I didn’t want to mention it, but you can rarely ignore it with all the #LoveyDovey marketing - Valentine’s Day is around the corner.
Now that I mention it, you must be wondering if I am also going on a break to celebrate Valentine’s!
Let me come to that later. But now is the perfect time to discuss something we all are afraid to do - taking breaks from work as a freelancer.
Let me ask you something. Can you be Ross when a promising lead comes your way?
Can you tell a prospect that you (and your team, if you work together) are on a break?
Can you turn them down directly?
Well, if you have answered ‘NO’, then I have bad news and a pretty serious one.
You have high chances of suffering from burnout, or worse....
As a freelancer, if you miss something important in life, you’ll end up pissing your friends, family, society and/or social circle.
Freelancers are The Worse Social Animals (in general)
Remember the time when you were turning down your friends, relatives or parents because you can’t get a leave from the office to visit them. Well, as a freelancer, that excuse is no longer a valid one.
“Tere ko kaam hi kya hai. Laptop se sab kam krna hai. Laptop utha aur aa ja!” (All you need is a laptop to work. So, why can’t you come here)
That is what you’ll hear if you try explaining you have work and can’t come.
Sadly, that’s our life. Right?
We are always in a dilemma - to say YAY or NAY to taking breaks. If you take a break and go visit a function or take care of a responsibility, you risk losing revenue.
If you don’t, you’ll have a worse social life (or no life at all).
To be, or not to be…
Do freelancers even deserve a proper work-life balance? Do we deserve breaks or leaves from work?
Well, YES! you deserve a break., whenever you need it.
There’s an unhealthy notion that I have mentioned earlier, too - you need to hustle hard if you need to succeed.
While I am all in for giving your 100% but this doesn’t mean you can’t take a break and live a life.
We’re all humans first and freelancers later. I know our revenues and incomes depend on how much we work, but that can be managed, if you plan everything, the right way.
Being a freelancer doesn’t mean that you can’t take breaks from work.
Don’t fall into the lopsided notion that ‘Do what you love and you won’t have to work another day in your life’.
Sadly, work is still work, and life is still life. Technically, you can’t ignore a medical emergency or something important in life, just because you were following your passion (or working on your own as a freelancer).
Well, you need breaks (if you are human), and when you take a break, take it wholeheartedly.
Have the heart to say ‘NO’ and shout like Ross that ‘YOU WERE ON A BREAK’. That won’t make you a lazy-bum or unprofessional.
TAKING BREAKS ISN'T UNPROFESSIONAL. TAKING UNPLANNED BREAKS AND LEAVING YOUR CLIENTS WONDERING IS!
How to be on a break as a freelancer the right way?
- Ideally, you should plan a break at least 30-days in advance. Think of it like giving a leave application to HR when you work full time in an office. If you can’t do that (because of an emergency), still try to have a 24-48 hours buffer zone.
- Inform your clients formally (via an email) that you’ll be unavailable from so and so date. In your email, mention that they should prepare a list of deliverables to be finalized before you step out of office (your home is also an office because you work from there).
If you're serious about social media consistency, feel free to post on your social handles too. Better even, set up a vacation responder on your mailbox, too.
- Don’t be rude or authoritative in your email (but don’t even ask for permission instead). You are in a professional relationship as an independent contractor. You are not an employee. So, chin up when you tell them.
- If you know you need to deliver a lot before the break (looking at the deliverable list), stretch a bit and complete the work before you have to leave. Your work is your responsibility. Going on breaks doesn’t mean you can shake off the accountability and responsibilities.
- If your work is time sensitive (like social media marketing), use automation and tools (this is the right time to rely on a tool) to schedule everything after taking prior approvals.
- Leave an emergency contact (and a way to approach) with your point of contact. Just saying ‘Whatsapp me whenever you need’ won't suffice. You will ruin your break this way because your client will always need you.
- If you can, you can work on-the-go, too. I personally do this a lot when I am travelling.
I ‘finish the stuff that needs my attention’ during the day and work on client projects during the night. But I would only recommend this if you can handle both things without taking a toll on your health and fitness.
- Lastly, don’t set false expectations. It’s better to say you won’t be available than to be unresponsive and then come back saying you were 'out'. That creates a dent in your professional credibility and reliability.
As I always say, be genuine.
Your client is also a human and most of the time, your clients would understand. Even the leads you get while you’re on a break would get it if you reply ‘I am on a break and will get back to you by xxxxxxxx ’ instead of giving them a false picture (or worse - being unresponsive at all).
There’s a thin line between being human and being unreliable.
As a person with relationships and responsibilities, you'll always be tied up with 'stuff' and life. You just need to understand when to step out of your shoes as a professional freelancer and when to let go of things that can wait.
I hope you’d be open to taking breaks (between your busy months) and would take them the right way.
Remember, freelancing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you won’t rest or take breaks from work to attend to important things in life, you'll lose the battle anyway.
With that being said, I now have something to tell - I will be on a break for the next two weeks. (Sadly, Not a Valentine's Break 🤣)
As I said, there are some responsibilities that need attention more than work and projects. I have some, too. I contemplated a lot about this (and I don’t want to take this break) but then, I decided it’s better to tell you clearly than to send you something pre-baked for the next two weeks.
Just remember the same if you’re stuck with a decision to take a break - It’s better to share clearly that you are on a break than to do something half-heartedy and then apologizing later if the client (or your audience) doesn’t like it.
TAKING BREAKS IS TOTALLY NORMAL EVEN WHEN YOU’RE WORKING AS A FREELANCER.
So, till the time I come back, keep freelancing.
And if you need any help, advice or guidance, my inbox is still open during the next 15 days. I will respond as I get the time. So, feel free to shoot :)
Your freelancing companion