I've been a freelance writer for a few years now, but it wasn't until January this year when I actually started to make a real go of making my hobby-come-part-time-job into a full time career.
Before 2010, to all intents and purposes I'd been playing at freelance writing. I had a few regular clients, kept in with the right crowds and applied for a few new gigs occassionally. I was plodding along quite happily and faced no major problems when it came to meeting deadlines if I wanted to take a break.
The past 6 months, however, have been a slightly different story. I've managed one long weekend and one full week away. The first was a bit nervewracking, as after making myself available every day of the week for 2 and a half months - and working most days, including weekends - to spend four days not being at my laptop was, well, just put it this way - it made me a bit twitchy.
And the backlog of work - even after just being away for the long weekend - ugh.
For the second break, though, I'd almost sussed it. No headaches before I went. No masses of work to come back to afterwards and I enjoyed the full week without working once. Almost.
Taking a break from your freelance writing business, no matter how busy you think you are, is posssible - and strongly recommended - and these 5 points should all make it relatively easy to do.
- Plan in advance - as much as being a freelance writer means you can work for yourself and set your own hours, it doesn't generally mean that you can drop everything at moment's notice and go on holiday for a week. If this is the reason you became a freelance writer then a) you really need to rethink your career choice or b) you've already realised that this really isn't a possibility.
We're not talking about planning months in advance here, but if you can give yourself at least four weeks notice before you go away, you'll find that you can organise everything a lot easier, such as providing realistic deadlines for projects (the first time I went away this year was a bit of a spur of the moment break and I had a deadline to meet the day I was back. Nice).
- Work your ass off the week or two before - one of the best things I did before I went away for a week was staying up until 2am in the morning a few times to get well ahead of schedule. What I wanted to do was not only ensure that all of the work I had scheduled to do for the time I was away was completed, but also to get ahead of the game and complete some of the work I had in for the days after I returned.
When you get back from your break, you may feel a lot more revitalized and ready for work, but that first day when you return is usually taken up replying to e-mails and generally catching up with what's been going on, so having it free of work is a great idea.
- Get an iPhone / BlackBerry / other endorsable smartphone - two years ago I picked up my first phone that allowed me to check my e-mails on the go and it was arguably one of the best thing I'd done, although it was slow and a little cumbersome. A week ago, however, I invested in an iPhone and realised that the past two years would have been that bit simpler if I'd done this earlier.
The reason I mention getting a smartphone in respect of taking a break from your freelance writing business is that although I always recommend people take complete breaks from their work, so to be fully revitalized when they return, sometimes it's worthwhile - or necessary - to be able to check your e-mails once every day or two whilst you're away.
If for whatever reason you can't get a smartphone, think about redirecting your POP3 e-mails through a free Gmail account. It's easy to do and means you can check your e-mail wherever you are in the world.
- Don't be available on weekends - the mistake I was making from the start of my career up until the first quarter of 2010 was that I was making myself available all week, including weekends.
Although I'm a firm believer that if you're a freelancer, you should be flexible towards your work and your clients, it's important that you ensure your clients know that you're not contactable all week, unless it's in an emergency.
So, if you refrain from contacting clients on weekends (feel free to work in every other sense and even check e-mails - just don't reply to them until Monday), your clients are likely to be a lot more accomodating when you say you aren't going to be contactable for a week when you take a break, as to a certain degree, they'll be expecting it.
- Take a notebook with you - whenever I'm taking a break from writing, even if I'm just having an easy weekend, I always carry a notebook - or something that allows me to take notes, such as a smartphone - with me. When you're so steeped in writing on a daily basis, things can become a bit blurred and it isn't until you remove yourself from work completely that things start to become a lot clearer.
By taking a notebook with you, it gives you the opportunity to write down thoughts that you have when in this clear state of mind. It might be a new market to target, a new client to pitch to or you might even have a light bulb moment and figure out why you aren't hearing back from your query letters. Whatever notes you make, though, it's highly likely that you would have made them when working.
Everyone needs a break from their freelance writing business. No matter how much you love your work, how much you enjoy writing press releases and blog posts or - one of the points that stops a lot of freelance writers taking a break - how much money you're making, take a break and you'll feel revitalized, invigorated and ready to dive straight back into work a lot more focused and with a much clearer mind.
NB - Jessie here at All Freelance Writing offers regular advice and support on becoming an organized and productive freelance writer and so if you're struggling to take a break from your freelance writing business, I'd strongly recommend you check out her posts (and even if you're not, they're great posts and any freelance writer could learn a lot from her!)