Let’s be honest… when you work for yourself, taking a vacation isn’t easy.
Traditional 9-to-5ers can request a few days off, hand over some files to a coworker, and put up an out-of-office reply. Then they’re free and clear to do as they please (all while getting paid to do it!)
But we freelancers? We don’t have that kind of luxury.
Every day we spend away from work is another dollar lost, and to put it mildly: Getting those days away in the first place is difficult. With dozens of freelance writing clients and projects to juggle, each with a different deadline and need, it can be hard to even catch a breath – let alone take a week off.
Sadly, non-stop work can leave us burned out, and we need those vacations. We need them to stay focused and excited about our careers …. to spend time with our loved ones and re-group… and most of all, to stay sane!
When I first started freelance writing, it took me years to take a vacation. I worked non-stop (weekends included) for nearly 3 full years. Sure, it helped me get to where I am today, but was I rolling in the dough at the time? No. Was I neglecting my social life and friends, family and interest? Most definitely.
I had to remind myself why I got into freelance writing in the first place. I wanted to control my own career – particularly my schedule.
Sadly, the reality sunk in, and I realized something: I had no more control over my schedule than I did at my old cubicle. I was still at the beck and call of a boss (several of them in fact), and my work-life balance was even more imbalanced. Where had I gone wrong?
That’s when I decided it was time for a break. I plotted and planned and arranged, and a few months later, I was able to take a much-needed 2-week vacation.
If you read that and are thinking “A TWO-WEEK BREAK? MY CLIENTS WOULD KILL ME!” I promise, it’s easier than you think.
All it takes is a lot of forethought, some good old-fashioned communication, and careful planning.
Here’s how I made it happen (and you can too!)
Plan Months in Advance
I recommend having at least a 3-4 month window before you vacation so you have plenty of time to wrap up projects, work ahead and get your clients ready for your departure.
This doesn’t mean to plan every part of your trip, but you do need to set dates. Know when you’re leaving, when you’re coming back, and when you will stop and start work again. Keep in mind jet lag and other factors that may impact your ability to jump right back in.
I personally like to leave a few extra days on both ends of my trip – on the front end for packing and making last-minute arrangements, and on the back end for unpacking, catching up on sleep, and restocking the house with groceries.
Map Out Your Deadlines
List all of your known deadlines. Include those that fall just before, during and right after your vacation. These are the ones to complete before you head out of town.
You don’t want to miss any deadlines; that’s a huge no-no with freelance writing clients. Second, you don’t want any upcoming projects looming overhead while you’re on vacation. That should be a time for R&R – not worrying about work. Once you determine which projects you need to complete before your trip, work backward, setting yourself smaller deadlines over the next couple months so that everything comes in completed and on time.
Tell Your Clients Early
As soon as you know the dates you will be offline, let each of your clients know right away. Tell them you will be completely unavailable by XYZ date, but back in action by XYZ.
Let them know what your absence means for their projects. Will you be completing them all before you leave? If so, what date can they expect them by? What about new projects?
I like to give clients a deadline for incoming work – the last possible date they can get me new work before I take time off. This is usually no later than 3 weeks before the trip.
Working at night and on the weekend is not fun, but you know what is? A full week or two away from emails, editors and freelance writing invoicing.
Start putting in some extra time each week now, and get as ahead on your deadlines as possible. The more you can clear out your schedule leading up to the trip, the better. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get an extra few days out of it if you work hard enough!
If you usually do daily or weekly work for a client, such as posting a blog, Facebook post or Tweet, schedule these ahead of time.
Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite to post to social platforms in your absence, or log into WordPress, upload your blog, and set the publish date for a date while you’re gone. You don’t want to have to log on or check email for a single thing when you’re away, so think ahead and plan accordingly.
Proper communication is essential. Make sure your clients are well aware of your pending absence, and remind them when you’ll be gone, when your final deadlines are, and what availability you have. Do what you can to make your absence unnoticeable, and have a plan in place for every project or piece of content you owe your clients while you’re away.
Follow these tips, and I promise, a vacation is definitely possible. In fact, now’s the perfect time to start planning that next getaway, so block out those dates and get moving!