How to enjoy guilt-free holidays as a freelancer

Image courtesy of KaboomPics

You've got a holiday approaching and rather than look forward to it, you're starting to panic. How will you survive if you're not at your desk? If clients know you're away, will they hire someone else? What if there's an emergency that crops up? And, heaven forbid, what if you don't get your work done in time?

Relax. Take a deep breath. All will be well. How? There are ways to escape and enjoy your much-needed break. But you'll have to be prepared. Here are our tips to help you switch off without damaging your business.

Give plenty of notice (if you have to)

For those fantastic, understanding clients who you know will still be there when you get back, give them plenty of notice with your holiday. Finalise the more urgent tasks and have a plan in place for when you're back at your desk. Communication is often all it takes to reassure the client.

With your more, shall we say, challenging clients, consider whether you really need to tell them that you're going away? Don't switch on your 'out of office'. Instead, make it look like you're still around and be prepared to monitor emails. It all depends on how valuable those clients are to you.

Deliver some work before you escape...

...That way, your client has some time to give feedback while you're away. And for those clients who still think you're around, send stuff halfway through your break. They'll feel like everything is normal and you're still servicing them. Happy days.

Automate what you can

Whether it's emails, social media or chasing payments, use every tool at your disposal to make it look like you're still at your desk. FreeAgent is reliable for automating invoices, chasing payments and sending out 'thank you' emails to those who have paid.

On the social side of things, I highly recommend Buffer for keeping Twitter and Instagram. And yes, you can now schedule Instagram single images from third-party apps, like Buffer – read its guide to find out how. Finally, with email – is there anything you can automate? Like messages to your 'new business' email address? A simple "thank you for your enquiry, I'll be in touch shortly to discuss your needs" will suffice.

Temporarily ditch social media

Whilst we're on the subject of social media, get rid of their apps from all your devices. Do you really want to come across a client's latest Instagram pic when you're trying to forget about work? Seeing it could trigger stress and remind you of what's waiting for you when you return.

Delegate tasks to a friend

Do you know someone who is reliable and trustworthy? Joining forces with another freelancer isn't just great for business, it gives you a chance to truly escape without the risk of losing any work. Clients feel happy because there's someone there to look after them while you're away, and your freelancer pal will be happy to earn a few extra bucks, and vice versa.

Have an exit list

Every day, I physically write down what I need to do the next day. It's a brain dump. A way to help me relax and enjoy my evenings, safe in the knowledge that I'm in control. I do the same before I go on holiday. And use Teamwork to have the same list online, which is always advisable should you need to access your tasks on the move (Teamwork also has an app). It's super reassuring to know you're leaving your business in a good, organised state.

Take shorter breaks instead

If you're finding it hard to escape (because you're in the middle of a big project or you have retainer clients with nobody but yourself to rely on), could you take a shorter holiday? Perhaps enjoy lots of long weekends too, for example? This was a tip from my own father, for when times get tough. And it's a great one. Find somewhere you love to escape to – a place that doesn't require much organisation. Pack the suitcase and go. As long as you find time to completely switch off (and I mean completely) then you'll get all the holiday benefits you need. Then, when things calm down, you can book that longer holiday.

Make the most of Christmas

In my humble opinion, Christmas is often the only chance to truly escape, as that's when most clients are also taking time off. Save your holiday pennies for a winter sun escape and fill up the rest of your year with plenty of short breaks. Yes, it'll be more expensive. But if you start saving now, you'll be able to afford that week or two away over the festive season.