A large part of "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" involves creating a well-defined balance in one’s life. There does seem to be a tendency for independent creative professionals to work around the clock – especially when lots of work is coming in the door. As self-employed individuals, designers, writers, photographers and illustrators are not, for the most part, getting paid when not working. How does that situation allow for much needed vacations?
Vacations are not a luxury reserved for corporate cubicle inhibitors with great benefit packages. Annual holidays are a necessity for all workers. They are a time to share with loved ones and friends, reflect on past ups and downs in business, plan for the future of one’s career, read a few good books, visit exotic locales and recharge one’s "batteries."
Such escapes from the world of business do require advance planning – and occasional client hand-holding prior to the actual trip.
Nearly a decade ago, my partner, eight friends and I rented a 300-year-old villa in Italy for a month. The trip itself took a great deal of tactical scheduling. From a business perspective some financial planning was necessary to make everything happen without breaking the bank. A great deal of client "baby sitting" was required to prepare them for the fact I was going to be gone for just over 30 days. Project, marketing and advertising schedules needed to be coordinated around the dates of my adventure. For several months in advance it was necessary to remind my clients, on a weekly basis, of my impending departure. All of the early planning, and very agreeable clients, made the situation work out well. There were no major client emergencies or disasters. The world, and my design business, did not come to an end.
While abroad, I did make use of Internet cafes to check on emails that may not have been addressed by my simple automatic "out of office" reply. Very few required my immediate attention throughout the month-long vacation. Traveling with a gaggle of friends who owned businesses created a unique "business incubator" aspect to the trip. Being surrounded by the artistic, cultural and scenic beauty of Italy was the electric charge my creative juices needed to have a "jump start." My accountant even felt that a portion of my travel expenses qualified for consideration as legitimate "research and development" tax deductions. I returned to my design business refreshed and with a redirected sense of purpose.
With proof that being away from my home-studio for a month was possible, shorter trips (usually about two weeks) have become a regular occurrence at least twice a year over the past 10 years. There are most often opportunities each year to run away from home to a tropical locale, an overseas destination and several domestic getaway sites. Clients have learned I am not abandoning them. Projects are dealt with prior to my trips or scheduled around the dates. I do often inform clients that I will not be working on their projects a couple days prior to my leaving. With worldwide Internet access, crashing emergencies may be dealt with if necessary.
Of course, running my own business does also allow me to adjust the meeting of any business needs while on the road (or beach, or hammock, or pool lounge…). While residing in a Tuscan farmhouse last fall, I did allow myself daily early morning time to work cyberly on the promotion of my then soon-to-be released book, Identity Crisis! Each morning I would arise one to two hours earlier than my traveling partners and do the work I felt was required. I’d then prepare coffee as my partner and friends began to stumble downstairs. Our vacation time for the day would begin – without me being stressed about upcoming book promotion issues.
Just prior to leaving for the island of St. Croix this spring, I received a request for what appeared to be a fun identity project – with a fairly tight deadline. I explained to the potential client that I was leaving for two weeks. The organization representative responded that they really felt I was the designer to take on their project. I proposed accepting the contract to design the logo by putting in one or two hours of time each morning, prior to heading out to the pool with my pleasure reading book ‘o the day. The client agreed, the effort worked out very well for all concerned, and I completely paid for my vacation by working while on vacation. This particular situation was another example of it being my business and I get to set the rules.
Most "independent creative professionals" take on that self-definition to embrace "creative independence." Still, some restrict themselves by using their business as an excuse for not enjoying their personal lives to the fullest by eliminating vacation travel as an option. Vacations are a must for any creative professional – and such trips can often be much less expensive than years of therapy!