Article | 05 Jul 2018

How to holiday (guilt-free) as a freelancer

Posted in Freelancer, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Motivation & inspiration,

A friend is off camping soon. She goes camping in Cornwall with a bunch of mates every year. But this year is different. She's taking serious steps to deal with a behavioural problem she's been struggling with.

The last couple of years, she'd been abandoning her friends for huge parts of the holiday. Brightly making her excuses ("Just off to do some shopping, see you all later!") she'd disappear along the coast path. She'd be gone for hours, while everyone else surfed, chatted, and barbequed in the sunshine.

This happened every afternoon, until, one day, her friends stumbled across her, hunched guiltily in a dark corner of a pub. This was where she'd been spending those bright, hot afternoons.

Was she an alcoholic? Nope. A freelance writer. She was using the glitchy pub Wi-Fi to tap out blogs on her Kindle. "I got this email from a client yesterday and I thought I could just nip to a pub and quickly do it..." she explained, "I'll holiday properly tomorrow. If nobody else emails..."

You really do need to relax

I suspect that this is a familiar scenario for most freelancers. We've all found ourselves putting life on hold while we churn out work in unlikely locations.

Many freelancers find it impossible to say 'no' when we're offered work. We make excuses to work through 'time off'. "I can just do this bit of work quickly...." or "Well as I'm not getting any holiday pay..." or "I get enough flexibility in my work, I don't need to take a TOTAL break..."

These mindsets are damaging. Flexibility does not equal relaxation. Always having half a mind on work can lead to burnout. Not taking enough time off to relax and get some headspace can have some pretty serious repercussions, including:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Hugely increased risk of depression
  • Stress
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Reduced work quality
  • Reduced enjoyment in your work

How to achieve a work-free holiday

So, taking time off is pretty important. But it's not always easy.

When you're a freelancer, your 'workplace' is kind of inside your own head. Sure, you can take yourself hundreds of miles away from your home office, but that doesn't make work impossible. Just as you're settling down to relax, your phone pings with an email from a prospective client, or feedback on your content, and boom – you're back in your mental workplace.

So, you need some tactics to help you out. Be prepared, some of these ideas are going to be tough for connectaholics!

  • Plan time off well in advance. Schedule it in as an immovable block. Plan it, get used to it, look forward to it.
  • Communicate with clients. Let them know well in advance when you're going to be away and remind them as your time off approaches.
  • Budget. One of the major drawbacks for freelancers is that we don't get paid holiday leave. That means that holidays drain funds at both ends – not only are we spending on a holiday, we're also losing out on earnings. Working out what you can afford and budgeting for it will help.
  • Adjust your mindset. If you struggle with the idea of 'dead time', reframe time off as something that's actively essential for good work performance.
  • Set up an 'out of office' email. Good clients will be happy to get back in touch when you return.
  • Switch off your smartphone - or leave it at home. Seriously! For emergencies, get a cheap, non-smart handset and pass its number on to a few friends and family (not clients or colleagues!) If you need to Insta your holiday, get a digital camera and upload your pics when you get home.
  • Don't bring any devices on holiday which could double as work tools. Yes, that means iPads and Kindles!. Tablets let you bring tons of books and games along without stuffing out your suitcase. But they're also enablers for workaholics. If you must bring your tablet, disable its internet, to be on the safe side.
  • Go off-grid. If you really, really can’t trust yourself to log into your work emails, holiday somewhere with no Wi-Fi (such places do exist!). If you’re taking a break at home, get a friend to change your internet password until your break is over.
  • Collaborate. For those longer breaks when things really can’t wait until your return, take the pressure off by finding another freelancer to cover in your absence. You can use The Work Crowd to register your business, then connect with freelancers that have availability at the right time. So you can relax in the knowledge that your client won’t go unloved while you’re away!

Good luck – and enjoy your summer holidays!


Tagged in freelancer, holiday,