No Paid Time Off? You Still Need a Vacation

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Vacations aren’t just for salaried employees or other workers who have designated paid time off. Everyone needs a getaway once in a while, or at least some time to relax and recharge. Despite the pervasive always-on work culture in America, racking up all those extra hours and working yourself to the bone can actually damage your productivity. So even freelancers, who seemingly stand to make more money by putting in more time and taking on more projects, might be sabotaging their efficiency by working too much.

Unfortunately, large portions of the self-employed workforce continue to sacrifice time off to continue working. According to one study, one-third of 1,500 small- to medium-sized business owners had no plans to go on a vacation anytime in the near future, and 60% cited financial hardship as the primary reason.

Other self-employed people surprisingly find they prefer to forego designated vacation time. Instead, they are able to balance living and working by seamlessly blending the two. Steven DeMaio wrote in Harvard Business Review, “Indeed, my mental image of work/life balance is no longer one of a two-sided weight scale, but rather of a painter’s palette with a sensible mix of colors. Sloppier, no doubt, yet more intriguingly free-form.”

Understandably, this simply doesn’t work for a lot of people. While many freelancers enjoy having more control over the proverbial on-off switch of being “at work,” they still find they are more successful when they carve out chunks of time to turn that switch confidently to the “off” position.

map, vacation
Source: iStock

If you’ve reached the point where you’ve accepted that you need a break, it can be difficult to know how to properly plan your escape. Some freelancers compromise by taking some of their work with them, but there are a lot of good reasons not to do this. Leaving everything behind might even help you do your job better when you get back. First you’ll need to accept that you may have dips in your monthly income at a couple points throughout the year. Part of having inconsistent work is planning for these inevitable droughts.

To lessen the financial burden of your time off, ramp up your projects before and after your vacation. Many freelancers are able to work ahead, so to speak. Once you schedule your vacation (and yes, you should schedule it well in advance), start finishing projects well before your deadlines if possible. You should also give all of your clients a detailed head’s up. You don’t need to ask for permission. That’s one of the lovely things about being your own boss. But don’t disappear without a word. Set up an out-of-office responder on your email and let your clients know in advance when you’ll be gone, whether you’ll be reachable at all, and what they can expect work-wise. This is also a good opportunity to set yourself up with a fair amount of projects you can start upon returning.

When you have all your ducks in a row, and it’s finally time to unwind, let yourself off the hook. Enjoy the outdoors, socialize, try new things, or simply take pleasure in a day without deadlines. No matter what you do, give yourself a break and enjoy it. You earned it.

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