Reality Check: What About Freelance Time Off?

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If you want to go into freelancing, you can get the freedom of setting your schedule to fit your needs. But with a 2019 study from HoneyBook showing that 92 percent of freelance workers end up working on their vacations, planning time off as a freelancer can be a challenge and requires careful planning. Not only must you fulfill demands from your clients, but you'll also have to decide how you'll go about paying yourself for the time off. To plan for freelance time off, you'll need to set your rate with time off in mind, fully understand your contracts and communicate closely with clients.

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Consider also​: 5 Sites for Freelance Success

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Basics of Freelance Scheduling

When freelancing, you'll usually get control over the hours you work and the clients you take on. However, your scheduling and the flexibility of your workload depend on the type of freelance work and work demand.

For example, if you freelance as a driver, you might be able to work entirely on demand and with little notice. On the other hand, project work could require more structure by scheduling work time to meet assigned deadlines. Freelancers also usually experience the "feast or famine" phenomenon where the workflow varies throughout the year, so you'll need to plan schedules and time off with this in mind.

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You'll need discipline for the long haul to plan your schedule to satisfy all requirements per your work contract as well as handle your business. You'll want to also consider the matter of billable vs. non-billable hours to consider since you'll spend additional hours handling unpaid business tasks such as advertising, training or accounting.

Freelance Challenges With Time Off

While a traditional job can give you paid time off, you don't get this benefit with freelancing. So, unless you set effective rates, have extra cash set aside or front load your work, you can face financial struggles since not working means not earning money from your clients. The financial effects can be magnified if you take time off during the busy season in your industry when you might otherwise generate a large portion of your income.

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Taking time off as a freelancer usually isn't an issue as long as you still meet your clients' needs, but you can face some risks with your job security if you can't keep up with your work or you stay away too long. For example, you might end up not having a work contract renewed due to not performing per the terms. Your client might also simply decide to choose someone else for future work if you are often unavailable when they need you.

Along with losing income from being unavailable, taking extended time off can also mean missing out on new clients because you didn't continue to advertise yourself. This can both affect your job security and finances in that you might not continue to make enough to sustain yourself as a freelancer.

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Consider also​: Figuring Out What Freelance Rates to Charge

Strategies for Taking Time Off

While it can be challenging with a busy schedule, you might simply work extra hours or take on extra assignments beforehand to take time off for the holidays or a vacation without disappointing clients or losing money. You can also avoid scheduling conflicts by carefully negotiating your due dates in advance and specifying times of unavailability with your clients. Also, keeping communication open with clients is essential to explain how long you'll be gone and when you'll be back. It will help build trust to reduce the chance of losing clients.

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It also helps to do some financial planning. For example, when you're doing calculations in the beginning to investigate your full-time hour equivalent or account for earnings after business expenses, you'll also want to raise your rate to account for planned weeks of time off. Additionally, you can benefit from an emergency fund that can help with handling unforeseen time off as well as periods of little work. You might even start your own paid time off fund to reduce the financial stress.

By using these strategies, you'll be better able to take time off while keeping your clients happy and enjoying the benefits of being a freelancer.

Consider also​: Is Now the Time to Go Freelance?

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