Freelance Life: How to have a holiday when you can’t have one

freelance life
My version of a change of scenery- working outside in the garden.

One of the things you find out pretty quickly when you love the freelance life (or work in startup) is that you need to take the work when it’s there in order to survive. It can be really, (and I mean really) hard to learn how to say no to work, let alone take the time for a holiday.

Right now, I am feeling it because I short suited myself of 4 weeks off for 10 days in January. The client (who at the time was going to be massive) didn’t materialise. In fact, I just stalked them and it appears the entire project is down the gurgler. But I digress…

When you have a freelance life, run a startup or have a small business that simply can’t afford to be left alone for a while, you still need to relax and take a break, but can’t really disconnect.

So here is my list of how to have a holiday when you can’t have one. It’s an important part of freelance life to consider.

Change of Scenery

This is probably the most well known way to shift gears in your head when you’re feeling tired. Try the massive amounts of co-working spots popping up, find a cafe with Wi-Fi, hit a library or do something unusual like work outside when you normally work inside or at home when you’re usually at the office and vice versa.


The mixed TO DO list

Freelance life can get pretty repetitive if you let it. What can really, really drive you down when you’re gagging for a holiday is that constant feeling of being hammered by priorities. So take a step back from what must be done and throw yourself some things you’d like to do.

Take some time out to think about what you are doing. Sit at the table and doodle out an idea. Break the routine of simply putting one foot in front of the other for the deadline monster!

Enjoy that feeling of being in control of your own destiny, and even a little creative, in the process. What you lose in time spent doing other things you’ll grab back in feeling brighter and procrastinating less, trust me.


Put a twist on meetings

Meetings are usually with a whiteboard or other not so brilliant office supplies, over coffee or lunch, and during drinks and dinner if you are really gunning it.

Well guess what? They don’t have to be. Think about how you can make a meeting with colleagues or clients, networking or new hires, that much more fun.

What about a picnic in the park? Or playing Frisbee? Could you take a potential business partner on a ferry ride to show them the city while you talk shop? Can you take the team along a walking trail? Would it be better to have a video call later on as opposed to asking people to stay back? Is it possible to add exercise? Can you do an activity that’s not work related that gives some team face time before you launch in?

We’re meant to enjoy all these perks of freelance life such as freedom to do things differently. Yet how many of us exercise them?

If meetings chew up a lot of your day, taking a different approach and incorporating the natural world, sunshine and something to look forward to could be just the ticket.

Hell, some people will even thank you for it, or think you’re super innovative!


Make time off yours

Freelance life is demanding. It’s true a lot of startup, freelancers and small business people don’t get evenings, weekends and public holidays on a regular basis. The freelance life or solo business endeavour is one of working a lot, and always having your dream in mind. Beyond work actual work for customers, there’s self promotion or thinking of new ways to maximise business. A lot of things ask an awful lot of us!

In addition, we spent a lot of time answering to people, responding to requests, making small talk and generally pushing ourselves to be social through social media, networking or building a rapport in general.

So why spend your downtime doing what other people want you to do, too? 

You have to look after you.

So if you want to wear your PJs all day and read a book in bed, do it.

If you want to put the music on loud and sing into a hairbrush, do that too.

Have a DVD marathon, go for a walk by the seaside, take a book to the pub and have pub grub while you get stuck into printed word, take delight in taking the kids (fur or human kind) to the playground- and leave the bloody phone at home.


Indulge a sense of achievement

If you have to keep working, make sure you get high off what you achieve. A lot of us do things that ensure things happen that don’t usually leave a trail. There is no scoreboard for fixing problems, scheduling social media or developing a feature set once it’s been done a lot of the time.

So add one.

Don’t just show what you have to do on your TO DO lists, card walls or plans– have another list for the things you’ve completed. When something is completed, add a note to a jar on your desk about what you have done, and then crack it open at the end of the year or when you’re feeling low to see how many things you’ve accomplished. Make an effort to cross things off that always seem to hang around.

A done list makes your freelance life easier because it demonstrates you’re making progress.

Or do something, like I am doing today, which is produce something that’ll hang around for a while to remind yourself what you achieve.


The bottom line on freelance life and that whole holiday conundrum 

As much as I love Seth Godin, I do think he’s ignoring a few facts when he says if we love our jobs we don’t need holidays. Or that the explanation is a little lean and really needs to include a clause that you need to give yourself a holiday within what you’re doing. Freelance life or following your business dreams is as taxing as having a day job (actually, it may be more so!) – so why not seek out time to be refreshed and have some downtime?

We’re creative creatures, so changing the pace and relaxing, as well as soaking in new things helps keep us fresh and happy, and able to tackle challenges.

If you can’t have a holiday, make your work give you the same feeling of wonder, joy, creativity and change that a holiday can give.

How do you keep going when you’re gagging for time off? All suggestions welcome! Take control of your freelance life today. 

3 Comments. Leave new

  • If I’m absolutely gagging for some time off, as soon as I get some breathing space, instead of rushing to fill it with all the ‘must-dos’ on my marketing or business development list, I give myself a morning or afternoon off.

    It can be hard – the nagging sense of guilt for ‘time wasting’, but if it’s been crazy-busy for a while, I need that mini-break. And I love the fact that one of the perks of working for myself is that – client work permitting – I can randomly go and spend a Wednesday afternoon down at the beach. Or a Monday morning at the shops.

    Of course, the flip side is sometimes working over the weekends, but hey…it all balances out!

    • Totally understand Cathy! I think there’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of working on a weekend or navel gazing on a weekday too, because you’re going against what all the other little fishies are doing in the stream.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • I love this post Bec! I think we all put ourselves further down list with a dismissive, “I’ll relax when….” Taking a mini-break in the day, week, month is the perfect solution. And not just randomly or laden with guilt.

    One thing I’m learning to take more care to do – and meditation is helping me with this – is being the moment of my mini-break. So if I’m working outside in the sunshine, to take pleasure in that feeling. Or if I’m bunking off for a few hours, to make sure I don’t spend it with a half a mind on work. I feel like that mindfulness is helping me suck more out of my mini-moments.

    I LOVE your idea of the jar. I am going to call it a VICTORY JAR.

    Thanks again for this little nudge about self-care.


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