I took a vacation not too long ago, though it wasn’t much like a typical vacation — and not just because I packed my laptop. I worked (although not quite as much as I do most days) on a trip that was supposed to be more about relaxation than anything else. I know I’m not alone on this one. Many of my fellow freelancers can’t quite disconnect, a situation made worse by the mindset that we can work from anywhere.
There are a few benefits, of course. We don’t have to tell our clients we’re going on vacation, and risk them turning to another freelancer. We can make sure that we keep income coming in, making it easier to actually take a vacation. But there are also some drawbacks: How relaxing is a vacation where you’re still on call, after all?
I’ve got another trip coming up later this year and I’m set on making it a true vacation. With a little planning in advance, I think I can pull off actually leaving the laptop at home. My plan has several steps, which should let me take a real vacation.
1. Work in advance — way in advance
I have several clients who I have ongoing contracts with. While it’s theoretically possible that I could do all the work I’ve already got lined up for the week I’m on vacation the week before, I’d wind up so worn out that I wouldn’t even have the energy to do anything fun on my vacation. Instead, spreading those assignments out over the weeks between now and then means that I’ll still be bringing in a good chunk of the money I would if I worked that whole time, without making myself crazy along the way.
I’ve already got a couple of projects lined up with deadlines after my vacation. A little working ahead will keep those projects on track: I’m using some of the time I would normally use to go looking for new projects, as well as doing a little work in time that I would normally consider after hours.
2. Don’t agree to inconvenient due dates
Since my vacation went on the calendar, I’ve refused to schedule any new due dates during that week — or the week immediately after it. I’ve simply told my clients that I’m already booked up for that time, and offered dates a little before or after that deadline. So far, there haven’t been any complaints, especially since it’s far enough out that no one’s trying to schedule a rush job for that week. I predict a few more problems when we get closer, but I plan to just stick with explaining that I have another obligation then and would be happy to help a little later in the month.
3. Tell your clients
I know more than a few freelancers don’t like telling their clients that they’re on vacation — but in big companies, it seems like someone is always on vacation. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my clients won’t really care — and they’ll be willing to hold off on questions and new projects until after I get back. It also allows me to explain that while I’ll be mostly out of touch, if there is a real emergency, they can contact me.
4. Get out of touch
I’m planning on leaving my laptop at home on this next trip. I’ll have email access through my phone, but I’m still setting up an automatic response that I’m out of town and won’t really be responding unless an emergency along the level of a tornado occurs. It’s going to take a little willpower to stay offline during my vacation — my habit is to check my email regularly, just in case something happens with one of my clients. But I think not having my laptop along will let me enjoy my time off.
How do you take a vacation?
What steps have you taken to make sure that you can enjoy your vacation without worrying about work? I’m interested in hearing about what steps get you away from the computer and on the road.