Thinking of booking a holiday this summer? Fancy enjoying two weeks of sunshine, surf and sangria – but know deep down that you'll still have to take your laptop and phone?
One of the worst aspects of freelancing is being the only person who runs your business, which means it's almost impossible to switch off, enjoy a break or relax on holiday without taking your work away with you.
With no one to take over the reins and with clients still expecting a service, how do you escape and find time to completely recharge your batteries?
Speaking from experience it's never easy to step away from work. But there are ways in which you can enjoy a holiday. Here are some tips on how to get away, without damaging your business:
Give clients plenty of notice
Clients will understand that you need to take holidays from time to time. Just give them plenty of notice and they'll be happy. Inform them of your holiday plans a month in advance and send a reminder email a week before you go away.
Deal with ongoing deadlines and work
In the weeks leading up to your break in the sun, remind clients that if they want anything done before you go away it'll have to be tackled before a certain date otherwise you'll just have to complete the work on your return. Be honest, transparent and prepared to handle work schedules professionally.
Deliver things before you go
A nice way to keep clients happy is to deliver work right before you go on holiday. From my point of view, this means emailing across blog posts, features or press releases for approval. From my husband's point of view, it means a "test" website that clients can view and play around with before providing any feedback. It just gives clients something to look at while you're away and shows that you care about their business even while you're on holiday.
Put systems in place
To fully relax whilst you're away, ensure you have systems in place to keep your business running smoothly. Put a relevant voicemail message on your office phone and/or mobile saying something like "Hello, you've reached XXX. I'm on annual leave until XXX. Please leave a message and I will get back to you on my return". And don't forget an 'out of office' auto-responder on your emails, saying something similar.
In case of emergency
Some clients will suddenly have "urgent" jobs that need doing. They'll know you're on holiday but will still call your mobile, panicking about something that's come up. This is especially a problem if you're a web developer and host a number of websites, or if you're a PR professional that often needs to respond immediately to any reputation issues.
In which case, always have a fellow freelancer you can trust to be an "emergency contact" for your client, and provide their contact information to all your clients before you go away. If this isn't possible, set expectations early on by offering an emergency, out-of-hours on-call rate. That way, you can respond on holiday but make more money for offering peace of mind.
Hire a virtual assistant
Don't want to check your voicemail or messages? Want reassurance that nothing's kicked off while you're away? Redirect your work phone or landline to a virtual assistant who can screen all your calls and emails. They can then help decide if things can wait, or if there's a genuine emergency that requires you to flip open your laptop and deal with it.
TimeEtc is recommended. Prices start from £169 per month and that gives you six hours per month with a dedicated UK assistant. The highest package at an eye-watering £899 per month gives you 40 hours, a dedicated UK assistant along with premium support. You can take a free trial if you're not sure.
Personally, I use CircleLoop, a cloud-based telephone system that costs just £15 per month and gives me everything I need to keep my business running smoothly whilst I'm away.
Find a fellow freelancer to help while you're away
Don't know a freelancer you can trust? Get out to networking events and find someone! Start making friends to build a support network for your business. You might find that you can collaborate on new projects and gain more work from getting out and meeting new people. More importantly, you'll find someone who can help you out while you're on holiday.
Prepare the finances
As a freelancer, you obviously don't get paid for the time you take off. So work extra hard during the weeks leading up to your break and save as much money as possible. You'll want to compensate for the weeks you won't be earning.
Go at the right time
There are certain times of the year when your business will experience quieter periods. Christmas is the most obvious one when everyone completely steps away from work for at least a week. Take advantage of this festive break and go on holiday. Pick a winter sun destination. It might be the only time of year when clients won't expect you to be in the office, so go for it!
Turn off notifications
Do you really need to know if someone has liked your latest Facebook post? Or if you've had a reply to your tweet? Believe me, the notifications – even if not work related – will only bring stress. Switch them off or delete apps completely, so you can give your mind the rest it deserves. And whilst we're on the subject, delete your email app from your phone, too, so you're not tempted to check work emails.
Have a digital detox
Yes, you'll be taking photos of beautiful spots but can Instagram wait until you get home? I'm a huge fan of Instagram. I love sharing what I'm doing with family and friends. But if I'm on holiday, I don't want to think about capturing pretty views or nice angles – it just reminds me of work again. Instead, I save my pics to share when I'm home.
A final thought
If you're still worried about going on holiday and are tempted to take your laptop, remember that you're only going away for one or two weeks. The world won't end and clients will still be there when you get back. Only take your laptop if you have to, and only use it in case of emergencies. More than anything, you must remember to relax. It's crucial if you want to avoid burnout and be a productive, happy freelancer.