How to give yourself a break – a guide for the self-employed

Did you find yourself working non-stop this summer? It’s a common dilemma for many self-employed individuals. The irony is that being self-employed promises freedom, yet numerous freelancers struggle to give themselves a holiday.

The fear of financial instability can push you to work relentlessly, resulting in burnout and the feeling of being chained to your laptop 24/7.

But hold on a moment. Isn’t the beauty of being your own boss the ability to enjoy life beyond work? What if you could escape on a vacation, unplugging for a couple of weeks, even months, without financial stress lurking like a shadow?

You are in charge, therefore technically, you can set your own schedule. So, how can you make that happen and live the dream you had before you got bogged down in your business? Let’s dig into it.

Recognise the value of doing ‘nothing’

Firstly we must realise that balance is crucial for a thriving freelance business. They don’t call holiday time “recharging the batteries” for nothing. But there’s actually more to it than that.

You may think that during the times you are not working, nothing productive is taking place and therefore you’re losing out. But really there is no such thing as doing nothing. Here are some important things you can gain by not working:

  • New perspectives 
  • New ideas 
  • New ways of thinking

All of the above don’t just add value to your business, but they are also essential ingredients for any solopreneur or freelance business to continue to develop and thrive.

Research shows that even daydreaming is a valuable ‘doing nothing’ exercise. 

In a nutshell, time off can produce valuable reflections to your business that you don’t get while sat at your desk.

So, drop the guilt, make time off a priority and start building your business around it.

Become results focused

Ever catch yourself saying you’re too busy to take time off? Many freelancers wear their “work 52 weeks a year” badge like a badge of honour, but let’s be honest, it’s not a cool look.

Success in business isn’t about counting hours; it’s about the value and impact you bring to your work. You measure success by what you achieve, not how long you work.

Focus on being productive instead of busy

Tim ferris, author of The 4 Hour Work Week

To break free from the busyness trap, you’ll need to take a more strategic approach. Set clear goals and markers for when you’ve achieved them. Shift your focus from staying busy to getting real results.

Celebrate your wins and know when it’s time for a break. Remember, producing results isn’t about working longer or harder. There’s a point where more effort doesn’t mean more success.

By prioritising productivity over busyness, you’ll find time for other things, like a well-deserved holiday. 

In the end, it’s about what you achieve, not how many hours you put in.

RELATED: Does Being Productive Make You Happier?

Get to know the ins and outs of your business

Let’s break down the importance of understanding profit versus cash flow. 

Profit represents what remains after subtracting all your expenses from your revenue –basically, the money you theoretically have. On the other hand, cash flow is all about the actual cash moving in and out of your business. 

You can have a profitable business on paper but still face cash flow issues if customers delay payments or you’re dealing with large upfront costs. So, knowing this difference is a game-changer for steering clear of cash flow surprises.

Here is a practical step you can take right now: Look back at your last 12 months to get a grip on your cash flow trends. If you use a bookkeeping system like FreeAgent, you’ll likely find a handy graph that shows you the highs and lows. It also reveals which clients tend to pay late.

When it comes to those tardy payers, consider offering them a flexible payment plan spread over a few months. This not only eases their burden but also keeps them closely connected to your services.  Alternatively, if your projects are substantial, break them down into phases and invoice them in smaller chunks.

By smoothing out your cash flow, you can steer clear of the knee-jerk reaction of taking on more work just to cover the gaps. 

Automate your income

Instead of constantly trading your time for money, consider building sources of income that continue flowing in, whether you’re at your desk or enjoying a well-deserved holiday. Yes, it may take some initial effort, but the peace of mind and flexibility it offers are priceless.

One effective strategy is to offer services on a subscription basis. This means clients sign up for a service that’s delivered regularly (weekly or monthly) and is billed periodically until they decide to opt out. You could offer an online community, a newsletter, or a combination of both. Platforms like Substack make it easier than ever to set this up.

Another option is to create an online course. Use platforms like Kajabi or Thinkific, which come with web and marketing tools, to make the process smoother. 

These platforms and other tech tools allow you to automate various aspects of your business, from lead conversion to client onboarding. If you’re not sure where to start, no worries! Let’s chat and brainstorm some ideas together in a free session.

Plan for being absent

Feeling anxious about taking time off because you’re worried your clients will vanish, and there’ll be no work when you return? 

It’s a common concern, but it’s not as challenging to address as you might think. With a few straightforward plans in place, you can ensure your business keeps humming along while you enjoy some well-deserved time off.

Start by planning your holiday or time off well in advance. Take a look at your past 12-24 months to identify your busy and slow periods. Pay attention to when your key clients typically take their vacations. If it’s going to be a slow period anyway, consider aligning your break with theirs.

Once you’ve marked your holiday dates on the calendar, you can work around them more effectively. You’ll be able to factor them into your project schedule and plan accordingly.

Now, you have a choice: either temporarily close up shop, giving your clients ample notice, or keep the doors open with some cover in place. Consider setting up automations to handle inquiries while you’re away, or hire a virtual assistant who can handle smaller tasks to keep clients satisfied until your return – Upwork is a good place to start.

So, don’t let worries about losing clients ruin your holiday plans. In any case, distance makes the heart grow fonder and you might even earn some extra kudos from them for handling your business like a pro.

You deserve a break

As a self-employed freelancer, it’s common to find yourself working nonstop, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of careful planning, you can regain control of your work-life balance.

Remind yourself why you chose the freelancing path in the first place – it’s all about freedom and flexibility, right?

So, go ahead, take that well-deserved break. You’ll return refreshed and brimming with new ideas to invigorate your business.

Photo: Anthony Shkraba

James Hanberry
Verified Coach
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James Hanberry is a marketing specialist and coach helping well being professionals, mentors, educators and content creators build their businesses online. Email or book a free consultation here.

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