Working as an independent gives you more personal freedom. It also presents a difficult dilemma: how to get away and take a vacation. Particularly if you’re flying solo, you can’t pass off work to someone else to take time off.
A real vacation means spending a few days unplugged. But independent consultants and freelancers feel compelled to stay in contact with clients and to check whether new prospects are showing interest. It’s tough to break free, but your body and mind and need the break.
Overwork is Bad for Business
When you work for yourself, it’s inevitable that you have to work long hours. Unless you’re fortunate enough to afford some extra help, you’re the one taking care of administrative tasks and sales as well as doing the work. This is a recipe for burnout.
Burnout comes from that feeling that there’s always something more to do. It comes from working all day and into the night and ignoring the work-life balance that keeps a person healthy and sane.
Staying on top of your game is important as an independent consultant or freelancer. And burnout prevents you from working at your optimum potential. Work overload causes a fatigue that can ruin your attention and poison your mindset. Mistakes, oversights and a short temper can set your business back much more than a few days of vacation.
Taking a vacation can promote a positive perspective and provide much needed rest. When you return, it’s like starting with a clean slate. In the end, this will prevent burnout an will actually increase your productivity.
How unplugged should you be?
The ubiquitous Internet and proliferation of mobile devices creates a fast-paced world. People communicate quickly from wherever they are. If you’re concerned about missing out and worry that your clients expect prompt responses from you, then consider a vacation where you check email and phone messages once a day. If you’re the type that checks email all day on your phone, you’ll need to break this unproductive habit.
By checking once a day, you won’t disappear entirely. You can let clients know that you’ll be away for a few days and that you’ll be able to respond if there is an urgent need. You have no responsibility for reporting the details of where you’re going and what you’re doing. Give them your vacation dates and let them know you’ll be checking email once a day if anything urgent comes up.
If it makes sense, consider partnering with a friend or colleague to check each others’ client websites (or anything else that can be checked) to make sure things are running smoothly. Provide this person with contact information so they can reach you if there’s an emergency.
Do you have any of these fears?
It helps to consider and face your fears about what could happen if you take a vacation.
Fear of getting replaced. Independent consultants may fear that if they are not available for their clients, they’ll be replaced. The odds are that if your clients are happy with your work, they would not consider replacing you. They too have a fear and that’s the fear of the unknown. If you become essential to them, then you’re not as expendable as you might think.
Fear of losing money. Unless you’re on a retainer, face the fact that you will not earn consulting fees while you are on vacation. Experienced consultants build this into their fee structure. They charge a little more to cover the time that they are not working. Consider taking vacation time into account when you work with your next client. In addition, if you create products, such as eBooks, apps, or courses, you have passive earning potential when you are not working.
Don’t Hate Yourself Later
Vacationing for independents is all about proper planning. Start planning well ahead of time so you can leave after a milestone is met or a deliverable is handed over. Put vacation time into your schedule. Be sure to tie up all of the loose ends before leaving. Let your clients know as far ahead of time as appropriate, so they can coordinate things from their end. Then go out there and have a blast. Take the vacations you need and guess what, your work will still be there when you return.