How to Make Time for a Real Vacation

Michelle TauteA few weeks ago, I found myself discussing work/life balance with a bunch of online writer friends. Almost everyone talked about balance as some sort of impossible dream. A lie, even. And I’ve heard other solopreneurs describe running their own business as a “life that chose them.” Something they can never quite turn off.

But one of the things I’ve always enjoyed most about being a freelancer is defining my own version of success. And mine happens to include six weeks of vacation. Not working trips. Real leave-the laptop-at-home, unplug from clients and deadlines time off. This writing-free time recharges my creativity, keeps burnout at bay, and gives me some much needed perspective on my business.

There’s no reason taking vacation has to be at odds with making a good living, achieving your goals or doing good work for clients.

But if you want to take a real vacation—and I think it’s key for the long-term success of any business—you have to make it a priority. Here are a few tips for making time for time off (even if you spend it at home):

1.) Write vacation time into your business plan. Figure out how much vacation you want to take each year and do the math to give yourself paid time off. How much do you need to make the other 11 months to take two weeks off in June?

2.) Don’t be afraid to turn down work. Schedule your vacation in advance and stick to your guns. Politely say no to work that will conflict with your trip.

3.) Communicate with clients. Let your regular clients know you have a vacation coming up a month or two in advance. Then remind them as it gets closer, checking in and offering to tie up any loose ends before you hop on a plane.

4.) Leave the guilt at home. What would you think of a company that offered you a full-time job with zero vacation? Probably not very highly. So why treat yourself any differently? You deserve time off, and you’ll come back refreshed and re-energized.

5.) Resist digital temptation. I’ll admit it. I often check email and voicemail every couple of days when I’m out. But I’m scanning for real hair-on-fire emergencies or project offers that don’t have to kick off until I get back. For the rest, my out-of-office reply does the job.

When was the last time you took a week or more off from work? How did you feel when you came back to your freelance business?

2 thoughts on “How to Make Time for a Real Vacation

  1. lidia varesco design

    I totally agree… taking time off is essential when you run your own business. Getting burned out is no fun for your health or creativity.

    I recently took off 2 weeks for my wedding/honeymoon and did exactly what you mentioned, plus I would add one more to the list: Have a trusted colleague on hand to cover projects.

    Even though my clients kindly assured me they would be fine while I was gone, I knew I would feel better having someone cover my vacation, in case something came up. Sure enough, a few things came up and my colleague easily handled it. (I briefed her on current projects/provided files before I left.) My clients appreciated being able to keep projects moving, my colleague got some extra work — and I returned rested, refreshed and creatively recharged. It worked out for all of us!