Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Freelance writers need vacations too

I confess: I haven't taken a vacation since I began freelancing in the Fall of 2007. But this summer my family is looking forward to attending a family reunion, and I'm busy making plans to handle my business while I'm gone. On the one hand I want to be able to relax and enjoy myself for a few days without worrying about business. I'll be away for less than a week, so it's possible; but realistically I know I won't be able to resist checking my email at least once or twice.

Finding the right vacationing strategy

I've heard two different schools of thought about how freelance writers should handle vacations. Some say you should outsource the work to another writer you trust and completely avoid telling clients you'll be away. That seems a little risky if you're pretending like you're still available because you'd still be required to stay on top of all email correspondence; and that's no way to relax and have fun.

Others advise telling clients upfront that you have a vacation scheduled. Let them know your return date, and if you like, supply them with the name(s) of another writer who can help them in your absence. The problem many freelancers have with this plan is that they are afraid of losing clients while they are away.

I firmly believe you need some sort of plan in place to successfully schedule time off. Few clients will be surprised to learn that you're taking some much needed time off. Here are a few tips that can make the planning process less of a pain:

Tell your clients that you will be unavailable.
Make sure to provide them with the necessary dates of your departure and return. Make sure you provide enough advance notice, which can be tricky. Some bigger projects might require a couple of month's notice, while 30 days notice works for others.

Work ahead of schedule if possible. Write and preschedule blog posts, spend a little extra time finishing up projects before your vacation so that nothing is left hanging until you return. Organize your office and files so when you return getting back to work is much easier.

Find a back up writer.
Just in case there is an emergency you can't handle while you're away, or as a courtesy for those projects that just can't wait. This could be viewed as extremely good customer service on your end.

I'm sure there are other several other good ways to prepare for time off I may have missed. How do you handle vacation time?


Lori said...

I'm totally in favor of telling them - a month out sometimes - that you will be out of the office. I wrote a note to all my clients last year about three weeks prior, and good thing I did. I was soon "finishing up" a few things for clients before I left. The additional time I gave them allowed a few of them to get things lined up early so I could complete it before I left.

Another thing I did was to line up work for when I returned. Sometimes we're so busy getting things out of the way we forget we need to have work when we return!

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to time off

One of the things I do is add a day before and a day after to the scheduled time away, when I am technically unavailable, but use that time to catch up on everything.

I'll be overseas for a week in September and then coming back and leaving town directly for another assignment. As far as I'm concerned, I'm unavailable for two weeks. I'm not checking email; I'm not dealing with "emergencies". Very few "emergencies" are actually that -- most of the time, they are disorganization. We're not doctors. We don't deal in life and death. We deal in WORDS. That's not my problem. Any client that would drop me because I took time off is someone I'm glad to lose.

Kimberly Ben said...

As you usual, Lori and Devon, you've made good points.

@Lori: I'm actually lining up work for when I return as we "speak."
@Devon: You're right-if a client decides to drop me because I went on vacation, I can't really worry about it.

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