Even though freelancing offers a lot of flexibility and freedom for most creatives and technical experts, having no built-in vacation policy makes it difficult for freelancers to savor their time out of the office. As a freelancer, you are never really off the clock. While you don’t have to be at your client’s beck and call, you should always be online at least some of the time in case of an emergency. After all, your clients depend on you—and you don’t want to break that trust.
Failing to plan means you will either end up working throughout your vacation or letting your clients down. Thankfully, a little planning can go a long way. In this lesson, we’ll show you to plan ahead for vacation time and how to unwind once you’re off the grid!
Importance of vacation in freelance life and its impacts on mental health
If there is one thing every freelancer should take away from this lesson, it's this: use your vacation for vacationing! That may seem obvious, but when you work for yourself, it's much harder to switch off and leave work behind. However, it's absolutely essential to take time out to rest and recuperate. Here's why:
Vacations reduce burnout
Freelancers are often responsible for their own work schedules, and it can be tempting to work all the time. However, working without a break can lead to burnout, which can negatively impact your work and your mental and physical health. Taking a vacation allows you to recharge and come back to work with renewed energy and focus.
Taking a break from work can help to spark creativity and new ideas. When you're constantly working, it can be difficult to see things from a fresh perspective. However, taking a vacation can help you to see things in a new light and come up with new and innovative ideas for your work. You can take a lot of inspiration from your travel destination, including new insights and perspectives on problems you or your clients might be facing.
Improves work-life balance
As a freelancer, it can be difficult to balance your work and personal life, especially if you work from home. When you are home, you're also at the office. The best way to flip that mental switch and realize that you aren't obliged to work is to go somewhere else, even if it's just booking a hotel room one hour away from home. Taking a vacation allows you to step away from work and focus on your personal life, whether that means spending time with loved ones, exploring new places, or simply relaxing and rejuvenating.
Enhances overall well-being
Taking a vacation can have numerous benefits for your overall well-being. It can help to reduce stress, improve your mental health, and even have physical health benefits, such as improving your sleep and reducing your risk for certain health conditions, like health diseases.
Have more admin than you know what to do with?
Tame your admin inbox with an Indy account. Use smart templates and clever tools to manage your proposals, contracts, invoices, payments, and files all in one place.
How to prepare yourself for freelance vacation
There's no one true method that works for all freelancers when it comes to getting set up for a vacation. You're in the driver's seat to decide how things will go, but you've got to come to a firm decision, so you can communicate it clearly to your clients.
Yuwanda Black, freelance writer, romance novelist, and owner of InkwellEditorial.com, says, "You need to decide in advance how much you will unplug, such as only certain hours of the day or for the entire trip." Without thinking about this ahead of time, you'll feel pressured by all the work that's piling up, and you can't use the few weeks before your trip to plan accordingly. "It took me years to know this and implement it. Since I tend to be a workaholic, not working feels weird to me. But I know my mind and body need breaks."
You need to decide:
- The last day you'll be able to accept new projects or deadlines before your vacation
- What will happen to any ongoing projects
- Whether you want to pause any work with someone or try to work ahead
- Whether you'll be gone long enough to warrant hiring backup help
- Whether you'll just cancel or reschedule any regular meetings with clients
One method that freelancers can use is to work ahead on any projects that they can. That way, you don’t need to outsource any work to others. You can map out everything that needs to be done ahead of time (in terms of hours or deliverables) and bill as you normally would. You can spread out everything you need over the course of 2-3 weeks. Make sure you account for time to do revisions, so you know exactly how much time you’ll need.
If you use this method, you can check when it’s time to leave. Pre-scheduled invoices will get paid while you are away, so there’s no drop in revenue. If you have time-sensitive work to complete, pause new projects until you’ve completed it. There’s no disruption to titles and projects, and clients won’t feel the urge to panic just because you’ve stepped away from the office.
You can use any process you like, but travel planning should always include work planning as well.
How to plan your trip
As a freelancer, planning a vacation requires a bit more effort than for someone with a traditional 9-5 job. It involves taking into account factors such as budget, time, and workload. But with a bit of planning and organization, you can plan your dream vacation and avoid any last-minute stress.
Plan your vacation
Before you start planning your vacation, you need to decide on your destination, travel dates, and the duration of your trip. It's important to consider factors such as weather, local holidays, and peak season. If you have to be on call during this time, you may want to consider the time zone difference between you and your clients as well.
Here is a trip-planning process that you can follow when you plan a vacation:
- Choose your destination and travel dates
- Determine your budget
- Research flights and hotels
- Book your hotel room
- Book your flights
- Plan your itinerary
- Book tours and activities
- Purchase travel insurance
- Pack and prepare for your trip
- Enjoy your trip!
Saving money is essential when planning a vacation as a freelancer. When you don't work, you don't get paid, which means you lose earnings on top of your travel budget as well. One way to save money is by setting up a savings account specifically for your travel expenses.
You can also look for ways to cut back on expenses in the months leading up to your vacation. For example, you can reduce eating out, subscription services, and other unnecessary expenses. It's also important to consider other expenses, such as ATM fees and currency exchange rates. You can avoid ATM fees by withdrawing money from your bank's partner ATMs and using public transport whenever it's available. Use apps to find great deals on hotel rooms, flight deals, or rental cars.
As a freelancer, you won't have the luxury of sick days or paid vacation, so it's important to protect your travel investment. Investing in travel insurance can help you avoid financial loss in case of unforeseen events such as flight cancellations, natural disasters, or medical emergencies.
Plan next trip
It's important to start planning your next trip as soon as you return from your current vacation. This will give you time to save money and plan for your next destination. You can also take advantage of any deals or promotions that are available throughout the year and enjoy a relaxing vacation in a year's time.
How to tell your freelance clients you are going on a vacation
When it comes to notifying clients, keep it simple. You don't need to explain details or justify your vacation. Let them know a few weeks in advance, especially if your vacation plans will disrupt ongoing schedules or deliverables.
A good tip is to call things out in bullet points in your email, e.g., “I’ve noted that these two deliverables are due during the time I’m away. If I can’t complete the final version before I leave, can we delay them until I come back?”
A great template for telling a client is as follows:
"Hi, X Team. Just a quick heads up that I will be on vacation and out of pocket from June 18th-June 30th. Here's what that means for you: I'll be delivering your work ahead of time but not able to start working on any new projects until I return."
If you haven't heard from them or things are still up in the air a few days before you leave, remind them with an email about those dates again: "Just a quick reminder- I'm stepping out on June 18th, so the last day I can take on any new projects is June 15th. I hadn't heard from you, so I wanted to check in. Is there anything you'll need from me before I leave?"
If an ongoing client learns early on that you'll work on vacation, keep meetings, or be available for emergencies if needed; it's really hard to undo that perception in the future. Rather than saying you'll be on vacation or that you'll be less available than usual, use terms like "off the grid" and "out of pocket" to make it clear that you won't have service or access to a computer/phone.
Most clients are going to respect your time off, but it's smart to set up good boundaries anyways. Some of your clients will also forget that you'll be on vacation, so these extra guardrails keep you from feeling unnecessary stress mid-vacation.
Here are a few other ways to set those boundaries clearly:
- Remind them about one week out that you'll be gone again.
- Set an autoresponder that tells them exactly what to expect, such as "I'm out of the office and not checking email until June 18th. I'll respond to all messages in the order received as of June 18th."
- If you are going to take calls or appointments, you can allow your customers to book appointments with you online and set up chunks of time that you are willing/able to be available. Maybe you can open the calendar for 2-3 pm every day and allow your customers to book as needed.
How not to think about work during the vacation
As a freelancer, it can be challenging to completely disconnect from work during vacation time, but you need to take a break and relax to avoid burnout and improve your productivity in the long run.
- Plan your vacation activities: Having a plan for your time off can help you focus on enjoying your break instead of thinking about work. Schedule activities or outings that interest you, and make sure you have enough downtime to relax and recharge.
- Disconnect from work devices: Consider leaving your work phone and computer at home. If you need to have them with you, turn off notifications or put them in a separate folder to avoid temptation.
- Practice mindfulness: If you find yourself thinking about work, try to be aware of those thoughts without judgment and redirect your focus to the present moment. You can use mindfulness exercises like meditation or deep breathing to help you stay present.
Remember, taking a vacation is essential for your mental health and well-being, and it's crucial to take time off to recharge and come back to work feeling refreshed and energized.
Vacations aren’t just a nice thing to have, but it’s an important part of refreshing your mind and reducing burnout as a freelancer. You can prepare for vacations by planning your trips ahead of time, including completing any work you have early, saving up money, and thinking ahead for future trips. One final tip is to always take an extra day off when you go on vacation before going back to work. That way, you have one day of rest and relaxation to get over your jet lag and catch up on laundry and unpacking before logging in again.
Indy has a helpful Calendar and Tasks tool to help you manage project work and plan your vacation schedule. Check out how Indy can help you run your freelance business with ease, and get started today!