Taking a vacation as a freelancer or creative business owner

August 1, 2019

When was the last time you really took a vacation as a freelancer? Did you actually take a break, or did you end up worrying about work the whole time?

This past weekend, my wife Melinda and I, took a few days to go to a lake house with her family. It was perfect timing because we were definitely needing some downtime from a busy summer and before she goes back to work (she's a teacher). It was so great getting away for a few days, trying out wakeboarding for the first time, and being around her family. (For the record, wakeboarding is way more difficult than I thought it would be. I almost got up though!)

I had an out-of-town drone gig that I was leaving for early Monday morning and I had a little bit of work to finish up, so I woke up early the first morning to get through my to-do list before everyone woke up. I had a good hour to work and was finished right before breakfast and then went out on the lake thinking I’d be done with work for the weekend. But sure enough, though out the weekend, I found myself checking email, taking a client call, and worrying about work most of the time. It shouldn’t be that hard to take a long weekend off, right?

Well, Monday morning while I was sitting in the airport flying to the gig in Wisconsin, I got a newsletter update from one of the CRM services I use, sharing their report on freelancers and vacation and the stats aren’t great y’all!

92% of freelancers work on vacation. And 62% do it because they feel like they have to.

So many people are ditching their PTO and having a team to build a business around their creative passions, to be their own boss and make their own schedule. The hard reality is that running your own creative business takes hard work, a lot of hours, and you don’t have the benefit of simply having a team or boss to take over for you when you unplug for vacation.

Finding that ideal time to take a vacation can be tough. What if you miss a potential client because you didn’t respond fast enough? What if your current clients need something? Even though you ditched the traditional 9-5 and your PTO, there is hope! With some proactive planning and decisions, you can have that much-needed vacation without being (too) bogged down with work.

So how do you take a vacation as a freelancer or creative business owner?


How to take a vacation as a freelancer

1. Save up specifically for your time off

I hadn’t thought about creating separate savings for time off, until recently. A few months back, I discovered Catch.co. There are a ton of service offering similar things, but Catch monitors your bank account for income and then notifies you when it’s time to put money away. You can save for taxes, retirement, and best of all time off. When you set it up, it asks you how many days off you want to take off each year, how much you need to save for taxes, and it helps you figure out a percentage of your income to save each time. Melinda and I went on a two-week mission trip earlier this summer and I had accounted for that time off with my savings in Catch. Having that money set aside made taking that time of much easier.

2. Take advantage of the slow seasons

In my corner of the creative industry, we definitely see some significant seasons with downtime, while others we’re consistently busy with work. If you can find that time of the year where you know things will slow down, you’ll have more peace of mind when it’s time to prepare for your time off and unplug.

3. Automate your systems

I’m a big fan of work-smarter-not-harder. If you’re manually sending emails to each lead and having to do all the work by hand, nothing will happen when you’re not actively checking your email. If your business relies on inbound leads, it’s absolutely worth it to invest in a good CRM system that will take in your new lead’s info and automatically send them the relevant emails, PDF’s, or pricing guides until you can personally respond. Then while you’re gone, your leads stay warm and get nurtured until you can get to them. Let technology be your assistant to help you get things done!

Also don't forget you can schedule your blog posts, email updates, and social media posts!

4. Force yourself to actually take the time off (As much as possible)

It’s okay if you can’t completely turn-off everything and not handle business matters while you’re away. However, plan out how you’re going to do it in a healthy way. Let your current clients know ahead of time that you’ll be taking time off. Don’t be afraid to set an auto-responder that tells people that you’re on vacation and might be a bit slow to respond and how to reach you for a true emergency. If you have to work, maybe set aside a little time each morning to knock out only the time-sensitive tasks that pop up. After that, walk away and don’t check your email for the rest of the day. Go enjoy your hard-earned time off!


What other tips do you have for taking time off as a freelancer or creative business owner? Leave a comment below!

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