Ask any busy freelancer what their top 5 bug-bares are and ‘holidays/time off’ is likely to be near the top of the list. Freelancers love the freedom freelancing can provide, but it’s not easy to turn down work and you can often find yourself having a packed work schedule. So where does time off for Christmas fit in?
Why Time Off Matters
Taking time off any job is really important. Working every hour under the sun might keep your bank account looking happy, but looks can be deceiving.
Overworking yourself can lead to stress, which in turn can lead to ill health, leading to – you guessed it – time off sick. And if you’re going to have a few weeks off every year, wouldn’t you much rather take time off when you’re well and can enjoy your time off?
Why Freelancers Need A Break At Christmas
If you want to stay in-love with your career as a freelancer, it’s important to make sure that freelancing doesn’t interfere with your family life and social life.
The festive season in the UK, whether you celebrate it or not, is often a time for friends and family to gather and socialise. Not to mention eating too many roast dinners!
During this time of year there is less light, plenty of end-of-year stress and it’s cold, really cold. So it’s important to have some festivities to look forward to.
While your friends in employed roles may be on the countdown to a 2 week break from their office jobs, you’re sat wondering ‘Can I really afford to take a few days off?’. The answer is a resounding YES, you just need to plan it in.
How To Plan Your Freelancer Christmas Break
Firstly, check when your clients are working – if they’re off for a few weeks it’s likely you’ll have less work from them at the end of December anyway. Of course it depends on the industry you’re working in, but keeping close tabs on your clients working hours can help you figure out when to take a break.
Secondly, write out your workload and shuffle your hours about. You still have 8 days left before Christmas Day. If you worked an extra three hours every evening from now until the 23rd December, (and just 2h each weekend day) you’d fit in a whopping 24 hours of billable time.
Over-working now could be the difference between having to get right back on with work on the 26th Dec and having a well-deserved week off between Christmas and New Year. So get ahead on your workload and deadlines and you’ll find you have plenty of time to relax without affecting your bottom-line.
Offer Reduced Freelancing Services Over Christmas
So, now that you’re ahead of schedule, always make sure that you’re ‘open for business’. If there’s a client emergency, they’ll still need your help.
Email all of your clients and let them know that you’ve planned to get ahead on your usual workload, but you’re still available in case of an emergency. Request that anything urgent is emailed to you with ‘URGENT’ at the start of the subject line.
Set up email notifications on your mobile and respond to any that say ‘URGENT’, hopefully there will be no emergencies, but it will be reassuring for your clients to know that if they need you, you’re still available.
If you do respond to any urgent matters, make sure they are genuinely urgent. Resolve the request and then go straight back to your relaxation time, don’t be tempted to pick up some odd bits and pieces of work while you’re at it – you need to value your time away from the office.
Plan For Next Year
And if all of this advice sounds good, but you have a little too much on to take time off this year, plan for next year.
The thing a lot of freelancers struggle with is that ‘time=money’. If this fact is what’s stopping you from taking a break and keeping you working a relentless 60h week, something needs to change.
So many freelancers under value their skills, resulting in financial difficulties should you wish to take a few days off. Your rate should reflect your skill level, your experience, how in-demand your skills are and 20+ holiday days with 5-10 sick days per year.
You will be charging more per hour than a company would pay an employed person, that’s because you’re paying your own benefits, pension and holiday pay, sometimes your own office, accounting and insurance too!
And in some cases you’re paying out for your own website, marketing, training and equipment. So work out your cost of doing business per year, add your desired annual salary then add on an extra 30 days worth of time to allow for your time off. Divide all that by the number of working hours in a year and you have your hourly rate. It might be quite a bit more than you’re charging now!
So make a new years business resolution to re-evaluate your rate, factor in your much needed time off and update your clients in Feb/March for the start of the new business year. You should be giving yourself a raise annually in-line with inflation and in consideration of your increased skill level and any additional qualifications you have under your belt.
In this rate-planning session, set up a calendar detailing your planned time off. Be sure to set aside a couple of weeks for a holiday and your Christmas break so that you have a few times a year to relax, de-stress, travel and socialise.
PS: Don’t forget that the Self Assessment Tax Return deadline is 31st January 2018! Warr & Co do offer Self Assessment services, but our we only have a few spaces left! Call us on Stockport: 0161 477 6789 / London: 020 3174 1436 or email us here to reserve your space asap.