The Time Off/Time On Conundrum
How to take time off when you’re always on call.
People often believe freelancers work whenever they feel like it, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case... The truth is, freelancers work when they get work. Anyone who has dipped their toes into the freelance lifestyle is familiar with the long weeks of radio silence from their clients. These weeks almost never feel like time off, but rather like a slow build up of stress: when and where is my next payday?! We also know this period can end with one single email that can come at any time. And of course, that email often requires you to be available the next day. And if you’re on a beach in Mexico, there goes your payday! The unpredictability of the freelance life can make it extremely difficult to plan for a vacation or some time off.
There are of course no easy solutions, but it doesn’t mean a freelancer shouldn’t take time off. Vacations are not only healthy for the body, soul and family dynamics, they’re also an important part of life. And freelancers deserve it just as much as full-time employees. So here are a few tips to help you really enjoy your time off and find that time on / time off balance.
Plan around big projects
If you know a big project is coming up, plan a vacation the week before. You won’t be stressed about money or missing out on an opportunity, because you know you have a gig waiting for you when you clock back in. If you are in the middle of a big project with a clear end date in sight, make a reservation for the week right after – you’ll probably need the break, and with a paycheck coming in, you won’t have your account balance in the back of your mind the whole time.
Talk to your clients
you’re not on the payroll, your regular clients can often see you as part of the team. Ask them when their slowest time of the year is, make them feel that you’re working with them to find a time that works for everyone. If you plan a trip somewhere exotic, ask them if they’d like you to bring them something back. (It’s also a great excuse to get in touch when you return!).
Give yourself some breathing room
Determine how much money you need to take off a week or two. Then double it! With double the money in the bank, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation more, knowing you have some time covered to find your next gig upon your return. Then, do what you need to do to reach that goal: start working as much as you can, say no to nothing, and start saving money for your vacation.
Don’t take a guilt trip
If you get an offer for the one week a year you’re out of town, don’t cancel your plans and beat yourself up: there was no way for you to know! Simply inform that potential client you won’t be available (no need to tell them why, every good relationship benefits from a little mystery) and be sure to let them know the exact date you’re available again. Maybe they have something else coming down the line, maybe their timeline is flexible – you never know what is happening on their end. Then be sure to follow up when you’re back, but not before!