Being your own boss is great, except when it’s not. When working for yourself, the paradox of having the flexibility to adjust your schedule as needed for errands like picking up kids or a doctor visit, contrasted with the ability to actually take “time off” for a vacation, can be extremely difficult.
For freelancers and solopreneurs, it can be hard to unplug as you don’t have anyone to cover for you when you’re gone. Concerns over what time off could cost your freelance career and how you can make up for lost revenue are real and often weigh heavily on any real plans for extended time away from work. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest not taking a break from work can have the opposite affect on your finances and end up costing you in more ways than just financial concerns.
Burn-out is real and costly
Burn-out is real and can also affect your bottom line. In fact, burn-out has become a genuine concern for both employers and employees across the globe, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) included burn-out in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Disease. The WHO has characterized burn-out as:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
- Reduced professional efficacy.
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of the book “Joy from Fear: Create The Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend,” states, “this verbiage from the WHO is important, as it is specifically related to work and chronic stress. This issue is finally reaching mainstream awareness.”
Do you live to work or work to live?
Taking a vacation is not only necessary to avoid burn-out, but according to a 40-year study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, it may also help you live longer. The benefits of taking time away from work are immeasurable from a physical and mental health perspective. There are also many professional benefits. A break allows you to reflect, review, recharge, and return with more energy, optimism, and productivity.
How can I actually unplug?
You can take specific actions to ensure you get the break from work you DESERVE. It starts with being intentional and planning ahead. Here are a few helpful tips to start you on your path to unplugging:
- Step one should be to structure how you work – build your pricing strategy so that vacations are possible. As a freelancer, you do not earn paid personal time off (PTO), so it’s important to consider working this compensation into your rates, whether hourly, project-based or retainer.
- Set boundaries and expectations with your clients from day one about your availability, especially when you are out of the office.
- If you are planning a longer vacation, it is critical to give your clients a comfortable amount of notice prior. Let them know your contingency plans well in advance for any emergencies.
- Designate a contact to run things while you are out of the office. Leaning on another trusted freelancer who understands your industry is a great option. And, if you pass some work their way, they likely will reciprocate in the future. Hiring a virtual assistant to assist with administrative or customer service tasks is also a good option.
- Set an out-of-office message, and carefully consider whether you want an “if this is urgent” caveat. Unplugging is difficult if you and your clients have different ideas about what is urgent.
- If you don’t have a backup to cover for you, an alternative is to arrange scheduled check-ins. You won’t be constantly interrupted by minor questions or issues if your client knows you will communicate with them at a set time.
- Filter your email into “important” and “unimportant” folders so you don’t return to an overwhelming inbox.
- Keep it realistic. You don’t need to escape to the Caribbean to recharge your batteries; even a staycation is beneficial! Stay within your budget/parameters. Knowing you won’t return to hefty vacation bills will make your holiday more relaxing.
- Work on changing your mindset around taking time off. Rather than focusing on lost income, try to focus on what you are gaining from your time away. Everyone needs a break, and you will be better for it personally and professionally when you return refreshed.
- Last, get vacation insurance because, well…stuff happens. Knowing you have coverage in case something goes wrong will give you added peace of mind while you’re away.
While taking a real break from work is essential, we all know how difficult it is to unplug in this digital age. If going for a week or more without checking your email or phone is stressful, do what is best for you to relax. Remember, the goal of a vacation is to spend more time in the pool than in your inbox.