How do you take time off over the holidays when you work with freelance clients?
Can freelancers actually take vacations? Heck yes, you can!
But as a self-employed business owner, you might be wondering how the heck you can get through the holidays, keep your clients happy, and still spend quality time with your family.
Or maybe you’re a creator who sells a course, membership, or coaching program—there’s a lot of pressure for you to always stay plugged in too. I know, because I’ve been there. So you might also be wondering how to take time away from your business during this season.
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of working with freelance clients and students during the holidays. In this post, I’m going to take you through four steps that you use in your business for any holiday… not just the major ones!
The end-of-the-year holidays—like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah—are what a lot of us tend to focus on, but the reality is there are many religions that have holidays throughout the year.
Plus, you can apply these exact same tips to federal or school holidays, and also any vacation time you might take away from your business.
So, let’s jump right in and talk about how to take time off as a freelancer!
Schedule Your Calendar in Advance
The first thing to get clear on is what days we actually want to completely unplug from work. And since we’re planning for the holidays right now, we might as well map out next year and have a game plan ready to go.
So, open up your calendar, and let’s get started!
To begin with, I look at holiday planning from my schedule. When do I not want to work and when do I want my team to be off?
If you have a team, you can use two colors to mark down what days you’ll be off and what days your team members will take off. You can use whatever color you want to mark off dates, but I like to use red on the days that I as a company—and a person—will not be available.
There might be some days that your team is still available, but you aren’t, because of vacation or family time, and vice versa.
First off, I go through and mark out all the federal holiday dates. Because if I’m off for the holidays, my team is going to be off work too.
But every team is different. When it comes to Thanksgiving, maybe you want to take off the whole week. Perfect—mark out the whole week. Maybe you just want to take off Thursday and Friday.
Maybe you live in Canada and the U.S. Thanksgiving doesn’t matter to you, so you’re going to work through that week. On the other hand, maybe the majority of your clients are based in the U.S. and they’ll be out for the holidays, so you decide to take those days off too.
That’s the beauty of running your own business. You get to decide, but the most important thing is to map it all out!
For instance, my team is unavailable for a good portion of the weeks around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We only work for two days the week leading up to New Year’s Day, so I’m blocking all of that time off on my calendar too.
But here’s the thing, you might have days where you’re going to be in the office but you don’t want communication. Mark those days off too. The other dates that are important to note in your calendar are when you must have everything you need to get from your clients or students.
That means if you’re working with 1:1 clients, maybe you have a deadline for when everything needs to be submitted to you so you can get your work done.
Let’s say, you’re taking time off your freelance business in December. In order to finish all your client work for the month of December, they need to get deliverables to you by the first of the month. So you’ll want to mark down December 1st in your calendar too!
If you’re running a course or membership program, you might also have deadlines to write down on your calendar. For example, we do critiques and Q&A sessions for our students in my Beta to Biggie program. That means I have to mark down when our students need to have their assets in, so we can do our job and still accommodate the upcoming time we have off.
Now that we’ve marked up our calendar, the next thing we have to plan for is our marketing schedules.
Map Out Your Marketing Schedule
One thing that’s common for freelancers is taking off the month of December, not just around Christmas. Other virtual assistants, freelancers, and social media managers are still going to work through December.
It’s your business, so if you want to do that—100% do that!
But one thing I know is that clients are already starting to think ahead to next year during the months of November and December. And you can bet that they’re going to be hiring during that time to get them ready for next year.
So, what can you be doing now to get freelance clients?
The holidays don’t necessarily mean it’s time to check out of your business. We can absolutely use these next two months to our advantage. So, if you’re going to be off during December, that means November is a crucial time to be marketing for clients. For instance, maybe you’ll double your marketing time that month.
If you’re still working through December, make sure your calendar reflects how many discovery calls you need to do before you start taking time off.
Because in my experience, you have two types of clients around then:
- People who start thinking in November and December, “Holy cow, we’re almost in a new year already. I have these big goals and I need to get ready now.”
- People who start thinking in January and February, “Oh my gosh, we’re in 2023 and I have these big goals. I need to start now!”
So if you’re marketing your freelance services in social media groups, you can let clients know, “Right now, I’m booking so we can start our journey off on the right foot next year.”
Or let’s say you have a program you’re launching in January—it’s all about getting started on your launch now instead of waiting until after New Year’s Day.
The next 4 months are actually really crucial for growing your business. That’s why you want to get ahead and figure out what your marketing plan looks like for you now.
And if you’re someone who’s going to work the week after Christmas?
I will tell you, it’s one week where I got a ton of clients in December 2018. I knew I was going to launch my Facebook ads service in January 2019, so during that last week leading up to New Year’s, I was doing my marketing minutes and got a ton of clients during that time!
There’s no pressure to work that week but it’s just something to keep in mind.
So, let’s take a second to map out when you’ll be marketing during Q4. And here’s the thing, if you’ve already mapped out that you’re not working the last week of December, don’t go back in and put down marketing there.
You’ve already made the commitment that you’re not going to work then. There are plenty of other weeks to market your business during Q4!
If you want a deeper dive into how to plan for the new year CLICK HERE and check out my New Year Planning episode.
How to Tell Clients You’re Taking Time Off Your Freelance Business
At this point, we’ve mapped out what days we will work, what days we won’t work, and when clients need to get us our deliverables. We also have a marketing plan in place. Now, what’s next?
The next step is to let our clients and students know the game plan. For instance, if you’re working 1:1 with clients, I would send every single client a personalized email and say what your availability looks like over the next two months.
So, what are your November office hours? What does December look like for your availability? And beyond your availability, I also recommend giving clients the dates of deliverables and being very specific about what you need from them—and what date you need it by.
During this communication, you also want to reassure clients that you want them to have a successful holiday season and everything will be taken care of as long as it’s in by this date. We want our clients to have time with their families, just like us!
We’re just letting them know that’s why it’s so important for both of you to get all the deliverables in time. It’s really going to come down to assuring them that you’re there to support them and you’re excited to go into 2022 with them.
It’s about letting clients know that we haven’t checked out.
But I want you to promise me something:
You will be very strong that these are the dates you aren’t available. These are firm dates, and if they don’t get you deliverables by those firm dates, you won’t be available to complete them.
Also, it’s really important that you let clients know when you won’t be in the office. In fact, I would bold the statement because the most crucial thing is holding boundaries.
But before we go into that, let’s talk about the best way to tell your clients about vacation time.
I highly recommend this information goes in an email. Now, I know we like to jump on Zoom calls with some of our clients or the phone is our preferred way of communication. If you do tell your clients over Zoom, I still recommend following up with the details over email.
That way, your clients can reference this email—and you can reference the email if they’re not hitting the dates. It’s easy to forget a date when it’s a conversation over Zoom. Clients don’t always write things down.
For our course creators, you’re going to want to make sure that your students know and your team knows. This might be done in a Facebook group or you can send out an email. Basically, you want to let your students know if monthly calls are changing or if you’re unavailable for support during the holidays.
With this messaging, we still want to always bring it back to being super excited about the next year and helping our students accomplish their goals. And the earlier, the better. I always like to send out an email a few weeks ahead of time, just to let people know when our office will be closed.
People like to plan. The best part is the more advance notice you can give clients, the more respect they will have for you and your boundaries. That’s why we want to start working on this today!
Now, let’s dig deeper into boundaries and why they’re such an important part of holiday planning when you’re self-employed.
Keep Your Boundaries for Taking Time Off
This final step of planning how to work with clients during the holidays is probably the hardest of the four—and that’s keeping our boundaries.
So, what does that look like?
For instance, if a client misses a deadline for deliverables, that means we don’t do the work on our days off. Because if we still do the work, that client knows your deadlines aren’t true deadlines.
It’s like the person who you know is going to show up late to the party. You start telling them it’s beginning 30 minutes before the real start time, but that person eventually starts to catch on and goes back to showing up late.
Sticking to your boundaries is so important as a business owner. Even if it’s not always easy. If you say that you’re not working the day after Thanksgiving, and someone messages you, sticking to your boundaries means not messaging them back.
And if it’s too tempting, turn off your Slack notifications, Voxer, or heck, delete Facebook if you have to!
During those times you’ve marked off on your calendar, you’re out of the office. You’re not checking email or responding to messages. Because as soon as we let things slide, it gives people permission to cross boundaries in the future.
I’ve seen it so many times where people think, “I’ll just do it this one time,” but then that one time turns into five times. So, I’m going to encourage you to stick to your boundaries. Even when it’s hard!
One way we can do that is to continue to give notice to our clients or students.
You can simply say, “Hey, we’re three days out from the deadline and we still haven’t heard from you on these deliverables. I do need them in three days because I won’t be able to complete the work once it’s past that timeframe.”
Personally, my team has that in writing for our students. We shut off our calendars for booking appointments and turn on autoresponders for our email. Everyone who emails us during the holidays gets an automated email that says we’re out of the office. It says:
“We’re out of the office celebrating the holidays with our family. Here are some FAQs and links to check out if you need help. We’ll see you back on [DATE].”
It’s one thing to have boundaries in place, but it’s another to actually keep your boundaries. So if this is something you’ve struggled with in the past, I’m going to say, commit to yourself today and that you’ll stick with the boundaries you set.
You’re not going to check emails when you’re supposed to be off. You’re not going to respond to clients if they message you. Because this is a time for you to have off from your business.
Know that your business will still run if you take one, two, or three days off. And it’s also a commitment to your family. If you tell them that you’re going to be fully present, but then you’re on your phone, you’re checking in with clients—you’re not giving them the respect that they deserve.
We’re actually giving our clients more respect than our family.
And this is something I’ve had to learn about the hard way. It’s really easy for me to think I can pop into a Facebook group real quick or check my inbox, but my husband, Austin, has totally called me out on it before.
That’s why I want you to be able to take that time for yourself to celebrate yourself, your family, and the holidays, and really be present with your loved ones, without worrying that your business will fall apart. It truly will not!
Wondering what to do if they do fall apart? Check out my episode on HOW TO HANDLE TOUGH SITUATIONS WITH CLIENTS AND THINGS YOU CAN DO TO AVOID THEM ALL TOGETHER.
Freelancing During the Holidays: Are You Ready for the Season?
The holidays are amongst us and I’m super excited y’all! If you haven’t already figured out your game plan, it’s time to start now.
Because the truth is, you deserve to take a freelancer vacation!
Let’s grab your calendar, map out your holidays, and create your marketing schedule. Then, it’s time to tell your clients and students those plans, write your vacation email templates, and put systems in place to protect your boundaries.
And once you have those in place, I’d love to hear your plans. What have you mapped out and committed to? What boundaries are you setting to take time off your freelance business this holiday season? Head over to @brandimowles on Instagram and let me know!