Freelance education journalist Janet Murray plans to take the summer off this year. Trouble is, she’s worried about how much work this will lose her.
‘Because my workload is unpredictable, I go through periods which are very intense,’she says. ‘In my case, with a small child and part-time childcare, that might mean a couple of weeks of very late nights and early mornings, working over the weekend to get things done. As a result, I reach a point where I need a break. But I fret about it a lot.”
To help make her break possible, she has stopped pitching, has set a date to stop working, and plans to stick to it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But we all know it’s not.
‘Sod’s law means you always get your best opportunities a week before you’re due to go on holiday or take a break, so you have to work like mad before you go,’says Murray.
Lichfield-based Paul Groves recognises the nagging doubt about missing work.
But says when he went freelance he got some good advice from two people who have been self-employed most of their working lives. They told him not to put the rest of his life on hold for work.
‘So, I’ve taken breaks when I’ve wanted and not thought about potentially missing work opportunities,’he says. ‘We all need to switch off, otherwise things get stale.”
Groves adds that he makes sure regular clients and contacts are fully aware of when he’ll be unavailable in good time.
‘If they know they might have stuff coming up they’ll try to get things sorted before my holiday. This leads into my tendency to organise things so that I’m very busy in the weeks leading up to a break – my thinking tends to be that I’ll earn a bit more to cover the lack of income during the holiday; plus – rightly or wrongly – if you prove your worth to whoever is paying you then they’ll be happy to wait a week or two for more of the same when you get back.
‘As with everything else, it is about building up a relationship to a point where you can hopefully work together to make sure taking a break doesn’t become an issue,’Groves says.
He has voicemail messages and an autoresponder on his email – but he still checks who has been in touch. And he has no problem with an editor contacting him while he’s away from his desk.’I’d far rather any query is resolved than have work pulled or be published with a glaring error in it,’he adds.
‘I’m taking a break, so I’ll turn down new work offered. I will obviously suggest I’ll do whatever work they’re offering once I return. If that isn’t possible I’ll try and offer a solution like pointing them in the direction of someone else I think might be able to help them.”
Full-time blogger Amber McNaught says she finds the time leading up to holidays, a ‘physical and mental strain’and that she always takes her laptop with her.
‘By the time I leave for my holiday I’m always utterly exhausted – then I worry that when I come home I’ll have to live on beans on toast for a while because my income will have dried up. I often wonder if it’s worth all the hassle, but luckily it always is.
McNaught writes a couple of non time-dependent articles every week which she then files away for future use.
‘By the time I need to take a break, I have enough posts written to keep things ticking over while I’m gone,”she says. ‘It’s not ideal, because I can only write certain types of articles in advance, but it helps to take some of the stress out of going away.”