How to plan a holiday as a freelancer

Take some time off this holiday season without causing a disaster and have a nice vacation
Christmas is almost here, and it brings thoughts of relaxing beside the fireplace and spending time with your loved ones. If you're a freelancer though, chances are that you don't have paid vacation and can't just fill in a holiday notice and board a plane (even without the added inconvenience of Covid-19).

According to a Dutch study, over half of freelancers continue working while on holiday. For American freelancers, the figure jumped to 92%. Are freelancers doomed to never enjoy a proper vacation like their employed friends? Don't lose hope yet - a proper freelance vacation is possible, but you need the right preparation.
1. Plan, plan, and plan some more
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as the saying goes. To make sure you won't cause a disaster when you log out, inform clients about your plans. They will understand you are going on a holiday and as long as you give them plenty of notice and explain how you will manage the work, they shouldn't have an issue (and if they do, that's a red flag). Also, starting new projects or signing new clients before your holiday is not the wisest idea. If that happens, be upfront about your time off to manage expectations.
2. Schedule
Some freelancers can just pause their projects and pick up where they left off when they return. For others, it isn't so simple.

If your work requires you to send posts, articles or other types of media, the best way to prepare yourself is to create the content in advance and use a scheduling tool to fill up the days you'll be gone. This way, you will remain active even as you're away, and your absence will not be too noticeable to your clients and customers. See our recommendations for the best tools in our article.

Pro tip: did you know you could schedule the invoice payment reminders? With Xolo Go you can leave on vacation with a peace of mind because they can take care of reminding your clients about the delayed pay.

3. Sort out your freelance budget

"Paid holiday" is sadly a phrase that is rarely in a freelancer's vocabulary. Doing less work often means being paid less at the end of the month. You need to keep this in mind when planning your holiday - only book as much time off as you can afford. If you're feeling stressed about your financials, remember it is fine to have a weaker month - you'll have plenty of time to make up for the losses in the following months.

Likewise, when calculating your project or hour fee take into account that as an employee you would get a vacation allowance. As a freelancer, you might want to calculate it in your rates. Also, while vacationing you can mark some of the expenses as business related, if you can prove it was indeed for your business. For example, pair your vacation with seeing potential customers or developing business, working on your unique content or attending relevant networking and educational events.

To better understand the importance of financial planning in a freelance business see this Freelance Business Month talk from the great Robert Vlach.
And if after your vacation you want to improve your income streams, this article can help you get more clients.

4. Start delegating

This is one of the hardest options, but also the most effective. It's hard to be away from your work if you're a solo freelancer and your business depends entirely on you. To counter this, it is worth inviting another freelancer to help you with some tasks. Look into your network for people who have the right skills and whom you trust, and approach them with a proposition to collaborate. With another person to watch your back while you're away, you can have a peace of mind and enjoy your time off to the fullest.

In our blog, we talked about working together with competitors as a winning strategy for your business.
5. Come back strong
As with all great things in life, your awesome holiday will come to an end and you'll have to return to the (home) office. To make the process less stressful, plan for when you come back, so you can hit the ground running. Set aside a few days after you return and focus on catching up on all the emails and tasks that have come your way. If you've fallen behind because of your holiday make sure you prioritise them.

Refreshed and energised, you might want to work on your skills and excel the quality of your work. You can see our favourite books on freelancing and developing skills necessary for successful independent work here.

Here is something else you might like! We are preparing our Freelance Business Book, which collects actionable and brilliant ideas from the most talented speakers that shared their wisdom during the Freelance Business Month and 4 other sectoral Freelance Business events we had this year. All the insights in one e-book for your daily use! You can sign up to be notified when it is released here. Subscribe to our newsletter to be updated.

With the new year approaching, you might consider setting goals for yourself or making changes to your work life. If you'd like help making a strategic plan for yourself, Katrijn Everaerd has some useful tips for you. See her session here:
The responsibility that comes with freelancing can make you think you can skip your vacation and keep on grinding, but in the long run this isn't a good idea. Even freelancers need time to recharge their batteries and restore some mental resilience. Not taking time off is a one-way ticket to a burnout, and that is not a pleasant destination. Plan ahead, communicate as much as possible, and enjoy your holiday - you've earned it!
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