might need to shake it up a bit. If you’ve done these 5 steps and are looking for more motivation, head over to the Top 10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Freelance Career in 2017 for some great ways to love the work you do. Remember, freelancing is about the freedom you have to define your career and your goals. Never lose sight of what you are passionate about, and make 2017 the year where you focus on doing what you enjoy!

What else do you find helps you get back in to work after a long break? Do you try and new work environment, buy a new piece of software, or go to more networking events? Share your post-holiday motivation tips in the comments below!