One of the biggest perks of freelancing is flexibility. You generally decide where and when you work. Of course, being able to work any time and any where doesn’t mean you should work all the time. Freelancers deserve a vacation as much as anyone else.
It can be hard to plan for vacation when you freelance. You need to make sure you have enough money in the bank to take time off. You need to make sure you’ve finished all the work that would normally be due while you’re relaxing on the beach. You need to get past that mental script telling you that you don’t have time or money to take a vacation.
Trust me. You deserve a vacation. Taking time off will help you recharge. You’ll be more energized and creative when you return to your business, and you’ll reduce your risk of burning out.
If you’re ready to take that long-awaited vacation, here’s how to prep your business so you can truly relax.
Prep Your Clients
Unless you’re planning to vacation during the busiest week of the year, your clients should understand and even encourage you to take a break. Give each client advance notice of your break. I usually tell my clients about a month in advance. This gives them time to think about what they might need when I’m gone and plan for my absence.
If you have a client who seems stressed out that you are taking vacation, address their fears. How are you going to make sure their needs are taken care of while you’re away? I usually tell clients that I’ll have all the work I’m doing for them turned in a week before I leave, so we’ll have plenty of time for revisions. If you’re a virtual assistant, you might explain how you’ve automated certain tasks (blog posting, social media updates) to run smoothly without you while you’re gone. If you work for an agency, suggest someone who can act as your backup if anything goes awry while you’re away.
You may also want to remind your client the week before you leave that you’ll be gone. A quick email to remind them is probably all you need.
Clear Your Calendar
In order to truly relax on your vacation, make sure you’ve turned in all the work that’s due. You don’t want a looming deadline to cast a shadow over your vacation. We’ve all seen that person perched on the end of a lounge chair at the resort pool frantically typing into a blackberry. Don’t be that person.
Plus, as you’ll see in the next section, things don’t always go as planned when you’re on vacation. You might assume you’ll be able to do a few quick revisions and submit work while you’re away, but if the Internet connection is bad, you forget your computer charger, or some other crazy thing happens, you’ll be stressed and waste some of your precious vacation time trying to fix it.
You may have to work extra hours in the weeks before your vacation. That’s normal, even people who work in a traditional workplace have to do this. Try to be as organized and focused as possible, and remember that after all this work madness is over you get to relax.
Plan for Emergencies
In my mind, vacation is all sunshine and fancy cocktails. In reality, stuff happens. I’ve gotten food poisoning and been completely out of commission for days. I’ve been in hotels where the Internet connection is so slow I couldn’t load gmail. I’ve had my laptop charger stolen out of my luggage, making it impossible to retrieve work from my dead laptop.
If you plan on doing any work when you’re on vacation, including checking your work email, then plan for emergencies. Build some work time into your vacation schedule so you don’t have to rush to finish something. Bring an extra phone, laptop, or tablet charger (and keep it in your carry-on luggage). Save important files on a flash drive and keep it in a different location than your work device. Research where the nearest Internet cafe is BEFORE you arrive or bring your own wifi hotspot.
If nothing goes wrong, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If something does go wrong, you’ll be prepared.
You might also want to create a buffer of one or two days for yourself for after you get home. If your flight is delayed, you might get home a day late. If you’ve just driven 12 hours home from Disney World, you might need a day to unpack and clean up the car. Plus, sitting is the last thing you’ll probably want to do after an epic road trip. All the rich foods and adult beverages you consumed might have left you feeling a bit queasy.
Don’t plan on working immediately after you get back from vacation. Give yourself some time to transition back into work mode.
Preparing for vacation is always a lot of work, and it’s even more work when you own your own business. A vacation is worth the extra preparation, though. You’ll be amazed at how relaxed and ready for work you are after you’ve taken a break.