USA Today

Give Yourself a Gift

By Jennifer Sander

usa1Ah, Christmas. The perfect time to relax, to spend quiet time with your family and friends, reflecting on the events of the past year and re-charging for the coming year. The perfect time to sip eggnog and munch cookies. The perfect time to… hustle business?

“This millennium season filled with Christmas and New Year’s parties is the perfect time to ask friends to introduce you to anyone who might help you further your business,” publicist and media coach Susan Harrow suggests. “Many of your friends and colleagues are waiting for the chance to help you. Allow them to. You might start with the phrase ‘I’m looking to expand my business. Is there any way you can think of to help?’ This phrase gives them the opportunity to use their imagination fully.”

Susan sends out a free email newsletter filled with marketing tips called Sixty Second Secrets. To subscribe, send an email to, and tell her Jennifer sent you!

Not only are the holidays fraught with marketing and networking opportunities, there are those self-employed folks who find this is the busiest time of the year. No lounging around spending quality time with friends, they have to be out selling their holiday-themed services.

“You can really celebrate Christmas anytime, it doesn’t have to be on that actual day…” is the attitude of my brother, Paul Basye. A freelance cartoonist, he finds his seasonal services as a holiday window painter in great demand all the way up to the actual day.

Instead of sweet-faced snowmen and Santa’s elves, his clients at hip record stores and cafes request slightly, uh, edgier themes. Like Santa catching some air on a snowboard, or a team of reindeer downing a batch of mocha lattes.

And it is not just window painters that are running from gig to gig during December. Pity the poor Santas, storytellers, face painters, and elves. At a recent children’s party I attended with my son Julian, I picked up a glossy red business card that read, “Available on Christmas Eve and Christmas!” If posing as Santa is how you put bread on the table, those are your two hottest nights. No time to sit around with Mrs. Claus, swapping warm memories of Christmases past.

December is a big month for me, too. For the past three Christmases I have been kept busy promoting the holiday “miracle” books I produce. Smiling at passers-by in book stores, telling stories over the airwaves to drive-time radio hosts, and trying to act perky on early morning television shows, I have to keep my energy levels on high right up until the big day itself, December 25. Instead of helping my husband wrap the kids’ presents or driving our two little boys slowly through darkened neighborhoods gazing at decorated houses, there I am down at the mall bookstore in my sparkly Christmas suit hoping to sell just one more book.

The fine folks in Grand Forks, N.D. heard me tell miracle stories for a solid hour over the radio this afternoon, instead of hand decorating gingerbread cookies for tonight’s party. I’ll have to run to the store for bakery cookies, instead. Martha Stewart would be horrified. But then, Miss Martha herself is pretty busy promoting herself and her wares at the holidays, too.

With just a scant few days left before Christmas, have you given yourself a gift this year? A few weeks ago I wrote about Harriet Rubin’s new book about going it alone, ‘Soloing: Realizing Your Life’s Ambitions’. If you are in need of an emotional pick-up after a long, hard year of working on your own, find a quiet corner of the house away from the holiday cheer and re-charge yourself with what she has to say about taking chances with your life, getting scared, and then taking more chances. Cool book.

Another great present to sneak under the tree for yourself is ‘How Much Should I Charge?’ by Ellen Rohr. It never hurts to be reassured that your skills, knowledge, and services are valuable indeed. Chances are, you are currently undercharging for what you offer. Could make the coming new year more profitable for you!

As this year comes to a close, I’d like to thank you all for visiting me here at “On Your Own.” In order to reaffirm the purpose of our self-employed community here, I’d like to invite you all to send me your New Year’s Resolutions. Next week I plan to write one long column filled with as many names and goals as I can cram on to the site. Post your business goals in cyberspace for all the world to see. Send them ASAP to