How to Take Time Off as a Freelancer
Recently, I've been working diligently towards a particular date. Not a project deadline, but my next week-long vacation.
I want to unplug from my business and recharge, and most importantly, not take any work with me. When you're a freelancer, it can be tempting to work all the time and never take time off on the weekends or holidays.
You know that if you leave your work to take a vacation or celebrate the holidays, there's no coworker around to pick up the slack and keep things moving forward while you're relaxing.
Sounds like an impossible situation, right? Not quite. I'm here to tell you that taking time off as a freelancer is possible, you just need to do a little preparation to ensure it goes smoothly so you can enjoy your time off.
Planning for Your Time Off When You're a Freelancer
1. Make a budget
Since you don't have paid days off anymore as a freelancer, you have to fund everything yourself. Which means having a savings account you can use to fund the trip.
A budget makes it even easier for you, as you'll know how much you'll need for your trip and whether you can take it at the time you want.
If you crunch the numbers and you come up short, don't immediately ditch your plans.
A staycation at home can be just as rewarding, as long as you're not sneaking peeks at your work email!
Other ideas include booking a local hotel for a couple of nights, borrowing a cottage or cabin from a family member or friend, or even acting like a tourist in your local area.
There are probably many things out there you've never had a chance to see because you're there all the time. You might discover something new about your town.
2. Plan ahead
The farther ahead you can plan your time off, the better. That's not to say you can't ever take a spontaneous day or weekend off, but if you're going away for longer, like a week or two, you'll need to plan as far in advance as you can.
This gives you time to get everything done that's due during your time away and also to get a jump on those couple of things due in your first few days back.
You'll probably still be ramping up to work again in those first days after you return, so make it easier on yourself by doing a bit of the work before you go.
3. Communicate your plans
Most importantly, your clients will appreciate the advance notice of your time away. Client relationships are critical as a freelancer, as you want to remain reliable and considerate of their needs and goals.
As soon as you know the dates you're away, put it in your email signature, so everyone you deal with knows when you'll be away.
If you're in the middle of a big project, make sure to tell your clients individually that you'll be away for that time period.
Communication is vital so your clients know you're not ignoring their projects and that you've planned for everything well ahead of time.
Bonus tip: Ed Gandia uses his vacation to drum up new business and so can you. Ed discovered this tactic purely by accident when he was merely advising his clients of an upcoming holiday.
Because he'd done so well in advance of his time off, they asked him to work on a couple of projects before he left; to the tune of $5,000 worth of work.
4. Preschedule marketing content
The most important part of your pre-vacation planning is to make sure you get all of your client work done before you leave. It's also important to ensure that your marketing efforts continue while you're away relaxing. After all, you want to keep things moving forward!
Use social media scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to preload social content, take advantage of the scheduled posting times in WordPress to set up some blog posts to go out while you're away, and if you've got a newsletter, preload that as well.
Just remember that you're not trying to encourage your audience into a conversation while you're away, so avoid major announcements or new product downloads.
5. Ask for help from your freelance network
Depending on the nature of your freelance writing business, it might not be possible for you to put off work during your time off.
This is when your freelance network comes in handy. Ask them to pitch in to help you keep the content moving and your clients happy.
Of course, you'll want to be sure your replacement writer is as skilled as you and just as reliable; otherwise, it won't work.
That may mean you'll need to handle a few emails back and forth, but that's much easier to deal with while away from your office instead of the actual writing, so that's okay.
6. Understand that you need and deserve time off as a freelancer
Taking time off for an extended holiday or vacation sure involves a lot of preparation, doesn't it? Yes, but you deserve it.
Actually, you need it too. The time away from your business will help you recharge your creative batteries, let stress sink back to 'regular' levels, and just give yourself time to rest.
Probably the biggest reason for you to take time off regularly, however, is to remind you of just why you became a freelancer in the first place: to be free to enjoy your life in ways most other people can't.
Every year, I try to take an extended vacation away from my freelance business.
Last year, it was two and a half glorious weeks in Italy, and this year, it's two separate weeks visiting friends and family in cities I can drive to.
I love my business, but I know how important it is to my mental and physical health to get away from it all.
Using these tips, I'm able to schedule my time away and still maintain my business (and sanity). You can too. So get out of here and enjoy some time off!
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