How Gratitude Can Make You Healthier—Despite the Pandemic—and More Successful
As we enter the usually joyful holiday season, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping across the U.S. and other countries. Most of us (maybe all) are overwhelmed by the ongoing pandemic and all of the changes to our lives this year—including the recession. Gratitude, being grateful or thankful, will help us cope with the pandemic—and grow our freelance businesses.
How Gratitude Can Help You Cope with the Pandemic
Most of what’s happening with COVID-19 is outside of our control. But there’s one thing we can do to stay healthier and if we do get COVID-19, be less sick: boost our immune system. And gratitude is one way of doing this, says the American Heart Association.
By focusing on positive emotions, gratitude also helps us cope with stress, says the National Institutes of Health.
Studies also show that being grateful can:
- Increase energy and happiness
- Boost self esteem
- Strengthen resilience, which freelancers need in good and bad times.
How to Show Gratitude During the Pandemic
Even as we cope with the pandemic and the recession, freelancers Annie Kai I. Cheang, PharmD, MS, BCPS, Lisa Baker, PhD, CMPP, and I are grateful for our clients and colleagues. And we are taking a pause from the pandemic to show our gratitude.
Every year, Annie, Lisa, and I send holiday gifts to key clients and holiday cards to other clients and colleagues. Things are different this year so we’ve had to change our approaches.
For example, most of our clients are working at home now. So where do we send gifts and cards? The only way to find out is to ask our clients.
“I’m sending gifts to a few clients, and I asked, ‘What is the best address to use?’ These are people I work with a lot. I feel comfortable asking for this information, although it still feels weird to me,” says Lisa, a freelance medical writer specializing in publications.
And I agree. When I wrote those emails to ask my clients for their home addresses, it was awkward. But they all appreciated that I was looking for a way to send them gifts despite the pandemic.
If you’re not sure what to say, use what I wrote as a template.
Subject line: Holiday gift this year
Hi [CLIENT NAME]. I’m getting ready to order my holiday gifts and I realized that I can’t send yours to the office due to the pandemic.
Can I send my gift to you at home? If this is okay, can you give me your home address? Thanks.
Gratitude Builds Relationships with Clients and Colleagues
For Annie, sending holiday cards and gifts is “a way to continue to build relationships, to let the recipients know that I am thinking about them,” she says. Annie is also a freelance medical writer. Her clients include publication agencies and HEOR analytical firms.
Building trusting relationships with clients (current and prospective) and colleagues is one of the keys to getting more referrals. And getting more referrals is an easy way to succeed in freelancing.
If you send holiday gifts and cards, then it will be easier to build trusting relationships with clients and colleagues.
This is an easy, friendly way to stay in touch with clients and colleagues, and to ensure that they think of you first when they’re looking for a freelancer or have an opportunity to share. I’ve been sending holiday cards and gifts since I started my freelance business back in 1997.
More Ways to Stay in Touch and Show Gratitude
Learn about other great ways to stay in touch with clients, prospects, and colleagues:
Who to Send Gifts and Cards This Year
Usually, Lisa sends cards to clients who have expressed interest in her services but haven’t hired her yet. This year, she’s not going to do that. “It would be too time-consuming and potentially intrusive to ask all of my contacts for home addresses,” she says.
If you’re in a similar situation, do whatever feels right to you. It’s okay to not send holiday cards this year if you’re uncomfortable asking for home addresses. But if you are comfortable doing this, that’s fine too.
Here’s a template you can use.
Subject line: I’d like to send you a holiday card
Hi [CLIENT NAME]. This is a bit awkward, but I’d like to send you a holiday card, and I can’t send it to your office this year.
Can I send you a holiday card at home? If this is okay, please send me your home address. If you don’t want to give out your home address, that’s fine too.
People who are comfortable giving you their home address will probably reply to your email. If people aren’t comfortable doing this, they probably won’t reply. Don’t follow up.
Impress Clients with the Right Gift
Each year just after Thanksgiving, I visit Philadelphia’s famous Italian Market to order holiday gifts from Anthony’s Chocolate House for my biggest clients. My clients always look forward to getting the gourmet chocolate-covered pretzel trays I send them.
This year, I’ll be sending three extra client gifts since my close contacts at each company can’t share the chocolate-covered pretzels. I’m sending gifts to three people at one client and two at another. For my other clients, there’s just one key contact. I don’t mind spending the extra money because this year, showing my gratitude seems even more important. Lisa also chose the people she works with most closely as gift recipients.
Like me, Annie and Lisa are sending food gifts. Annie is sending brownie treats from Fairytale Brownies. “I received a box last year and it was love at first bite,” she says. “They also seem to have the business client in mind. I can place my entire order online but can still customize each box down to the packaging, having my business name on the sticker or not, and of course a customized message to the client.”
Here are some other ideas for client gifts:
- A motivational book, art, mug, etc.
- A donation in honor of your clients, to an organization like Doctors without Borders or UNICEF. For clients interested in culture and the arts, you could make a gift to a local (to the client) museum, theater, etc.
What You Need to Know about Client Gifts
Some clients can’t accept gifts or have limits on the value of gifts. Foundations, for example, are not allowed to accept gifts. I found this out the hard way, after I sent a foundation client a gift the first year that we worked together. My client was very nice about it, and asked me to only send cards in the future.
Government agencies can accept gifts but the cost can’t exceed $25. Some private clients may have gift limits too.
If your clients don’t have gift limits, you can spend as much as you want to, but know that you can only deduct $25 per client per year, says the IRS. The cost of my gifts varies by the size of the client (amount of business they give me and number of people who work there), but none cost more than $50. I don’t care that I can’t write off the entire gift because gratitude isn’t about maximizing income.
Who to give gifts
When you give clients gifts, be strategic. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. A holiday card is sufficient for a client who gave you one small project this year.
Annie, Lisa, and I all give gifts to the clients who give us the most work. I recommend gifts for all clients who give you at least $10,000 a year worth of business.
And keep a list of the gifts you give and who you give them to. You’ll need to refer to this next year.
Show Gratitude with Holiday Cards
When you buy your holiday cards, make sure they’re high-quality and for business. UNICEF’s Business Collection, where I buy my cards, allows you to support a good cause while sending beautiful cards. Minted is another good place to buy cards. The company will address the envelopes for free.
Sign each card and write a short personal note
You can have your name and company name, or your logo, printed on the cards, but also sign each card. And add a short personal note to each card, at least for your clients, prospects you’ve had contact with in the past year, and your closest colleagues.
Send your cards early
My cards are in the mail the Monday after Thanksgiving, so people get them before they’re inundated with cards. Jonathan Long suggests having your cards in the mail by December 10 in “Tell Them You Care With a Holiday Card. Use These 5 Tips to Do It Right.”
Should you send e-cards?
In general, I’m not a fan of e-cards. People get so many emails every day that opening an e-card is just one more thing to do. Plus, a lovely, professional holiday card that arrives in the mail makes much more of an impression.
But due to pandemic, you could try e-cards if you’re uncomfortable asking for home addresses. I do think it’s best to at least ask clients you’re currently working with for their home addresses, except for very new clients. For new clients, do whatever feels right to you.
Be Grateful All Yearlong
While the holidays are a natural time to express gratitude, the more grateful you are regularly, the more benefits you’ll get. That’s because gratitude is self-perpetuating, says The Tremendous Collective.
Gratitude actually rewires our brains, kick-starting the production of dopamine and serotonin. These feel-good neurotransmitters activate the bliss centers of the brain, creating feelings of happiness and contentment. Dopamine and serotonin also help you deflect negative thoughts.
Way to be grateful every day, from The Tremendous Collective, include:
- Celebrating minor accomplishments
- Being kind to others (e.g., opening a door for someone or flashing your smile)
- Appreciating the small things.
This year, Annie started thanking her clients every time she submitted a final project. Her thank yous are “not just for their business, but for other intangibles,” she says. For example, she may thank the client for being really well organized or responding promptly to her requests for documents or clarifications.
“These are small things, but they add up to a smooth project. I wanted to make sure my clients know I appreciate that,” says Annie.
Learn More About Gratitude and Freelancing
About Lisa and Annie
Gratitude and Your Health
American Heart Association. Thankfulness: How Gratitude Can Help Your Health.
Cleveland Clinic. Strengthen Your Immune System With 4 Simple Strategies