How to take a vacation
Her: Want to go out for a day tomorrow? Let’s drive to a vinery and drink some good wine.
Me: No way I can skip an entire day. I need to finish-up the design for the Cats Pajamas’ website, and I have to be available for my clients. The life of a freelancer…
Her: Hold on a minute, if you’re a freelancer, doesn’t that mean you’re your own boss?
Me: Right. (I turn to the mirror) Boss, can I have a day off tomorrow?
Boss: Nope. You have twelve unread emails, five meetings to schedule, three pending price offers, and that’s before we mentioned Photoshop.
Life as a freelancer is very flexible, and yet, if there’s something I find very difficult – it’s simply taking a day off for myself. I’ve recently decided to change this and I want to share with you how I’m doing it.
2 Minutes of Science
An Australian study from 2010 claims that vacations involving an excursion increased the level of happiness, health, and in the future, doctors will recommend depressed patients a “holiday” prescription. And in a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year.
But those just state the obvious – vacation makes us happy.
How to take a vacation without having the world come to an end
Overall the method is quite simple. You just have to imagine that your brother is getting married in a distant city. Pre-arrange everything you would need to arrive on time for the wedding, and be free to enjoy yourself there, no matter how many days it lasts.
Notify those who matter in advance
Don’t just go and hope no one will come looking for you. Murphy knows how to find you even on vacation, and he’ll make sure that’s exactly when everybody is going to need you. So let them know in advance.
Write an email a few days in advance (the longer the vacation, the sooner you should notify people) to those clients who are used to your daily availability and explain you’ll be on vacation and thus unavailable between Dates X to Y. Most of your clients will understand it, and they will even remember not to pester you. They’re humans, and just like you they also like to take time off occasionally.
True, there will always be the brazen customer who’ll call or text, but then you will be able to ignore their calls, or politely reply with “Like I wrote to you last week, I’m out of the office today, I’ll call back tomorrow.”
Do you have a deadline for that day? Or the day before it? This means that you need to complete it a few days earlier than expected. You know how it is – you think you’ve finished everything so you send the email with the materials and afterwards you plan to enjoy your time off. But almost always, our customers will have comments or requests for repairs, and because they already feel that the job is almost over, they will follow up more often, ruining your vacation in the process.
Do you have customers for whom you fulfill daily tasks? Like graphics for their Facebook page or a design for their blog? No problem. Prepare things in advance, planning forward for as many days as you need.
Find yourself a responsible backup
Do you have someone who can back you up? Someone you can trust? Attach their e-mail and phone number to your customers in your notification. They’ll see you are a professional and responsible individual who won’t leave them all alone. On the flip side, for the vast majority of cases, they won’t really call your backup, but will wait for you to come back and take care of things yourself. For the few cases when someone really calls, they will get an answer and you won’t get pissed off in the middle of your vacation.
No Guilty Feelings
Most importantly – no guilty feelings. If you were an employee, you would get 15 days off a year, and you wouldn’t be bummed out by it. So don’t feel guilty – not for yourself for doing a little less work, and certainly not for the clients. They’ll survive. It’s pretty tough to enjoy a vacation when you feel guilty about it.
So take some time off. Tomorrow. Or next week. Work will wait. Your clients will wait as well. You deserve it.
Me: OK Boss, I’ve decided for myself. I’m taking a vacation. You can either come or stay back here and keep whining.
Boss (giggling): You do know you and I are the same person, right?
Me: Yeah. And I don’t really know how I feel about it.
Her: Wonderful. So are we going to drink wine tomorrow?
Good stuff is on the way.
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