Freelancers abroad: how to take a PROPER holiday when you work for yourself

Freelancers are amazing. That’s probably why they get paid top dollar to come in, shake shit up and leave. One thing they aren’t so good at is taking time off. I know so many freelancers who are either too scared to go on holiday or who insist on taking a laptop with them.

I’m about to tell you why taking a break is important and how to ease the guilt of going offline.

The threat of burnout is real

Stop. I know that you’re going to say: if I take time off, my business will suffer. I can’t afford to drop everything just to take a holiday. When I’m not working, I’m not earning.

Etc. etc. etc.

I used to say the same thing, right up until I made myself seriously ill through exhaustion. One morning I woke up to a body which ached so badly that I couldn’t get out of bed. I was incapacitated for two days and let down several clients in the process. That shit just isn’t disco.

As small business owners and freelancers, we have to work twice as hard as the average joe because our reputations and paychecks depend on it. Doesn’t mean we have to be dumb about it. Research suggests that taking time off—even weekends or the odd day—can boost your productivity, creativity and is excellent for your physical and mental health.

According to the HR experts over at CIPD, stress levels are going up in the UK. They also think that prolonged exposure to high levels of workplace stress can result in physical or mental illness. And you can’t run a business feeling crappy. They also say that working harder and longer without breaks decreases the quality of work and the level of output.

On that note, here’s how to holiday like a freelancer…


How to take a holiday when you’re a freelancer

1.Give plenty of notice

There’s never going to be a good time to take a break, so you can put that excuse to bed with a little bit of planning.

Start by giving your regulars plenty of notice that you’ll be taking time off. I usually work a month or two in advance, so they have time to plan around my absence. A quick email letting them know the dates should do it. I also like to do a reminder a week or two beforehand, just in case.

If you’re worried about your paycheck, try taking on a few extra jobs one or two months before you’re due to go away so you don’t leave a nasty old hole in your revenue.


2. Set a dedicated time to check emails (and stick to it!)

It’s understandable that you can’t possibly go a full week (or dare I say it…two weeks) without looking at your emails. Instead of staying glued to your phone and ruining things for yourself, set dedicated times for email checking: a quick scour in the morning and evening should do it. When I say ‘check’, I mean ‘check’…


3. Don’t be drawn into accidental working

If you’re out of office, you’re out of office. Clients will message with urgent jobs and requirements, it’s inevitable, so you need to make sure you know the difference between urgent and ‘urgent’. If the world is going to explode, then it might be fine to whip out the laptop and work for an hour or so.

If it isn’t actually urgent, just carefully explain to the client that you are out of office and will happily help them when you get back home again. I tend to let my out of office message speak for itself, but some clients may need a little reassurance.


4. Remind yourself that everyone needs a chance to rest and reset

You’re itching to start that job, aren’t you? How about you chill the heck out and remind yourself that you came away to rest. Martyring yourself at the keyboard isn’t going to do you any favours. Same applies to social networking too. Switch off—your brain will thank you for it.


5. Set aside half a day for email catch up when you arrive home

Try not to book any work in for the first morning back at work. You’ll need to time to catch up with emails and reorientate yourself again. Trying to cram in more work will probably just end up stressing you back out and could easily leave you feeling as though you never took a break in the first place!


What are your top tips for going away on freelance holiday? Leave a comment below and share.

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