Summer is here and you’re thinking,
How can I slip away from my freelance job – preferably to a cool, clean lake?
Giving yourself an occasional break is a key part of a long and healthy self-employed career. The health benefits of taking a vacation are plentiful. But for freelancers, it’s not as straightforward as just closing your laptop and hopping in your camper van.
You need to plot it out – and own a camper van! So, how do you do it?
Here are our 6 steps to taking a vacation as a freelancer.
1. Calculate vacation days into your freelance rates
Planning your vacation starts long before you start dreaming up exotic holiday destinations. As a freelancer, you’re not automatically paid vacation days. It’s on you to build these into your financial plan from the start.
How much holiday do you want, and how much can you square with your salary expectations and projected workload? At the very least, you should allow yourself 2–3 weeks per year, as this is the minimum amount for most entry-level benefits.
Of course, this is up to your discretion. If you got into freelancing for the freedom to roam, you may want to allow yourself more time. You can plan for that.
Next, factor sick days into your rate. Aim for at least 5 paid sick days per year. If you’re wise, you’ll also factor in a few mental health days. These are a lifesaver when you just can’t muster the will to work. It happens to all of us.
So say you’ve got…
- 3 weeks’ vacation
- 1 week of sick days
- 1 week of mental health days
Subtract this from the 52 weeks in the year and you get 47. This is the total number of working weeks you’ll use to calculate your hourly rate.
2. Budget from the get-go
This goes hand in hand with calculating vacation days into your rates. When budgeting for each upcoming financial year, remember to set a portion or your earnings aside for holidays and other days off – along with additional expenses such as health insurance, business insurance and pensions (German-specific articles).
Struggling to justify the cost?
You can always stay local. Just switching into adventure mode can rejuvenate your hometown love. A staycation provides ample health benefits, too – as long as you avoid thumbing through emails when you’re meant to be soaking up sun in the park.
3. Dare to delegate – find a backup
For most freelancers, taking a vacation means pulling overtime in the weeks leading up to the big break. But if you have day-to-day projects that need looking after – think one-off or retainer projects – you might not be able to free up future time with a little OT.
This is where delving into your network of freelancer friends to find a suitable backup makes sense. Make sure it's someone whose skills and reliability you can trust 100%. You don’t want to spend your first few days back from leave patching up damaged client relationships.
Similarly, your clients should know what to expect – who is this person, and why should your clients trust them in your absence?
First time using a backup?
If it’s a new set-up and you have any hesitations about your backup, it’s best to limit their responsibility as much as possible. Think of them as a safety net, not a full-on replacement.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
It’s not too hard to sneak away for a long weekend. It usually just takes some thoughtful shuffling. But for those longer breaks – the kind that really let you unwind – you’ll want to plan ahead as much as possible, and communicate.
Self-employed work is all about fostering strong working relationships with the people who hire you. That means being conscientious and considerate of your clients’ needs and goals. When it comes to vacations, over-communicating is always better than under-communicating.
If you’re worried about annoying your clients with vacation-related emails, stop. They’ll get a break when you’re off relaxing in the sun.
Here are two email templates you can use to keep your clients in the know. These are somewhat formal, as they're templates and it's always better to be safe than sorry. Feel free to spruce them up a bit!
4–6 weeks prior to vacay – Notice template
I wanted to reach out and let you know I’ll be on vacation from [DATE] to [DATE]. It’s still over a month away, but I thought you should have these dates in advance so you can plan accordingly.
If you have any questions, please let me know by replying to this email. I will also touch base again closer to my departure date.
1–2 weeks prior to vacay – Reminder email template
This is just a friendly reminder that I’ll be on vacation from [DATE] to [DATE]. During this time I won’t be checking emails or doing any client work.
As this is a slightly longer break, I’ve arranged for an assistant to cover me for any last-minute requests. You can reach them at [EMAIL] or [PHONE]. Please note that this is only for urgent requests, should anything business-critical arise in my absence.
Is there anything we haven’t yet discussed that you’d like me to look after before I go? If so, please let me know by replying to this email. Otherwise, I look forward to reconnecting with you when I’m back in the office.
5. Set a perfect auto-reply
After you’ve made sure to give existing clients all the important details in personalised emails, it’s time to set your auto-reply.
Your auto-reply is meant to remind clients of your whereabouts and catch new leads or connections, so you can afford to be a little more generic here. After all, it's not like you sign away your privacy when you take up freelance work.
1 day before vacation – auto-reply template
Thanks for reaching out. Please note that I’m on vacation from [DATE] to [DATE] and will not be responding to messages during this time.
If you need urgent support, please refer to my previous email for details on how to get in touch with my assistant. Otherwise, you can expect to hear from me by [DATE].
Thank you for your patience, and I look forward to connecting with you when I’m back in the office.
Auto-reply templates that drive business
Want to get more creative with your auto-replies? Here are some ideas for auto-replies that target lead generation, content promotion and social media engagement.
6. Build in a buffer day
We’ve talked about the need to put in extra work before going on vacation, but what about the catchup period once you get back? Our top workaround for managing post-vacation stress? Add an extra day onto the end of your vacation to catch up on things at home.
Think about it. You’re tired from travelling, a suitcase full of dirty laundry, no food in the fridge. An extra day at home without the stress of client calls and expectations can work wonders for your readjustment to freelance life.
How a vacation ends has a powerful effect on how relaxing it is overall, and how fondly you look back on it.
Chances are you can plot out your entire first week back in advance. This will help minimise any stress you feel about returning to work. Just tick tasks off one by one:
- Clean desk ✔️
- Respond to emails ✔️
- Respond to voicemail ✔️
Easy. You’ve got this.
Not sure if taking a vacation is necessary this summer? Read our article on 9 signs you need a vacation from freelancing. How many are you guilty of?