It’s that time of year when a lot of people are looking forward to their holidays. And lots of freelancers are either enviously  flicking through the holiday Facebook photos of the employed, or panicking about all the work that has to be done RIGHT NOW to cover you while you’re away. See, this is one of the major downsides of being freelance. No paid holiday. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

It is possible to take a holiday if you freelance, although it often means you either have to make a sacrifice of time, money or potentially clients. Here are your options:

A) Do the work ahead of time

This is the option I took for a long time. It basically involves doing all the work you would do if you weren’t going on holiday, in the week or two before. Many, MANY late nights and weekends working.

Pros and Cons: I won’t lie, this is a stressful option. You’ll need the holiday after you do it. On the upside, you shouldn’t lose out on your income. This option is great if you can schedule things, for example if you deal with social media or blog posts.

B) Don’t do it, and lose out

I tried this option the week before last, when I was away for a couple of days. While I’d usually do the work ahead of time, this time I gave my client notice that I wouldn’t be around for those two days and that the work would be delivered later in the week. I’m really lucky on the client front, so they were understanding and it all went without a hitch.

Pros and Cons: It’s a lot less stressful, but you’ll lose out on the money aspect.

C) Outsource to a colleague

I’m lucky enough to know a few other freelancers that I’d be happy to put forward for work when I’m away.

Pros and Cons: You’ll need to make sure you trust that freelancers fully and that they understand the requirements. Also, there’s always the chance that your client might take a shine to them, which could be dangerous to your relationship with them. On the upside, a mutual agreement with another freelance to cover each other’s holiday time can be a win/win situation (as long as you’re not holidaying at the same time!). In theory, you can pay them a little less than you would, and still earn a bit, but I’m not entirely sure it’s the best way forward. This is a great option if you have a long-term relationship with a client.

D) Take your work with you

If you can do your job remotely, there’s nothing really stopping you taking your laptop with you and working wherever you go in the world.

Pros and Cons: Well, it’s not really a holiday then is it? But on the upside, you won’t lose out on earnings.

E) Take on extra work the month before or after

If you’re thinking of taking option B or C, you can make up for the lack of income during your holiday by taking on an extra project the month before or after.

Pros and Cons: It’s more work, but it makes up for that period of time when you couldn’t work.

How do you cope with taking holidays as a freelancer? Please feel free to leave your tips in the comments below!

12 Comments on How to take a holiday when you’re freelance

  1. As a freelancer ( I’m a French to English translator), I think that taking vacation (as we call it in the US!) is really, really important. You just cannot be energetic and creative and excited about your work if you don’t have time to rest and recharge your mind and your body. Emma, I’ve also tested the options that you mention, and I think that you’ve given a really good overview of their pluses and minuses. For me, some combination of B and E usually works well. I try to work as much as possible before we leave, and just make my peace with the opportunities I might miss while we’re away. After all, the same is true of periods when I’m extremely busy working; when I’ve already taken on that one extra project that I probably shouldn’t have taken, I have to say no to the next client who asks. I also find that notifying my clients in advance about my vacation really helps; I send out an “upcoming vacation” notice about a week before I leave, and that helps forestall the temptation to be (maybe, potentially, sort of) available while we’re gone. Plus it helps to go to really remote places with no electricity, mobile phone towers or Internet when you really need a break! Thanks for the great post!

  2. Hi Emma! That’s a great post! This year I actually used a combination of options A, B, and C. But my husband and I already discussed an option of going somehere for an extended period of time next year, and in that case I am thinking to take my work with me, but build a more relaxed schedule compared to my usual one.

  3. I try and find out when my clients will be away and go away at the same time. And also, warn everyone well in advance when you are going to be away so they can give you any work that will need to be done in that period well in advance.

    That all sounds too organised, I always seem to end of working hard beforehand and taking some away with me as well!

  4. My partner and I are both self employed. We get the calender out during the Christmas holidays, plan the weeks we are going to take off during the next year and stick to the plan. This way you’ve got months of time to sort out your work load. Or thats how it looks at Christmas……….

  5. It’s mostly been a combo of A and B for me so far (mostly A!) which is stressful, but nothing beats a proper holiday (although I will admit to a sneaky peak at social media/emails whilst I’m away!)

  6. Surely the core issue is to make sure that you charge an hourly rate during the whole year that covers your need for need for a minimum holiday allowance. If you don’t do that, then you’re undercutting people who rightly do.

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