I love Xmas. It's not just because I know there will be piles of pressies, a Doctor Who special and a punch-up on EastEnders on the telly, and that I will actually take a couple of days off to relax a little.
No, Xmas is good because it means parties. I don't mean the family gatherings or drunken and rowdy nights out with your mates. I mean there is a galaxy of networking opportunities in December as colleagues of all sorts plan nights out to have a drink, a laugh and a chance to swap business cards.
Last night, I nipped over to Manchester and sneaked into the back of the Social Media Café - it was the perfect event to hook up with some of the city's digital movers and shakers over a couple of pints in a cosy pub. I put faces to a few names I have known online for a while and shook hands with a couple of people I hope will become friends. And, of course, I hope to develop these contacts into mutual work opportunities.
On Friday, I'll be doing it all again (in a different pub) with a dozen or so northern freelance hacks I know - our own version of an office party. And next week, I have client meetings in London, carefully timed to coincide with another pub night with more freelance journalists. While these two events are primarily social, out of friendship comes work, a surprising amount of which gets passed around by freelances to each other.
I also have several other evenings out lined up between now and the 25th. At this time of year, I grab every invitation going and turn up with my business cards - you never know who you'll meet and what it might lead to. Freelancing can be quite isolating when you're at home all day 5 days a week, plugging away on various projects so the annual December party bonanza is a great time to slow down on the work front and boost your social life in combination with some opportune networking.
Sausage roll, anyone?