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Taking Holidays As A Freelancer

Freelancer planning time off

Working as a freelancer has many benefits, and one of the key ones is the flexibility it affords you. When you’re in charge of your own schedule, it’s easy to see how others would think you could take holidays as often as you like, whenever you like. And, in theory, you can. But for many freelancers that isn’t what happens. In practice, freelancers are worried about missing out on work when they’re away, and are all-too conscious of their lack of holiday pay when taking time off. But taking holidays as a freelancer is incredibly important, so below we’ll explore issues you might face as a freelancer when taking time off, issues surrounding self employed holiday pay, and more.

Taking Time Off As A Freelancer – The Numbers

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the number of freelancers taking the equivalent number of holidays that a standard UK worker is entitled to (28 days minimum) is surprisingly low. Their research uncovered that:

  • 9% of freelancers didn’t take any holidays in the last year
  • 14% took less than 5 days holiday in the last year
  • 34% took 25 days or more holiday in the last year
  • 13% took 40 or more days holiday in the last year

It shows that whilst a large portion of freelancers are taking the holidays they would be entitled to if they worked a more traditional job, a significant number of freelancers are taking far less. 

Why Taking Holidays Is So Important

As a freelancer you’ll hear this all the time from family and loved ones, and rightfully so, because taking holidays is important. Holidays bring a wealth of benefits your way, and plenty of them will make you even better at your job, too. 

So, even though you’ve probably heard these reasons countless times before from those around you who are concerned about you working too hard, we’re going to remind you of them anyway:

Stave Off Stress 

Work-related stress affects everybody – whether they’re freelance or not. But there’s no denying that when you’re solely in charge of your freelance work, and singly responsible for getting paid for that work, you’re going to experience more work stress than most.

It may seem counterintuitive to take time off as a freelancer when you’re feeling stressed about work, but taking regular time away from work has been shown in countless studies to reduce stress and make you better at your job. 

Increase Productivity 

One way you get better at your job through time off as a freelancer is by returning to work feeling much more productive than when you left. Ever spent hours in your work day chasing emails, making phone calls, or freaking out about where the next job will come from?

By taking time away as a freelancer you gain a greater perspective, and it allows you to return to work with priorities in place. Many freelancers report their productivity levels were much higher in the days, weeks, and months following a holiday, than they were beforehand. 

Spend Time With Loved Ones 

As freelancers, it can be hard knowing where work stops and where home life begins. All too often you’ll let the two blend and the barriers between them blur, even with the best intentions. But by taking a holiday to reset from work and focus on those closest to you, you’ll feel amazing. 

It doesn’t matter who you spend your time off with or how much of that time off you dedicate to your own relaxation vs spending time with loved ones – the point is, time away from work lets you reset your work-life balance, and you’ll have far better relationships with those around you as a result. 

New Ideas 

Being a freelancer is a creative process, even if the freelance work you do involves no creativity at all. That’s because as a freelancer, you’re having to constantly stay on top of the latest techniques, tips, and tricks in your industry to make yourself stand out. And that is a creative process. 

But, in order to stay at the top of your game, you have to allow yourself the time and space to be creative and get new ideas. Holidays provide you with that time as a freelancer, and you might surprise yourself by returning to work with fresh ideas about how you can improve your skills and ultimately make more of a success out of your freelance career. 

Return Re-energised

Everybody knows that after you return from a holiday you return with a spring in your step, no matter what you did on your time off. Sometimes, the act of simply taking a break is enough to make you feel like you have more energy. You don’t need a spa break to return to work re-energised after time away. 

And when you return re-energised, you return more focussed, more motivated, and in a better frame of mind, ultimately making you better at your job. 

Barriers To Taking Time Off As A Freelancer

There are countless reasons why taking time off as a freelancer is a good idea. You’ll feel better, you’ll be better at your job, and you’ll be a much less stressed individual. But freelancers know all that, and yet a large portion of them aren’t taking the holidays they really ought to. 

So why is that?

Self Employed Holiday PaySelf employed holiday pay is without a doubt the biggest concern of freelancers, because they just don’t get any like workers who are employed be somebody else does. And that can be a huge concern for those wanting to take a holiday as a freelancer, but feel that the lack of self employed holiday pay support is a barrier to that.
Work LoadSometimes freelancers feel they’re simply too busy to walk away from work for any extended period of time. When you’re self-employed, it can be difficult to take a holiday knowing the mountain of work you’ll be leaving behind and the mountain of work you’ll return to after your break is over. 
Client ExpectationsBuilding positive, mutually trusting relationships with clients is a huge part of being a freelancer. For many freelancers, it can be scary taking time away and it can often feel like you’re letting clients down. Fearful of damaging the relationships already built, many freelancers choose not to take a break in order to always be available for their clients.
No Colleague SupportFreelancers don’t have colleagues to cover their projects or liaise with their clients whilst they’re away, so it can sometimes just feel easier not to take a break at all. Without anybody covering for them whilst taking time off, as would happen in most other workplaces, it’s understandable why some freelancers simply choose to keep on working. 
Worry Over Future WorkFor many freelancers, constant, steady income isn’t always possible. There will almost certainly be quieter times, just as with any other business. The difference is, when you’re freelance, you don’t have the security blanket of a salary to fall back on. So, many freelancers choose to keep working whilst the work is there to earn as much as possible – telling themselves they’ll have a natural break at some point when work slows down. The problem there, though, is that when you’re very good at what you do, work rarely slows down…

A Note On Self Employed Holiday Pay

There are plenty of barriers to taking time off as a freelancer, but we’ll explore how to manage those below to hopefully encourage you to take at least the 28 days holiday you would be entitled to if you were employed by someone else

But the biggest barrier you’ll face is the lack of self employed holiday pay. There has, however, been calls in recent years from the business community for some sort of statutory holiday pay to be paid to self employed individuals and freelancers. It’s important to note that nothing has come of this yet – but self employed holiday pay may one day be a right every freelancer is entitled to. 

With that said, if an individual is a freelancer, self-employed, or sole-trader currently, then they have no legal right for self employed holiday pay. When your status is clearly that of a freelancer and there’s no room for dispute, then paid holiday leave isn’t an option. But below we’ll explore how you might tackle the various barriers you face to taking holidays as a freelancer to encourage you to take more – including some financial tips.

Successfully Taking Holidays As A Freelancer

If you feel like taking more holidays as a freelancer, then, with the right preparation, you can negate all of the barriers you’ve been putting up and successfully enjoy time away from work. And you’ll have all those great benefits of taking the holiday in the first place we talked about earlier when you return. 

So how can you successfully take time off as a freelancer?

  • Manage expectations 
  • Plan ahead
  • Save up
  • Join a freelancing community


Manage Expectations 

In freelance work you’ll probably have regular clients and more casual clients. If you’re going to be taking time away from work, it’s important that you manage both of their expectations accordingly. 

For one off clients, it’s important to let them know your availability around the time of your holiday. Let them know upfront that you’ll be away between certain dates, and you’ll be unable to work on their project during this time. If they choose to go elsewhere let them. If you need to refuse work because it’s too close to your holiday and you won’t be able to complete it, do so. It’s all about managing their expectations and setting realistic deadlines for yourself – key skills in freelancing. 

For regular clients, let them know well in advance of your time away. This will allow them to plan accordingly and send more work your way in the months, weeks, and days leading up to your break. That way, you can still complete their work for them, but ahead of time. Everybody is happy if you stay organised and let your clients know about your time off well in advance. 

Plan Ahead 

If possible, plan well ahead of your holiday. Be realistic about the amount of work you’ll have in the run up to your break and when you return. That way you can better organise your time and be ready for your workload either side of the holiday. 

Top tip: The more work you do before you go on holiday, the less you’ll have to do when you return and the better you’ll be able to enjoy your break.

Save Up 

Until self employed holiday pay becomes a right for all freelancers, you will need to prepare financially for your time away. That could mean taking on extra work in the run up to your holiday so you earn enough extra money to cover your time away. 

It isn’t an ideal situation to be in by any means, but it does mean you won’t take such a financial hit for simply wanting to relax and unwind for a week or two. 

Join A Freelancing Community

In freelancing it’s so important to find your people. It doesn’t matter where you look – local in-person groups, social media, large freelancing websites – if you find people in your situation then you’ll feel much better about taking your holiday. 

Many freelancers have also found success covering for one another through these communities. Vet your fellow freelancers first to ensure their work is up to par, but you might be able to pass on the name and number of a fellow freelancer to cover some of your work whilst you’re away with the agreement that your clients will return to you when you’re back. 

Get friendly with your fellow freelancers, and they might be willing to return the favour. That way, everybody gets to enjoy their time off, but work for your clients is still being completed at the same time.

Taking Holidays As A Freelancer: Conclusion

It can be hard as a freelancer to take time away. But with the right preparation and your mind on the benefits a holiday will bring, you can successfully enjoy your time off knowing you’ll return as a better freelancer. 

Preparation is key – both in terms of your finances and your organisation – but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take 28 days holiday per year, like most UK workers. You might find you enjoy your freelance work even more if you do!



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