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Time Management: Planning for a Freelance Vacation

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Working as a freelancer means you have unlimited vacation time, right?

In theory, yes. Freelancers aren’t tied to a 9-5 job in an office cubicle, but escaping for a little R&R is often more challenging that you might think. Unless you’re planning to catch up on emails and work assignments after spending a long day sunbathing on the beach, it’s essential to build a strategy for handling your work responsibilities before you disconnect.

Use the following simple tricks to plan your next vacation without losing all of your clients.

Complete Work Ahead of Time

This really isn’t rocket science, folks. If you’ve committed to delivering an article by a certain date or you are responsible for submitting a certain number of blogs every week, you’ll need to get your work done ahead of time. Planning for an upcoming vacation can mean pulling a 50 or 60 hour week in preparation for your departure, after which you’ll undoubtedly need a break! My favorite way to stay motivated during a particularly brutal work week is to offer myself rewards for completing extra work. I’ll promise myself a new pair of shoes or a piece of cake after dinner if I get a certain task checked off my list.

While your clients should certainly take priority, it’s never a bad idea to also complete some blogs ahead of time that will keep your portfolio fresh in your absence. I try to keep a few evergreen posts saved in my drafts file specifically for this reason—you never know when you might need to update your site and don’t have the time in your schedule. Some bloggers will also partner with a fellow freelancer who can guest post in your absence, in turn ensuring visitors have fresh content to enjoy.

Communicate With Your Clients

It’s always a smart move to let your clients know you’ll be unavailable for a few days, so take the time to send a quick email message to those you work with on a regular basis. If I’m submitting work ahead of schedule, I’ll simply explain why I’m early and provide the dates I’ll be absent. It’s best if you can do this a few days before you actually leave, so you can respond to any pressing questions your clients might have before you leave.

Don’t forget to set up an autoresponder in your email, so people aren’t left in the dark. You can do this pretty easily in most email clients. My email is set up via Google Apps and you can easily establish an autoresponder under “settings.” (This is also applicable for standard Gmail accounts)

Social Media: To Schedule or Not?

I regularly publish updates on social media for one of my clients, along with a handful of other contractors. To streamline our social updating process, we all contribute several messages each week and schedule them in advance using Hootsuite. If you choose to go the scheduling route, this is my favorite way to do that.

There are a number of pros and cons of scheduling social media updates in advance, but I don’t personally do this for my own accounts. A—I don’t think my updates matter so greatly that a few days of radio silence is going to make a dramatic impact and B—scheduled updates can feel forced and unnatural. Plus, even if your messages don’t come across stilted, your followers could be a bit miffed if they shoot you a message and you ignore it.

Of course, there’s nothing preventing you from tweeting a picture of your feet in the sand, filling your fellow freelancers with envy, while also letting everyone know why you’re so quiet.

On paper, getting ready for vacation doesn’t seem like a mammoth undertaking, but a large workload can easily make preparing for an upcoming vacation feel like mission impossible. Take the time to prepare in advance, however, or you won’t be able to enjoy that mojito seaside without worrying about what you’re missing, which would be a massive waste.

How do you get ready for a freelance vacation? Any tips for keeping your clients satisfied when you’re away?