Getting Away with Getting Away.

With a family holiday looming on the horizon, I’m approaching the 2 week countdown to the very thing that the self-employed fear most.  And I’m not talking about my tax return, my Monday weigh in to see if I am finally “bikini body” ready – because obviously that exists after children, or the latest bout of chicken pox going round at nursery. I’m talking about the dreaded holiday.  What?! I hear you say. How can anyone dread a week of idyllic sandy beaches with our cherubs peacefully playing, tanned skin glistening in the sun to create our picture perfect Facebook moments – as if anyone believes that!

Let me explain. Being self-employed certainly has its perks – being able to go to that middle of the day doctors (cough cough nail) appointment is one and being able to take holiday when you want is certainly another. However, whether this is actually feasible when not working means not getting paid, is another matter altogether. In a recent survey, it is claimed that one in four freelancers doesn’t take any holiday with over 45% of those that did took work with them.

But if you are planning some precious time off with your munchkins – and let’s face it this may not be a “holiday” – there are a few things you can do (I have learnt in hindsight) to ease the process.

Plan like a boss

I’m not going to mince my words here – preparing to go on holiday when you are self-employed is about as attractive as the prospect of a morning at soft play, in the holidays – on a rainy day. With no colleagues enforced to suffer double the workload in your absence, it’s very easy to end up doing twice as much in half the time in the build-up, or even turning down work, leading to lower income and double the stress. And let’s face it – suitcase logistics alone provides enough of that, let alone planning how many snacks and bottles of Calpol you might need.

So how can you plan your way to victory? A month before your holiday, try to write a schedule setting out when you’re going to do all your upcoming tasks. Yes, you will invariably change this 100 times over, but organised chaos is usually the best kind in my humble opinion. If you’re at capacity (clap clap – well done you), turn down new work. If you have regular gigs, let them know so you can rearrange deadlines, or maybe recommend someone you know in the same field who can help. Without the luxury of a set monthly income, putting some money aside regularly (I find deleting my Amazon and Ebay apps in the run-up helps) can help relieve the financial burden too.

Return Like a Jedi

It totally sucks but the more time you take off, in general the worse off financially you’ll be when you return. Hit the ground running and make sure you have work planned for your first week so that you’re not left facing an empty pipeline and a pile of holiday bills. This will also help re-adjust after a strict routine of eating ice cream, preventing children from drowning, planning how to catch the slippery little suckers to reapply their white sun-cream coats and trying to get them to eat something other than chicken nuggets.

But don’t organise too much work thinking you can compensate for your time off. You can’t. Accept it. Like most things in life when it comes to work life balance there has to be some state of equilibrium, however fleeting.

Don’t let FOMO take over

Taking time away from the office can mean turning down opportunities. But unless you’re being offered a career-defining gig, just say no. Just think like a toddler as this seems to come pretty easily. Believe me this will be better for you (and your sanity) in the long run. We get used to running on empty – prioritise a refuel and it will inject new life into your business.

Realistically, unless you’re taking a year-long trip to find yourself in Outer Mongolia, you’re not going to drop off the radar. Reasonable clients will recognise that it’s in their interest for you to take a break. On that note, excuse me for sounding like the master of the bleeding obvious, but make sure you set an out-of-office reply detailing the terms of your unavailability and the dates of your return. You would be surprised the number of clients I have inherited because of failures by previous suppliers to communicate. As long as you can manage expectations effectively, pat yourself on the back because you have done your bit.

Forgive yourself

We can’t win right. Mum guilt. It’s the bane of many a professional career and we beat ourselves up daily about a million things we could do better. STOP. When you’re self-employed, sometimes it’s impossible to take a complete break for a longer period. Taking 30 minutes before breakfast to answer any important emails is a far better use of your time than letting guilt wreck your hard-earned break. Plus, on the upside any work done on holiday feels particularly virtuous, and a totally legitimate excuse for an extra scoop of ice cream (or 2).

So if you do get away, put down the guilt and pick up an ice cool mojito. Then raise your glass and give yourself a little cheers – because goodness knows you deserve it you all round superwoman, business goddess and mother of the year!

Big holiday love to you all, Emily x

Emily Cooper, Director, ERC Communications, Content strategist, copywriter, blogger, multi-tasker and “just mum” to Erin and Isla. emily@erccommunications.co.u 

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A Note From Brilliant Together

A big thank you to Emily for doing this guest blog for us. If you have some great business advice you’d like to share via our blog, please let us know: hello@brillianttogether.co.uk

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