Let's talk about vacation!
It's one of the double-edged swords of freelancing.
On the one hand, you have the freedom to go on vacation whenever you want and for however long you wish.
And on the other hand, you have to be the one who takes the initiative to plan and actually go on vacation because no one is going to encourage you to do so.
As ridiculous as it sounds, it can be a bit nerve-wracking to take a vacation as a freelancer. Your mind may be plagued with anxious questions like, “Will I have clients when I get back?” or “Will people remember me if I don’t tweet or reply to a Slack thread for the two weeks I’m gone?”
Plus, without the security of paid time off, taking a vacation may seem like a step backward for some.
The truth is, it’s completely normal to think this way.
However, you can quickly burn yourself out if you don’t plan time for yourself away from work.
With the proper planning and action, you can unplug and get that much-deserved (and perhaps much-needed) time away from your desk.
Read on to learn about how to plan for your next vacation.
1. Make a plan and communicate that plan to your clients
As a general rule of thumb that applies to many aspects of client management, the more time you give your clients (and yourself) the easier and less stressful it will be to walk away from your desk.
It’s probably not in your best interest to surprise them. Yes, you can take a vacation whenever you want, but you want to keep things professional as well.
Before you tell your clients anything, make sure you have all the details ironed out for your trip.
Important Sidebar: You do not work for your clients; you work with them. Therefore, you don’t have to ask for their permission regarding anything related to your time. If you want to go on a three-week backpacking trip, go on a three-week backpacking trip! The only approval you need is from yourself.
Got it? Good. Back to planning.
Once you finalize the details for your vacation, it’s best to send a separate email that includes the following:
- Your last day in the office and when you’ll return.
- If you’ll be checking in and how often.
- Secondary contact information if applicable.
- Any other pertinent details your client should know.
Sending a separate email will not only prevent that information from getting lost in the shuffle, but it will also be easy for your client to refer back to if they need.
Also, don’t forget to remind them of when you’ll be gone after you’ve sent this initial email, perhaps like a week or two before you sign off. That way, you don’t run into any miscommunication issues.
2. Get a handle on future client work
To make sure you’re able to enjoy your vacation and avoid having to work if you don’t want to, make sure you plan your workload ahead of time.
Depending on the types of client work you have (project-based versus retainer contracts) this preparation will probably vary.
Take a look at what deadlines you have coming up and if any overlap with when you’re going to be out of the office.
If you’re clear of deadlines during the time you’ll be out, make sure you communicate to current and any potential new clients that you cannot take on any new work until you’re back. If you do have deadlines that occur when you plan on being out, make sure you front-load your work so that your clients have everything they need.
This part can be tough (after all, this likely means you’ll be working more hours leading up to your vacation date), which is why it’s best to plan as far out as you possibly can.
Depending on the work you do and your relationship with your client, you may be able to negotiate a workaround. For example, if you’re a writer and you know your client works with other writers, perhaps work can be shifted (if that’s what you want, of course).
3. Prep your content ahead of time
Just as you would take care of everything client-related before you close your laptop, make sure you take care of your content, too.
Write and schedule your blog posts and newsletters ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about publishing or sending.
If you don’t want to go radio silent and leave your readers hanging, this is critical. However, if you feel comfortable emailing your list and explaining that you'll be OOO, that’s cool, too.
The lesson here is to do whatever you need to do to help yourself completely unplug from your inbox, Google Docs, MailChimp, etc.
4. Make sure your finances are in a row
The last thing you want is to get to your vacation destination only to find yourself worrying about money. Better yet, how you’re going to pay for this dang vacation.
If you work on a project by project basis, make sure you take on enough work before you leave to supplement your vacation costs and to cover your monthly bills. If you work with retainer clients, make sure you either front-load your work or take on any additional projects to make sure you’re financially set.
This is another reason why planning is so important–the more time you have to fit in extra work and account for the time you’re out, the better. Also, consider creating a budget for the time you’ll be gone so you can see exactly how much money you need to make or save beforehand.
As you grow as a freelancer and take on bigger clients, you may not have to give this part a second thought. But regardless of where you are in your freelance journey, it’s important to lay this all out.
Takeaway: Realize that you deserve (and need) to take a vacation
You work hard, and you deserve to take time for yourself to relax on the beach, explore a national park, or do whatever “vacation” means to you.
If you don’t plan time off, you may find yourself in a state of burnout that impacts not only your work but both your mental and physical health. No one wants that.
Allow yourself to take time off. But set yourself up properly to be able to do that without stress or worry.
You deserve it.
Want more ways to elevate your freelance career? Tune into the Unemployable podcast for more.