As a new freelancer taking a holiday can be daunting. You might have the fear of letting your clients down or missing out on work. This can turn a relaxing break into a stressful time. What can you do to make the process of taking a break go smoothly for both you and your clients?
Set clear boundaries and expectations
The key to healthy client relationships is setting and meeting expectations around communication. Firstly, you should be totally clear which days you are away. For extended breaks, add a day or two before and after for packing and getting back into “work mode”.
Be clear if you are available whilst you are away. Are you going to check your email? Are you available for calls? Are you available in an emergency?
Don’t over-commit to communicating. It’s better to err on the side of caution and then exceed expectations than getting caught up unnecessarily in work matters whilst on your break.
If you do need to be contacted in an emergency, then it's a good idea to set up a specific way of your clients notifying you.
For example, if you're turning off email notifications (as you should!), then try setting up a separate email address specifically for the break where you do receive notifications. In an emergency, clients can email that address and get a reply based on expectations that you set out when you left.
Be sure to check connectivity and signal where you are going. You might want to be contactable, but if you are abroad in a no-signal area then you should be aware before you go.
Build your documentation
It is reassuring to get your client documentation up to date before you leave. What is the current project status? What are the next actions, or things that clients and suppliers need to consider whilst you are away?
If an emergency occurs with a technical product, what can be done to redeploy or fix it? What routine maintenance should be happening? If you aren’t available, is there someone who can step in?
Do you have procedures written down? Are they in a place that your clients or suppliers can find them? Do you have a way of sharing passwords and access credentials if you are not contactable?
If you are working with other contractors, have you left a technical description of your work, so they can get the answers they need without contacting you?
Set a plan for returning to work
If you are going to enjoy your break, you want to minimize worrying about getting back to work. Worries are worst around the unknown, so try and schedule some straightforward client work for when you get back.
For example, I usually schedule simple development and maintenance tasks for my web clients, rather than any architecture or planning that might require input from multiple sources.
If you are away for an extended period of time, it might also be useful to drop a scheduled email to your clients checking in on preparation for work when you return. This can help you hit the ground running when you get back.
Decide to enjoy it
Last, but certainly not least, is deciding that you will enjoy your break. As freelancers, we’re all guilty of thinking about work a little too much sometimes. If you are going away, then really go! Mentally commit to being out of touch and enjoying yourself. Relax and recharge - you’ll be better for it in the long-run.
If you follow these steps then hopefully you’ll have a successful break. If you’ve got any more tips for taking a holiday as a freelancer then let me know @jamiemchale on Twitter.