How to Prepare for Summer Vacay

beach sitting

Laptops and sand do not mix!

You’re looking over your plans for the upcoming summer and you want a week or two away from work to spend with your family or with your friends. That is a reasonable desire and a goal every freelancer should pursue. After all, it isn’t just about work — or is it?

This year, we’re planning a summer break that will give me a just over a week off from work. I’ve been planning this vacay for several months and as I get closer to my time off, there are several things I’m doing ahead of time to ensure that I won’t be working later. Lets take a look at how you can prepare for your summer vacation.

Notify your clients — Assuming you have a good, working relationship with one or more long-term clients, you’ll need to inform each one about your plans. You’re self-employed, thus you aren’t required to “put in” for time off company-employed workers. As a courtesy, however, you’ll let your clients know when you won’t be around and when you’ll be back at work.

Work ahead of schedule — For people who blog or write content daily, you’ll need to keep the fires burning while away. My clients allow me to write my articles in advance and set them up to publish automatically at a prescribed hour. Although my break is still months away, I’ve already begun to write in advance and put those articles in the queue.

Ask for help — I’ve learned from some freelancers about their personal struggle with letting go while on the road. I’m not saying “leave the laptop at home,” but you can minimize your online time by asking others to step in while you’re gone. This might include having someone tweet your articles or post an update to Facebook on your behalf. If you have WordPress, then you can automate some of these steps, to ensure that your social media presence doesn’t go dark for too long.

Set boundaries — A clingy client can be the hardest to convince that you need some time off. This is especially hard if one or more expects you to be available by email, text message or by phone at the drop of a hat. My best advice here is for you to reassure your client that you’ll be back at work on such a date and time. If you can stomach interaction while away, then set aside 15 minutes and no more during your vacation to place one call to your client. Don’t do any work and resist elevating a common problem into something urgent by tackling a job that clearly can wait until you return.

When I hit the road, I do take my laptop and cell phone with me. The laptop allows me to check that my sites are up and running; the cell phone is for emergencies only. For email, a once daily check is sufficient, but if you truly want to give your work a rest, then auto-responders are the only way to go!

How to Overcome a Freelance Dry Spell

I’m in my 10th year of freelancing and while I would like to say that my business is a success, none of this hasn’t come without many challenges. Last year was my best year ever, but it was one of the most difficult ones too. New clients came in, projects ended and some customers changed direction including one that abruptly changed its business model, forcing dozens of freelancers to look elsewhere for work. Thank God I was able to find new work when I needed to, but there were times when my work days did not have enough gigs going on to sustain me.

business contract

Your next gig is just a contract away!

Fortunately, I have figured out ways to keep the freelance fires burning. We all know that a flicker can quickly turn into a flame and that’s how I am able to manage things even when the going gets rough. Or at least when it slows down.

The following are some methods I’ve used to find work:

1. Dig through emails — Years ago I switched to Gmail as I wanted to have a large amount of storage. I still delete most of my messages, but my correspondence with clients goes back to when I opened up my account in June 2005. Gmail allows users create labels to easily categorize your mail. Whether you set up a special “client” folder or not, you can search your old email messages to review previous client contacts and apprise them of your availability. Happy past clients mean potential future clients.

2. Ask your current clients — Your current clients are happy with your work. How do I know that? Because they’re still using you. You may find that a client may have additional work available for you, but you won’t know that for certain unless you ask. While I don’t recommend relying on one client for most of your work, during dry spells that client can help you bridge the gaps.

3. Market relentlessly — Established freelancers know that their marketing switch is always left on. They also have several tried and true ways of keeping their names out there. Social media is, of course, one of the more significant ways to “spread the word.” I’ve found clients or I should say they found me through Twitter. Others have touched base with me via LinkedIn. Although Facebook is not one of my favorite places to interact with people other than my family and close friends, others have reported finding work via this platform. Send out fresh queries. Make some cold calls. Ask people at your church, your social group or other public setting about work. Keep networking!

4. Use, but be wary of job boards — With the rise of the Internet has come job boards, including those we are all too familiar with. You have to use much caution when looking for work online — scam artists abound and the web attracts bargain seekers and tire kickers, people who aren’t about to pay you a living wage. Still, there are diamonds out there including those that are in the rough and need to be extracted, cut and cleaned.

One thing writers should do is to diversify. Writing articles is one thing, but offering a variety of content solutions can help you get noticed, leading to new work. You can upsell your current clients too, by offering press release writing for whenever a news announcement needs to be made. Just keep at it and something new will turn up, a project that may soon help you forget your most recent dry spell.

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