Freelance life: how to successfully take a Christmas break

For everyone else, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For a freelancer, it’s a week of lost earnings and an opportunity to power on through while everyone else rests.

But not this year, my friend.

Your pal Cowners is going to help you put that pen down and chill the eff out.

If you didn’t already know, I’m a freelancer who believes in taking holidays, not working weekends and only responding to client queries during business hours. I’m fiercely protective of my private time and now I’m going to help you protect yours, too.

Here’s why you need rest and how you can prep your freelance business (and yourself) to take some much needed time off…


Rest is best (you better believe it)

There’s a culture of martyrdom and burnout pride in the freelance community that I don’t support. My LinkedIn feed is littered with posts from ‘motivational’ business leaders that claim the road to success is paved with late night finishes, working weekends and missed lunch breaks.

But that mentality is a first-class ticket on the bullshit express to meltdown town. 

One in four employees attribute their poor mental health to overworking and the HR specialists at CIPD claim that employee burnout is only getting worse. If that hasn’t convinced you, think about this: most of your clients are probably taking the Christmas period off anyway. You may as well use the time to rest (your work will be all the better for it, trust me).


How to take time off over Christmas

1. Plan ahead

Let’s address your first concern: lost earnings. This can easily be sorted with a little pre-Christmas planning. The run up to Christmas is absolutely stuffed with freelance work as businesses try to roll out Christmas campaigns and get ahead for the start of the new year. I’d recommend taking on a little extra work so you can make up for the hole a Christmas break may leave in your earnings.

January can be slow, so why not defer any work you plan to do on your own site or blog until then? It’ll give you more capacity for pre-Christmas jobs and also ensures you have enough exciting projects to come back to when you return to work.


2. Give plenty of warning

Do you have clients who aren’t clocking off for the holidays? Don’t forget to let them know that you won’t be around. You need to set the expectation that you won’t be on call and let your out of office catch any messages they might send after the date you’re due to ‘finish’ for the year.

As a people pleaser, I never like to straight up turn people down or tell them no, so I opt for a more helpful answer instead:

I won’t be around from [date], but don’t worry—you can catch me on [date] when I return. Until then, have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!



3. Make plans you can’t go back on!

Okay, so you’re a sucker for working when you have nothing better to do. You feel guilty about sitting idle when you know you could be doing something useful. I totally get you (I’m the same).

Instead of working by default, why not try making plans you can’t go back on? Book a holiday abroad over Christmas or make a plan to visit friends or family. It’ll be harder for you to bully yourself into working when you have other commitments on the table.


4. Turn on your out of office

I gave this tip in my post on taking summer holidays as a freelancer and I stand by it. Turn on that out of office and let it catch anyone who emails you. They’ll get the message…literally.

If you have clients that like to switch to phone or WhatsApp when you can’t be reached by email, the same applies. Answer, but tell them you aren’t in the office and won’t be available to work until the date you’ve specified.

Because I don’t like to give a hard ‘no’, I always encourage clients to send me the job details with a promise that I’ll look at it as priority as soon as I’m back in office.

5. If you have to work, work on your own business

Harkening back to point 3—some people just can’t help but work when they have nothing better to do. Although I’d argue that resting is an activity and is important, some people just aren’t going to comply. In this instance, work on something for yourself!

Draft up a content plan for your blog, redesign your site, set up that YouTube channel you’ve been thinking about. Do something positive and creative for your own business and you’ll get the same satisfaction you would from working, but with some added ‘me time’ thrown in.


Do you have any tips for taking a freelance holiday? Pop a comment below and share how you like to do things!

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