How to Take a Vacation as a Freelancer

Psst… Hey, freelancer! Did you know that you can and should take a vacation on the regular? Yeah, I know — if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

But, hear me out: When you’re an employee, your employer gives you a set amount of paid time off — with strings attached. You must use it according to their rules. 

Lucky for you, as a freelancer, that’s blissfully not the case. You are the boss of your business — you determine how and when you’re going to take time off. That power and flexibility are why many folks decide to go freelance in the first place.

So, shouldn’t you take advantage of this major perk? It’s your just reward for taking on the hard work of running your own show. You should recharge your batteries whenever necessary — guilt-free.

Two caveats:

Obviously, there’s no such thing as unlimited PTO when you’re self-employed. You still gotta do the work sometime. But, it feels incredible to walk away for a while sans permission from anyone other than yourself!

And, even though no one else has to approve your vacation per se, you still need to coordinate with your clients to a point. After all, they are your supervisors. (They’re supervisors you can fire, but supervisors none the less.)

So, how do you actually take a vacation as a freelancer?

Follow these 9 steps:

#1: Check Your Bank Account

As much as being your own boss rules (in my opinion, anyway!), it’s nice to take paid vacations as an employee. As a freelancer, that’s a thing of the past. Your income will go down if you’re not in the office.

But — that doesn’t mean you can’t get away from time to time. You just need to plan for it.

Take a look at your finances. Can you afford to NOT earn money for the duration of your vacation?

If so, that’s great – proceed to step #2.

If not, you’ll have to save up a bigger cash cushion so you can vacation without worry.

#2: Book Your Trip

Daydreaming about that perfect island getaway or spending some quality time with Netflix is perfectly okay. In fact, it’s encouraged. It can be a great motivator to work hard and make bank.

But, it becomes a problem when months or even years go by and it still hasn’t happened. When you deny yourself relaxation and fun for too long, expect bad things.

The idea of an exciting or rejuvenating week off will no longer motivate you. That’s because, deep down, you know you can’t be trusted to honor your own promise of taking a vacation.

And, when you never rest, you become burnt out. The quality of your work will suffer. Your attitude will start to suck. You could alienate clients, become resentful of your business, and ultimately sabotage everything you’ve worked so hard to build.

The bottom line? If you need or want to get away, commit to the idea, and book your dang trip (even if it’s a staycation)!

Related reading: 7 Self-Care Ideas for Freelancers

#3: Inform Your Clients

Gone are the days where you have to fill out a PTO request form and hope your coworkers haven’t asked for the same week off.

You can go any time you want — without relying on someone else’s approval or schedule.

So, when it’s time take an extended break, don’t ask your clients. Tell them that you’re going to be unavailable for X period of time.

But, do give them ample notice. That way, they can plan ahead. I let my clients know about a month in advance, if possible.

#4: Wrap Up Your Projects

To keep your clients happy, make sure you complete and turn in any work that’s due prior to or during your vacation — before you close up shop.

Your clients will be able to move ahead according to their schedule, and you can rest easier knowing you’re all caught up.

#5: Get Ahead 

What’s better than being caught up? Being ahead!

Take a look at your calendar. What’s due within a couple of weeks of your return? If you have the time, try to bang that work out before your vacation.

Your clients can implement your solutions faster, you’ll have less stress when you get back, and you may get paid sooner.

#6: Be Upfront with New Leads

As a freelancer, it’s important to stay open to new opportunities. You never know when your dream client or project will come along.

But — what do you do when a new lead knocks on your door just as you’re about to step away?

Be honest. Let them know about your upcoming vacation so they understand that their project would be delayed if they chose to work with you.

If they truly are your ideal client, they’ll be willing to wait a week or two for you to get back.

#7: Get Organized

Once you’re in it, it’s really tough to get out of vacation mode. To make your transition back to work easier, there are a few things you should do before leaving the office:

  • Clean up your workspace. It will feel more welcoming.
  • Create a to-do list and update your calendar. You’ll instantly feel organized.
  • Schedule an extra vacation day to let yourself get back in the groove. It will reduce the shock of going from leisure to running full speed.

If you do these things, post-vacation you will be so grateful!

#8: Set Up an Answering Service

Folks who contact your business deserve a timely response. Since you won’t be at your desk, you’ll need to set up an answering service.

It doesn’t have to fancy or expensive. Simply set up your email out of office message.

Make sure it runs for your entire vacation and lets people know when they can expect a personalized reply.

#9: Go Already!

What else are you waiting for?

You’ve taken care of your clients – now it’s time to take care of yourself!

Fun tip: Create a digital countdown to your vacation. It’s fast and free!

Final Thoughts

Periodically taking a vacation is critical to your productivity and wellbeing — whether you work for yourself or someone else.

But — as a freelancer, you have a power that cubicle dwellers only dream about. You get to take time off when it suits you.

And, while you do have clients to satisfy and a business to run, you’re ultimately only beholden to yourself. That’s pretty magical.

Tell me in the comments – what else would you do to prepare for your vacation?

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