One of the best parts of being a freelancer is getting to be your own boss. That means you get to take extra-long lunch breaks, treat yourself to wellness days, and fly to exotic destinations at a moment’s notice, right?
Well, technically. Then again, taking time off for vacations means losing time that could be spent making money. Plus, how do you know you won’t accidentally alienate your clients by turning down assignments just so you can lie on a beach in Mexico?
Of course, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is also key to building a thriving freelancing career. Freelancers work hard to stay in business, and avoiding burnout by taking some time off is an essential part of being a successful freelancer.
So, how do freelancers take vacations? Here are 8 tips to make sure you maintain a healthy cash flow while relaxing enough to enjoy the perks that come with freelancing life.
As a freelancer, you’re accustomed to devoting parts of your day to work, conference calls, and marketing. So, make “vacationing” — and preparing for your upcoming vacation — part of your regular to-do list.
Scheduling your getaways weeks or even months in advance will help you plan for a period of time where you can just sit back and relax. If you’re concerned about your cash reserves, factor in some extra gigs before your vacation. Likewise, you can make sure you have a work schedule in place when you get back from your holiday to stay productive.
Creating a freelancer’s budget means more than making sure your living and work expenses are covered. You also want to set aside some money for getaways.
How much should you take from each paycheck for your vacation fund? That depends on where you want to go. If you like to stay close to home, taking a nice “staycation” at a local resort will probably cost less than an overseas trip. On the other hand, if having the freedom to travel is important to you, you’ll want to factor in the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and fun excursions into your holiday budget.
Having some money set aside just for these expenses will free you from the stress of having to worry about spending too much and not being able to pay your regular monthly bills. If it helps, you can open up a separate “vacation fund” bank account and deposit a percentage of your earnings each month.
Communication is key in all successful freelancer-client relationships, so be sure to let your clients know when you’ll be on vacation. Email or call them a month in advance to let them know you’ll be away — and then follow up with an email a week before your trip. If you plan to unplug from social media and the Internet while on vacation, arrange for automated emails to reply to any clients who might try to get in touch with you.
The nice thing about letting your clients know that you’ll be on vacation is it gives you the opportunity to extend some courtesy toward your customers. They’ll appreciate knowing that they’re dealing with someone who gives them advance notice, allowing them to do a little forward planning in their own schedules. Far from alienating them, communicating your vacation plans may actually make your clients more likely to deal with you in the future.
After a year or two of freelancing, you’ll know when your work opportunities start piling up and when you’ll experience a lull in assignments. Some web developers, for instance, find that business slows down immediately after the holidays. Other freelancers find that the holidays themselves are a slow period since most of their clients are focused on getting away themselves.
Once you understand when the “slow periods” in your industry take place, you can plan your vacations around them. Since work opportunities are sparser, you won’t be making that much money during this time anyway, and it’s good to take a break before things start picking up.
I also try to match my vacations with the slow periods in my industry and the vacation off-season. Since vacation costs are lower and crowds are lighter during the off-season, I find I can enjoy a better vacation for less money by planning this way. This isn’t always possible for a 9 to 5 office worker, but for freelancers, it’s an awesome perk.
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, odds are you’re now part of a freelance community that deal in your type of work. You may have even gotten some of your early jobs through references and recommendations from your fellow freelancers.
So, if you find yourself in a position where your vacation plans interfere with your usual gigs, turn to your network and find other freelancers interested in the work. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure you’re referring your clients only to skilled freelancers who can produce the same level of work you do.
The nice thing about this strategy is that it builds goodwill between you and your fellow freelancers. In fact, you might find the freelancers you helped will start sending work your way when they’re on vacation. Successful freelancing is as much about building the right connections as it is finding work, so involving other freelancers in your vacation plans might actually strengthen your future freelance career.
There’s a downside to not working a “normal” 9 to 5 job. You don’t know when to stop working, particularly if you freelance from a home office. Since your workplace is also where you sleep, you’ll inevitably find opportunities to work on projects, chat with clients, or promote yourself online when you should be preparing dinner, spending time with your family, or resting.
The same thing can happen on vacation. Since it’s so easy to connect with work, especially if you work online, you can find yourself checking in on clients while waiting in line at Disneyland or hanging out at the beach. Needless to say, this makes enjoying your vacation difficult — for you and your family.
So, make the decision to unplug from work. Leave your laptop at home and inform your clients they shouldn’t contact you unless there’s an emergency. This can be difficult, especially if you’re the type of person who checks their cell phone every five minutes, but forcing yourself to take a break from your digital workplace may be one of the healthiest things you do for yourself during vacation.
When you’re in the early stages of building your freelance business, a vacation seems like something you’ll do “once you’re established.” Unfortunately, a lot of freelancers get so caught up in work that even when they get regular clients, they can’t bring themselves to take a break. Some freelancers work for years without taking a single getaway.
This can have negative consequences for your mental, emotional, physical, and eventually financial health since it can lead to burnout. Still, if you’re not comfortable going away for long periods, why not start with something more modest, like a weekend getaway?
You can plan for something simple like a “staycation” at a nearby resort, eliminating travel time and lowering expenses. As you become accustomed to taking time off work, you can work your way to longer getaways, like a cruise or a European tour. Freelancing offers plenty of opportunities for spontaneous adventures, and sometimes getting a small taste of those possibilities is enough to encourage more ambitious explorations.
If you’re the kind of freelancer who just can’t stay away from work for long periods of time, a “workcation” may offer an ideal work-life balance. This is when you take time to travel, sightsee, and participate in fun activities but also spend time working on the road, maybe from a coffee house or Internet café.
Some freelancers find that workcations provide the flexibility and freedom they need to feel relaxed and productive. Travel writers, for instance, can tour different states and countries while writing about their trips. Plus, since you’ll be earning an income while on the road, you could remain on an extended workcation for weeks or months, not just days.
While vacations may seem like a luxury, giving yourself the time to relax and unwind is an important — even necessary — part of a healthy work-life balance. Running your own business is taxing, and being able to get away from everything helps relieve a lot of the stress that comes with freelancing.
Making sure your work life runs smoothly is also an important part of stress reduction. Moxie gives you the tools to organize your schedule and keeps your pipeline moving with automations.