How I plan for a holiday as an independent worker

I’m a little bit scared of going on holiday.

There – I admitted it. And, if you’re a fellow independent worker, you might want to do the same, because when there’s no other person to whom you can hand your outstanding tasks come holiday time, the prospect of downing-tools is rather unpalatable.

The same goes for plenty of people in ‘normal’ jobs, it seems, too – with 50% of UK employees claiming they rarely take their full annual leave allowance.

This is such a shame, because holidays are an absolutely vital part of working for a living. If you don’t take a week or two away from your job, your productivity will suffer, as will the quality of the work you produce.

You’ll be pretty miserable, too.

Thankfully, I now consider myself well-versed in the art of holiday planning, and in this post, I’d like to share with you the way I plan for a holiday as an independent worker.

Stage 1: Pick a convenient date

The date for your holiday is crucial, which is why I’m always careful to book mine at a time when I’m less likely to be stacked out with work.

Granted, such times are few and far between when you work alone, but they do exist, so take a look back at the previous twelve months to suss out when you could have taken a week out to recharge the batteries and use that as your starting point.

Stage 2: Inform clients

Once I have the date sorted, I inform my clients as quickly as possible. This helps manage expectations and ensures I don’t end up with bundles of work I’ll be unable to complete.

If you’re ever worried about informing your clients of an impending holiday, consider this: I’ve never, ever had anything but a “thanks for letting us know!” response, and that’s because people appreciate being given the heads up.

Stage 3: Work out a tightly defined to-do list for two weeks before the holiday

I live and die by my to-do list, but it becomes even more important when I have a holiday confirmed in the diary.

A few weeks out, I’ll tighten up my to-do list for the two week period before my holiday. I’ll be ultra-realistic by ditching the stuff that can wait, promoting items that would benefit from being finished before I go away and leaving enough space to ensure I don’t work myself into the ground.

Stage 4: Stop accepting new work

Perhaps the hardest part of planning for a holiday as an independent freelancer is forcing oneself to stop accepting new work.

Saying “no” is difficult at the best of times, but when you’re doing so because you’re taking time off, it’s natural to assume there’ll be no further work on the other side. You’ll miss your chance, surely?

In my experience, this simply isn’t the case. Providing I’m honest about the reason for not taking on additional work and instead offer a later delivery time, I tend to find most people will opt for the latter. Others will graciously accept the fact I need some time away but promise to be back in touch when I return – and you know what? That’s exactly what they do!

Stage 5: Accept that the week before holiday will be manic

I noted above that working oneself into the ground isn’t a good idea before a holiday, but I do accept that the week leading up to it will be far busier than normal.

Thankfully, this stage simply requires a desire to knuckle down and work your backside off, so that no stone is left unturned when you finally down-tools. It’s hard, but absolutely worth it.

Stage 6: Down-tools

That’s it! Providing I’ve followed every stage above to the letter, I’ll shut down my laptop the day before my holiday – and leave it shut.

As an independent, it’s tempting to take work away with you, but I’d advise against this at all costs. Unless there’s something critical you need to keep an eye on to aid with the running of the business, everything else can wait.

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