When you are self-employed and work from home, it can be very difficult to actually plan a vacation -- as in, a period of time where you stop working, whether or not you are going somewhere. As those of us who work from home know so well, work hours can quickly expand into our leisure time. Thoughts such as "I'll just quickly check my work email" are the first step to letting your work take over your personal as well as your professional life.
Not that it is always a bad thing. Clients may really appreciate it if you check your email in the evening, making yourself available to help them (if you so choose) with a last minute deadline or a pressing question. But this approach can also make it difficult to break away from needy clients (or a workaholic attitude) when you are planning time off, whether for a trip or just to give yourself some time to relax at home.
This is an issue for me right now because my husband and I are planning to go out of town for a week (a whole week!). Although I do plan on taking my computer and picking up wifi where possible, I also don't plan on working a whole lot. I want mainly to be able to check email, blog about the trip, download pictures from my camera, and perhaps write a little if I am so inspired.
Here are a few tips (things I have done or am doing for this trip) to help you take your vacation without work encroaching.
- Let your clients know well in advance. I informed my regular clients a month in advance of our trip. A reminder a week prior is also a good idea. That allows them to assign any work early that they might want done over your vacation.
- Set a vacation response on your email. For those clients who have forgotten about your vacation, a vacation message on your email can provide a reminder (and hopefully head off any complaints about you not responding to your emails soon enough).
- Plan ahead. Your clients only bear so much responsibility. It's your job to plan your schedule leading up to the vacation so that you accomplish everything that needs to be done before you leave. That's why informing your clients early is such a good idea -- getting the assignments in as soon as possible will give you plenty of time to get everything done if you plan ahead. Likewise, it's also your responsibility to say no if a client tries to give you too much work, or a last minute project that you know you can't finish before you leave. Let them know you don't have time to do it before your vacation, and suggest that you do it as soon as you get back.
Of course, this won't solve all your problems -- I remember once, despite my best efforts to plan, when I ended up being up until the wee hours of the morning finishing my work before a vacation. There have been other vacations, too, when work came along as something to do while traveling -- but I don't recommend that approach. It's much nicer to start your vacation knowing everything is done and you are free to enjoy yourself!