All work and no play makes any freelancer a dull person and a burned-out mess. While taking a vacation may seem like a frivolous concept for the self-employed, the truth of the matter is that it can be good for your health. Not only are vacations a great way to de-stress, they can actually be good for your heart, too! According to an article titled "Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: Risk Factor Changes and Mortality Results" that was published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, a study found that men who frequently take an annual vacation had a 32% lower likelihood of dying from heart disease than those who didn’t take those vacations.
That said, it’s still tough to swing time off when you’re a freelancer. No work means no pay, right? Not necessarily. Just because you don’t have an automatic two weeks of paid time off doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to recharge without damaging the business you’ve worked so hard to build. We’ve put together some tips to help you take some time away, so you can return refreshed and ready to grind.
Your work likely follows a cadence and you probably have some sense of what your weekly workload is going to look like. Depending on your line of business, this may have some variables baked in that are difficult to account for. Either way, planning your vacation ahead of time can help you ensure all work gets completed. In some cases, that may mean working extra hard to tackle tasks ahead of your vacation (where possible). There are usually at least some weekly recurring tasks that you can complete ahead of your vacation so you don’t have to stress about it while you take time away. Whether it’s bookkeeping, maintaining your social media presence, or sending out emails, embrace automation and technology tools to help you get things done without missing a beat.
Under absolutely no circumstances should you just disappear without notifying your clients. Not only does that tear down any trust you’ve built up, but it’s pretty rude. No one wants to be surprised with an out of office message from their copywriter, graphic designer, or accountant when they need something done right away.
Instead, tackle communication head-on by letting clients know well ahead of time that you’ll be going on vacation and what they should expect in terms of availability during that time. Maybe you’ll only be available by email for a few hours each day. Maybe you won’t be checking emails but you'll be available for emergency calls in the morning. Also be sure to let people know if there’s a different number or way to reach you during this time. Remember to let people know the duration of your vacation as well as how workflows will progress while you’re out of the office. Let clients know if you’ll have some help keeping projects moving or if you are able to to complete the work before leaving for vacation. In most cases, your clients will be totally understanding and happy that you’re taking some well-deserved time off. They also know you’ll be return fresh and ready to tackle their work head on when you get back.
Hiring a virtual assistant can be a great way to keep things moving while you’re out on vacation. Aside from client work, it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks to keep a business running. See where you can offload some of that work to a virtual assistant who can keep the engine running while you’re away. Whether it’s managing your social media channels, keeping the books up-to-date, sending or scheduling newsletters or drip emails to go out, or replying to emails, tweets, and phone calls while you’re out of the office, having an assistant to fall back on can make your return that much more seamless.
After a vacation, many freelancers are raring to get back to work. Here’s the thing: your brain is still in vacation mode. While you may not be on the beach sipping margaritas anymore, your brain is still drifting on a unicorn raft under the high noon sun. You’re going to need a minute to adjust, so give yourself some buffer room to get back into the swing of things. Don’t schedule any intense calls or meetings your first day back and try to avoid hard deadlines on that day as well. Focus on lighter tasks like reviewing, getting up-to-speed, brainstorming, or editing. This allows your mind to move back into work mode without going into complete shock. Also be sure to take care of yourself physically, eating healthy meals and getting an adequate night’s rest.
If you’re feeling run down after your trip, consider checking in with your primary care physician to get your health back on track. Even a virtual check-in for something as simple as a cold can put you on the path to recovery faster. Great news for Decent members: visits with your primary care doctor are free. Get a same-day or next-day appointment or check-in with your doctor via email, text, or virtual visit to ensure your health is a top priority!
While it might seem trite, putting together a to-do list can be extremely helpful. If you want to get really fancy about it, create three to-do lists: one for before you leave, one for during vacation (for your assistant to do), and one for when you return. This can help keep you organized with all the tasks that need to be accomplished so that nothing falls through the cracks in your absence.
On your “pre-vacation” list, write down any extra work you might want to get done before you leave as well as any scheduling of tasks that will run while you’re away. The “during vacation” list may be a combination of things that your assistant needs to tackle or little tasks you may still need to do while you’re on vacation (hey, we get it - sometimes you still gotta reply to important emails or take a meeting that could not be rescheduled). The “post-vacation” list should be full of reminders for things you typically get done in the week as well as anything you may need to catch up on or follow-up emails/calls that need to go out.
It’s hard to get away. That’s the #1 reason many freelancers never take the breaks they need. It’s a little funny because the main reason many freelancers go into business for themselves to begin with is to be able to create their own schedules and call their own shots. But remember — those things are still true. It is within your power to take the vacation you deserve; you just have to prepare for it.
Unplug. Put the paperwork down. Set your OOO auto-responder to “on”. Take a deep breath. Sail away. If you prepare and tackle what you need to before and after your break, you’ll be in great shape. Believe us...no one deserves a vacation more than you!