Are you 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 and enjoy a break without taking work away with you.
With no one to take over the reins and clients still expecting a service, how do you escape and find time to recharge your batteries?
It's never easy to step away from the desk. But don't fret! There are many 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. Inform them of your holiday plans and send reminder emails leading to your escape. Just give them plenty of notice, and they'll be happy.
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 specific date; otherwise, you'll have to complete the work on your return. Be honest, transparent and prepared to handle work schedules professionally.
Deliver things before you go
An excellent way to keep clients happy is to deliver work before you go on holiday. For those of you working in marketing, that might mean emailing across blog posts, features or press releases for approval. Or, for the designers and developers, it could mean a "test" website that clients can view and play around with before providing feedback. It gives clients something to look at while you're away and shows that you care about their business even while on holiday.
Put systems in place
To fully relax while you're away, ensure you have systems to keep your business running smoothly. Put a relevant voicemail message on your office phone and 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. It is especially a problem if you're a web developer who hosts several 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 leave. 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 by providing 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, giving 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 with premium support. You can take a free trial if you're not sure.
We also recommend CircleLoop, a cloud-based telephone system that costs just £15 per month and gives you everything you need to keep your business running while you're 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 and 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 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. July and August are notoriously slow. But Christmas is the most obvious period 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 clients won't expect you to be in the office, so go for it!
Turn off notifications
Do you need to know if someone has liked your latest Facebook post? Or if you've had a reply to your tweet? 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 while we're on the subject, delete your email app from your phone, too, so you're not tempted to check work emails whilst away.
Have a digital detox
Yes, you'll be taking photos of beautiful spots, but can Instagram wait until you get home? It's nice to share what we're doing with family and friends. But on holiday, do you really want to think about capturing pretty views or nice angles? It might just remind you of work again. Instead, save pics to share when you're home. Better still, take a proper camera that isn't your smartphone.
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 return. Only take your laptop if you have to, and only use it in emergencies. More than anything, you must remember to relax. It's crucial if you want to avoid burnout and be a productive, happy freelancer.