Welcome to freelancing, the job title with the word “free” in it. Now that you are your own boss, you’re the master of your own schedule! So why is it still so hard to take a vacation as a freelancer? What prevents so many freelancers from taking some well-deserved time off?
You see, freelancers invest a lot of time into the client-getting process (which includes pitching new clients, and re-pitching previous ones). And once you get into a rhythm and build up your pipeline, it feels scary to walk away even for a few days. When a client asks if you’re available, it’s tempting to always say, “Absolutely!”
Nonetheless, it is important to take breaks and take care of yourself. Here are some tips to make sure you enjoy your time away from your business.
Take a Vacation As a Freelancer to Help Your Business Grow
It’s counterintuitive and a fact of life: taking time off is one of the best ways to ensure you can continue working at a high capacity. You need to unwind. And you need to step away from clients—yes, the clients who fund said vacations!
While you should be practicing self-care on a daily and weekly basis, taking a block of time away will help prevent burnout. An afternoon away is one thing. But it’s a totally different feeling to completely disconnect and even leave your computer at home!
Try to take at least two weeks off every year. That way you can continue to produce high-quality work, remain productive, and get re-energized to serve your clients.
When you take vacation as a freelancer, you’re actually investing in the long-term success of your business.
3 Steps to Successfully Take Vacation as a Freelancer
1. Build Vacation Time Into Your Schedule
This step is absolutely crucial so that you won’t burn any bridges while taking your break. Make a plan to complete all client projects before you go. After all, once you set a deadline, you must honor the deadline!
It helps to get in the habit of thinking a few months in advance. So, if you want to take a vacation every six months or so, block the time off before you accept work during that period.
Look at your schedule at the beginning of each year and decide when you’d like to take a break. Then, evaluate these target dates each quarter. As clients ask for your help with projects throughout the year, you’ll know whether their desired date conflicts with your vacation time.
2. Tell Clients About Your Schedule
About a month before your vacation time begins, start communicating with your clients. With four weeks to prepare, you and your client can effectively arrange schedules to accommodate your time away. If worse comes to worst, you could shift your vacation a few days—but we recommend avoiding this if at all possible so you don’t end up skipping it!
If your client is absolutely adamant that work must be done that particular week, reach out to a colleague for help. Make sure you trust their ethics and the quality of their work, of course. (You don’t want them to poach your client while you’re gone!) Your network should help set your mind at ease as you take vacation as a freelancer.
One week before you leave, make sure to let people know that you won’t be available while you’re gone. Email your clients (even if you don’t have a current project with them). This way, no one will think you’re ignoring them when you don’t respond to their email.
A Word of Caution About Out of Office Messages
It might seem like a good idea to set up an email auto-responder during your vacation, or even mention your trip on social media. However, it’s not wise to tell the world at large that you’re not at home.
One option is to set an auto-responder to go out only to people on your contact list. That way spammers won’t get access to that information!
3. Make a Plan for Your Return
One last thing to do before you leave: schedule some client meetings for when you’re back in the office and refreshed.
Having these meetings ready for you by the time you get home means you’ll be able to jump right back in, avoid undesirable time off, and show your clients that they are a priority for you.
If your projects are scheduled to be completed after you get back (rather than wrapping them up before you leave), try to prioritize your schedule in advance. It’ll be easier to pick up where you left off if you’ve set up your schedule already.
Will You Work During Your Vacation?
Many freelancers decide to take time away from home but choose to bring work with them. If being a digital nomad (at least some of the time) appeals to you, you can definitely take work with you on your travels. Here are some things to consider as you prepare to leave:
- What are your internet and Wi-Fi options? Where and when will you have access?
- How much time do you want to spend working vs. sightseeing? What might your day-to-day schedule look like?
- What aspects of your business do you want to work on? Will you be working on full projects, client communications, and/or your CEO tasks?
Set these boundaries for yourself before you leave. And then stick to them while you’re gone!
Build Time Off Into Your Freelance Rates
Our last tip is to build vacation time into your project prices—and essentially get paid time off. So, as you’re deciding what to charge, make sure you pay yourself enough to cover taxes and your vacation time.
Freelancers shouldn’t expect to work one day a year and make six figures! But it is possible to take two weeks off each year and hit six figures at the same time.
$50 x 40 hours x 50 weeks = $100,000/year
Of course, you should set your hourly rate based on your field, your experience level, and your location—among other things. But keep in mind how important it is to take a vacation as a freelancer. And build that time off into your rate.
Now, go and enjoy your vacation! And don’t forget to plan your next one!
Your turn! Have you been able to take vacations? How have you fared? Let us know in the comments below!