When Freelance Means No Freedom

When Freelance Means No Freedom

Ever deprived yourself of a holiday because business has seen a quiet year and you don't feel entitled to sitting back and relaxing? Or your bank balance is suffering from its latest Inland Revenue payment and you can't justify the extravagance? Or else you're expecting some big, juicy project to come your way any day now? Or you're convinced that a new client referral is just around the corner and you'd hate to be away when the phone rings…?

Never mind tax dodging

. Holiday evasion is one of the greatest crimes committed by contractors today (and one of the biggest ironies of all that freelance freedom). If it's something of which you're guilty, think again. You need time off as much as, if not more than, your permanent, full-time counterparts. Time to switch off, rest and recharge your batteries ready for the next stint of work and, often more exhausting, chasing work. So make sure you have your guilt-free day in the sun.

Do your sums

. Making sure you can afford to take a break is step one toward feeling better about it, and you don't need your accountant to do the maths for you. Simply subtract from 52 weeks the amount of holiday you want to take this year and divide your remaining number of income-generating weeks by the gross annual figure you want to earn. Remember to include holiday expenses and final tax deductions in your calculations.

Make yourself a promise

. You don't have a mandatory 25 days' paid annual leave that head of HR will remind you to take by January lest it go to waste. The only way your break is going to happen is if you make it happen. So book the time in your diary, book your friends or family, get them to book the time in their diaries and stick to the plan.

Remember who's boss

. Many clients assume that freelancers are available at the click of their fingers, bank holidays and all. It's up to you to change this attitude. The next time you negotiate a contract, let the client know when you'll be taking time off and, if need be, arrange for an associate or subcontractor to cover for you in your absence. You're self-employed, remember.

Book your seat

. Lots of freelancers get this far in planning a holiday and then bail out. Something always comes up work wise, whether it's a definite job, a project in the pipeline or simply a meeting that they feel they shouldn't miss. But something always will come up if you let it. There is never a convenient time to just vanish. So, having made the commitment in your mind, put your money where your mouth is. Take out the credit cards, lay down the deposits and book the actual holiday - the hotel, the flights, the car, whatever. Now there's no backing out.

Countdown to H-day

. You've finally given yourself a real deadline to get things done. And that includes your work. But don't panic. Draw up a timetable between now and your trip, remembering not to try to fit a month's work into the very last week. Apart from packing beachwear, your final week should spare time for attending to any last minute cries from clients.

Cut off comms

. You didn't think you'd be allowed to slip your mobile phone or laptop into your luggage, did you? If you're on call, you're not on holiday. Let your clients know that you'll be entirely offline and out of contact for the duration, and make arrangements for colleagues to handle emergencies. Give yourself a break. No one else will. And, besides, you deserve it.