Working freelance offers lots of benefits but there are some challenges. For example, employees in salaried jobs receive a whole lot of benefits including holiday pay. So, how can freelancers make sure their time off doesn’t leave them in a financial hole?
When you take a break for work a couple of things can happen. The most obvious is that a break in work means a break in income. As I often say, if I don’t work, I don’t eat!
The reality isn’t quite that drastic. It’s possible to take holidays – even a multi-week break – but you need to plan for it. Here’s how I do it.
Pay yourself a regular salary
I pay myself a regular weekly salary. No matter whether I have a good month or bad month, I pay myself the same amount each week. By doing that, and sticking to a budget, it means that even on the quieter months I still have a personal income, even when the business income is slower.
That regular salary is part of your budget. Just as you (should) set aside money for the phone bill, travel and rent, set aside a regular amount for your salary.
When you calculate how much you will charge clients for specific tasks, you need to factor in your non-working time.
Keep that regular salary when your on holidays
I keep paying myself that same weekly salary when I’m on holidays. As it’s part of my business budget I keep paying it. The other bills don’t stop when I’m on holiday so neither does my salary.
Keep clients in the loop
While the life of the freelancer might seem glamourous and flexible to some, the reality is you have clients that need to be looked after. That means you can’t simply take off for a couple of weeks of R&R without letting them know.
Contact regular clients and let them know you’ll be away and set realistic expectations about when you’ll be back to work and able to hit deadlines and complete projects.
As I’m writing this, I’m part-way through a three-week holiday. My retainer clients were all informed well before I left and I helped them make plans to ensure they wouldn’t be inconvenienced.
Out of office messages
Don’t forget to set an “Out of Office” message on your email and voicemail, letting people know that you won’t be checking email or phone messages.
My voicemail is very explicit in saying I won’t be checking or responding to voicemail.
Actually take a break
For me, this is the hardest part of taking holidays. Ignoring email and really switching off takes me some effort. On my current break, I have a few work tasks that need to be completed but I’m doing those at times that suit me and on a schedule that doesn’t interfere with the rest of my family’s time off.
I’m using time on planes, waking up a little earlier than the others and other odd moments to work on things.
But all this was discussed with my wife before we left so it wasn’t a surprise. And I have a rule that says the work has to wait if the family wants to do something.