Are you in work-ahead mode? Working ahead now can mean that you get to relax more later.
One of the downsides to being your own boss (well, working as a freelancer so that you have several clients/bosses) is that you always have deadlines, and you nearly always have something that you could be doing.
If you want to take some real “time off” when you have a career like this, the reality is that you have to make concessions. You either accept that you are going to make less, because you are skipping out on some of your work for the time-being, or you work ahead (and work extra hard while doing it) so that you have time to relax later.
Working Ahead as a Freelancer
Many freelancers have to create their own time off. One of the ways that I do this is by working on the weekends. During the week, if I have things I want to do that don't include my work, I do them. It means I have an interesting schedule that sometimes requires that I work on Saturday morning because I my husband and I spent the day together on Wednesday.
However, there are times when I plan ahead for a break. A good example is Christmas. On Christmas Day I absolutely refuse to do any work. I might check my email or look at Facebook, but I'll probably ignore most of that stuff, and I'll certainly not write anything for money. All I want to do on Christmas Day is wake up at 8 a.m., open presents with my family, and then spend the rest of the day on the couch with my Kindle and a pile of candy. In our household, Christmas Day is the day that we all do exactly what we want. My husband goes back to bed. My son puts together his LEGO gifts and watches movies. And we all eat junk until dinnertime.
And I don't do any work.
I also have to plan ahead when my son and I take our annual spring break road trip or when I know that my husband and I will enjoy a getaway. Working ahead is the price I pay for taking a break, because if I don't, the money stops flowing.
Plus, I don't have to get everything done ahead of time. I often do a little work at night in the hotel, or first thing in the morning. For longer trips, it's more about taking the edge off.
No Paid Vacation for Freelancers
Working ahead is the way I choose to deal with the fact that there is no paid vacation for freelancers. There are ways to work around this, of course. If you have a large project you are working on that pays in advance, or if you are on retainer, it's possible to shift things around a bit. Being paid a consulting retainer, or being paid up front for a project, are two situations in which it's kind of like getting a paid vacation.
But you still have to make sure that the work gets done at some point within a specified time frame.
If you are paid on a per-project or per-post basis after the fact, though, it's a little bit different. Since I have a number of professional blogging clients that ask me to post once a week, I have to make those posts — or I don't get paid for them. Sometimes I skip a post here and there, but I don't get to bill for it later. If I want to get paid for those posts, even while I'm on vacation or taking a break, I have to work ahead.
Right now, I'm cramming in as much as I possibly can so that I can relax a little bit over the holiday break. Not working on Christmas is a given, but I also want a much lighter workload throughout so that I can do things like go sledding with my son, and not freak out about what I have to do when we go up to my parents' for a couple of days.
Working ahead is often a stressful part of being a freelancer. However, when you can relax later, it does make it worth it. At least a little bit.
What do you think about working ahead? Is it something you do? Or do you prefer to just arrange your schedule around vacations?