Can a freelancer take a holiday?

I just got back from a week away. It was lovely, thanks for asking.

But the week before I went away was not so lovely. I was pretty nervous about taking my first holiday as a freelancer.

I’m hoping to achieve a better work/life balance with this move and yet the idea of leaving the country for seven days left me feeling anxious.

What if I miss out on work opportunities because I’m out of the country?

What if I get work while I’m away and have to sit in doing that all day, rendering the whole trip pointless?

Is a holiday worth the money when you’re not getting paid annual leave? 

Who do I send this holiday request form to?

We decided to stay in Europe for our first trip with me in my new role. While I wasn’t intending to spend the week working, I felt that staying near enough in the same time zone would make it easier to keep an eye on things than if we’d headed to Australia. Cheaper flights, too.

We also opted to stay in AirBnb accommodation, where there would be reliable, free wi-fi in the event that I did need to do any work. And Husband gallantly volunteered to hold a space at the bar for me any time I did get held up working; he even said he’d drink my beer for me if it started getting warm – what a hero.

The week before we went away was manic. I desperately wanted to clear the decks before we left so I didn’t have anything hanging over me before we even took off. No one wants to be sat next to the person hammering away on a laptop on the plane. So, there were some early mornings that week; and some late nights; and some busy days. But it got done.

And I’m very pleased to report that I did not work for an entire week. I worried I would find it hard to switch off – I didn’t. I drank beer, saw waterfalls, climbed mountains (hills, really), and swam in a lake.

I kept an eye on my emails (hurrah for the abolishment of roaming charges!), answered anything that seemed like it needed a timely response and let all the rest wait.

In truth, only a very small proportion of emails need an immediate response, most people are pretty understanding, and there are very few commissions which need to be done RIGHT NOW.

In fact, the whole thing wasn’t really any different to when I was employed – I would check my emails once or twice on a week away even then just to make sure there wasn’t anything urgent (boss points to my editor who always discouraged anyone from doing this, even though I’m sure most of us did).

For me, getting everything clear before I left the country was important, so I was happy to have a hard week before I left if it gave me a free week as a result. That, too, is no different to when I was employed.

That approach depends on the individual though; I know other people who are happier with a little and often approach and prefer to get up a do a few bits early each morning before the sunbathing commences.

I’m not sure if my method would work for longer than a week. At some point you’d have to either make a choice between out-of-office on and taking yourself fully out of the loop, or making the time to work.

But that’s a problem for another day. I guess the next step is to book a two-week getaway on the other side of the world and find out… no?

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