How To Properly Take Time Off As A Freelancer

remote workers Dec 11, 2020

With the holiday season being here, I thought it would be a good time to chat about how to manage taking time off work as an independent contractor or freelancer. I fully believe just because you can work from anywhere, doesn’t mean you always should. It is so important to take some time off to rest and recharge every once in a while. I will say, closing the laptop is something I personally have a hard time doing and I have to remind myself of this often too.


The beautiful thing about being an independent contractor is the freedom and flexibility it allows you, but it can also be a challenge in some ways. 


Here’s the deal though, you’re not an employee nor on salary, so you’re in control of your own schedule. Of course, getting your work accomplished and not leaving anything hanging is very important as well.


Here are some of my tips for taking time off:


Communicate! Let your clients know when you’ll be taking time off if it’s a couple of days or more. The sooner, the better. You’re not an employee so you aren’t looking for permission, but it’s always better to over-communicate and set expectations rather than suddenly not responding for a week (that’s not cool). 


TIP: set up an out-of-office email to let people know when you will be out and when you will return. 


Plan ahead! Delegate to make sure nothing is going to fall through the cracks. This means if something is time-sensitive and NEEDS to be done specifically on the day you’ll be out, see if you can do it ahead of time (or schedule it to go out with delayed delivery), ask if another team member can tackle it, or ask your client if they are able to do this one. 


TIP: If you do delegate a time-sensitive task, go the extra mile and put a friendly reminder on the person’s calendar.


Work extra ahead of time and afterward. Depending on your arrangement with your clients, if you’re hourly one of the big struggles is that not working means not getting paid. Instead, put in extra hours the week before and after your time off so you're not negatively impacted financially for taking a bit of a break. This will also help to make sure nothing falls through the cracks and that you’re fully prepared to be out for a bit.

This is just one reason why I highly recommend being on a retainer or project-based versus hourly if possible.


Also just know this… when you return from your time off, you will likely have more emails, messages, to-dos, and feel pretty behind and overwhelmed. This is normal, so just take it one day at a time to get caught back up. Having that out-of-office email on will help set expectations for this too so folks know you’ll get back to them as soon as you can.


NOTE: Ladies, this doesn’t particularly apply to maternity leave. You can implement some of this but let’s get real, maternity leave is more than just a week off and is another level.