9 Tips to Help Freelancers Prepare for a Vacation

While being a freelance designer (or any other type of freelancer) brings plenty of advantages in terms of flexibility and independence, it also comes with its share of negatives. One of the biggest is that it’s difficult for freelancers to set aside time to actually take a vacation and get away from the work for a while. Because there are no paid vacation days like there are for employees, freelancers usually wind up taking very little time off.

If this is something that you struggle with, there are some things you can do that will help you to prepare for the time off and to minimize it’s impact on your business. In fact, getting the time away should actually help your business since we all need some time off to relax and get re-charged.

Because this is an issue that so many people struggle with, I’ve put together this article of tips that I have learned through my own experience, which has allowed me to take the time off that I need.

1. Plan Ahead and Set the Dates

Probably the most important thing that you need to do is to plan ahead and actually schedule your vacation. Many of us know that we need time off and we say that we’ll take some when things slow down and when it’s more convenient, but then it never happens. If you have a date that is scheduled ahead of time you will be able to take care of the necessary preparations and you’ll actually get the time away that you need. Without scheduling it, you’re likely to realize six months down the road that you still haven’t taken that vacation.

2. Notify Your Clients Well in Advance

One of the big fears of many freelancers that keeps them from getting a vacation is the thought that time away will cause them to lose clients. In most cases this is not true at all, as proper planning can help to ensure that the client’s needs are taken care of before you go. Additionally, if you have been working with clients for any length of time you’ve probably developed a personal relationship with them, and they are very likely to understand that you need some time off every now and then.

By giving your clients plenty of notice you’ll provide them with an opportunity to communicate any concerns or issues that they feel should be taken care of before your vacation. In addition, it’s also a good idea to remind them as your vacation is approaching so that nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Anticipate a Reduction of Income and Save Up

Time away from work will naturally lead to a reduced income for a short period of time. This is just part of freelancing, and unless you never want to take time off the best thing you can do is account for this and save some money during other periods of time throughout the year. When you’re busy and things are going well, make an effort to set aside some money to make up for this rather than spending everything that you make. It’s not just the cost of the vacation that you need to save for, but also the loss of income during the vacation.

4. Avoid Taking Projects that will Interfere with Your Vacation

Leading up to your vacation, take your time off into consideration when providing quotes and talking to potential clients. The best practice is to take smaller jobs that can be completed before you leave, agree with the client to delay the project until you return from vacation, or take projects where the client is ok with the project sitting untouched for the time while you are unavailable.

5. Set Deadlines Well Before You Leave

Planning projects to end before your vacation can be a little tricky since the unexpected is bound to occur, so it is best to leave a cushion of time that will allow you to deal with unforeseen issues before you leave. This applies to deadlines that you must meet as well as deadlines for receiving information from clients. It’s very common for a project to get held up because a client is slow at getting something to you, so give them deadlines that allow for plenty of time so they do not affect your vacation plans.

6. Take Care of Invoicing Before You Leave

After you return from your vacation it is likely that you won’t have as much money coming in due to the time that you have been away from work. If you send out invoices before you leave for the vacation, hopefully they will be paid promptly and you will have some income waiting upon your return or shortly thereafter. If you wait and send out the invoices when you return it will only delay the time that you get paid even further, meaning that your time of low income will last longer.

7. Have a Partner Who Can Help in an Emergency

Having a strong network is critical for freelancers, and this is just one situation where it can be evident. Although your clients will be aware that you are unavailable (or have limited availability) while you are away, there are situations where emergencies may occur. In this case it would be in the best interest of the client and of your business is there is someone that they can contact for help.

Make an effort to establish an agreement with someone in your network that you trust. If they are a freelancer they probably face the same challenges when they are trying to take a vacation. You can help each other by agreeing to work with any clients in an emergency situation while the other is on vacation.

Chances are, no major situations will arise while you are gone, but if they do, your clients will have the contact information of another designer that can help them during this time. Of course there are issues that would need to be worked out here, such as access to the necessary information and compensation, but these things are all possible if you are working with someone that you know well and trust.

8. Work Ahead Prior to the Vacation

One of the best ways to make sure that no projects go over deadline and interfere with your vacation is to work a little bit more in preparation. This doesn’t mean you should take on more projects, but be willing to do what is needed leading up to the vacation to take care of the projects that are on your plate. Extra work is usually a little bit more bearable when you know a relaxing vacation is around the corner.

9. Plan a Light Day When You Return

After a vacation it’s usually difficult to jump right back into things with the needed level of focus. Plus you are likely to have tons of email and things that need your attention. It’s a good idea to plan to only accomplish things like getting caught up for your first day back. Plan to ease your way back into the swing of things a little bit and you’ll probably feel more organized after having time to get caught up.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you struggled to get time away from work? What have you learned from your own experience?

For more content related to business and freelancing see:

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design, a popular design blog.
  1. Coris Leachman
    August 19, 2009

    Where possible, book yourself into a place that offers free wifi!

    Whilst you don’t want to be working while you’re away, staying in a place that has free wifi really helps you to relax, at least it did for me. I recently travelled around Thailand for 3 weeks and happened to have stayed in places that offered free wifi. Not only did it mean I could respond quickly to any issues that may have arisen, without getting stressed about having to search for the nearest Internet cafe but it also allowed me to plan other parts of my trip and get more info into each area I visited whilst I was out there.

  2. August 20, 2009

    I enjoy reading these post even though i am not a freelance designer, and never have been. Usually these posts can relate to all design work and good business practice.

  3. August 20, 2009

    Thanks for the tip, I tend to do that too.

  4. August 20, 2009

    Makes perfect sense, the problems come up when a designer ends up waiting on a client which pushes back their deadline so leave a little “wiggle room”. 😉

  5. August 20, 2009

    I will start to do this steps

  6. August 22, 2009

    One of my friends who is a freelance graphic designer has just gone on vacation and the day he left enquiries started rocketing in, the most this year! Guess he was lucky to have an emergency partner to deal with them all.

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  9. August 4, 2010

    6 Simple Ways For Freelancers To Increase Productivity Time Management Tips for the Busy Freelance

  10. January 4, 2011

    Excellent info. I’m new to this sort of thing and very much appreciate this type of info on the subject. Thanks alot!

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