If you’re a freelancer like me, chances are you’ve got friends and family who think your work life involves rolling out of bed around noon before spending a few hours in front of your computer in your pajamas.
After more than 30 years hustling for my next gig – first as a musician and since 2004 as a journalist and copywriter – I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.
For most freelancers – myself included – anxiety over where the next pay check is coming from keeps us on a perpetual search for new projects. That’s on top of making sure we keep current clients happy by producing consistently high-quality work and (too often) politely chasing overdue invoices.
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day just to keep the ball rolling.
That’s why it took me almost 30 years to take a real vacation. In fact, last summer was the first time in my adult life that I completely closed my business to take time off.
And guess what? The sky didn’t fall in!
Instead, I returned refreshed and ready to dive back in.
In fact, the experiment was so successful that I decided to do it again this year – for a week in July and another in August. I escaped to Lake Huron, and left my laptop at home.
Here’s how I made it work:
- I planned my time off well in advance, so I could manage my workload accordingly.
- I gave existing clients plenty of warning so we could make sure nothing fell through the cracks while I was away.
- I honoured my time off by making sure I could complete projects before I left, or by asking clients to extend their deadline by a week or two. I learned there can be a surprising amount of wiggle room – if you ask.
Then, I cleaned my office, turned off my laptop – and left it at home.
Did I check emails from my phone while I was away? Yes – once in the morning and again at night.
Did I get sucked in to new work? No. I simply explained that I was away from the office for a week and would follow up upon my return. Then I made a note for myself so I didn’t forget!
Did I lose any gigs by giving myself a break from the daily grind? I probably lost out on a couple magazine assignments because the editorial deadline simply wouldn’t work on my end. Did I burn my bridge with my editors? No. They totally understood.
Will I do it again next year? Absolutely! In fact, I am hoping to treat myself to a few quick getaways this fall and winter. The reality is – life is short, when it comes to work almost no-one is irreplaceable, and if you don’t make time to take time for yourself, it just won’t happen.
Where do you think I should go on my next non-work-related adventure?