Freelancers work hard and deserve some time to play hard and build up fresh energy. Striking a balance between enjoying the holidays and managing client expectations is always tricky. Fiverr doers already have a vacation mode to help communicate days off, but there’s more to successful holiday planning.
You need to enjoy your time off, yes. But you won’t be able to relax with a lot of unmet client expectations hanging over you. If you struggle with scheduling around the holidays, follow this guide to the pre- and post-holiday flurry.
The holiday buffer
It’s too easy for freelancers to get so caught up in work that they have to be dragged away from their desk by friends and family. Working a normal schedule right up to the moment you walk away is a recipe for overbooking, last-minute rush jobs, and unnecessary stress. Save the cold turkey approach for leftovers, not for your work schedule. Instead, treat the day before and the day after your holiday break as a buffer day.
On the buffer day before your holiday break, do not accept any new work. Stick to finishing work coming due and answering client messages. Make notes on longer-term projects you are putting on hold so you can quickly pick up where you left off. And don’t work all day. Allocate some of your buffer day to the cleaning, packing, and planning that usually goes along with a holiday.
The buffer day after your holiday break, review your existing projects right away. Address the fuzzier projects with greater attention and client outreach. And budget some time to decompress from the holiday, helping your mind transition back to work mode. (It’s also a great opportunity to check your social media feeds for embarrassing photos or unfortunate promises you made to friends and family during your time off!)
Once you’ve decided on your time off and your buffer days, post a notice on your Gigs and your profile at least one week in advance. Include the buffer days in your time-off notice and specify that you may not answer messages until you return.
Then stick with your word. If a client insists on finalizing arrangements before your holiday, push for a later deadline or start date. And be clear that you will not make progress during the time off. It’s too tempting for a professional freelancer to work on just one more task, eating into precious holiday time. One task can spiral into another, and, before you realize it, you’ve missed the arm-wrestling match between your little nephew and your great uncle. Treat your holiday-time-off rules like a contractual promise you’ve made with yourself.
Freelancers are worried about their business losing momentum. Keep your customers and potential clients happy and engaged by refocusing on quality and attentiveness before and after a holiday break. Be even more attentive to detail and on-time delivery around a holiday break. If you can’t accept a project before the holiday, make a specific appointment to discuss it when you return from break. A firm commitment to speak at a particular time will keep a client more interested than a vague assurance.
Although different people celebrate different holidays, everyone on some level understands the concept of time off for family, cultural, religious, or personal purposes. So however you plan to celebrate, the best and easiest thing to do is to be honest about what you can and cannot do before, during, and after your break.
That goes for your relationship with yourself as well. Be honest with yourself about how much time you need to take off during the holiday. After you return, evaluate how well things went for your work before and after the break. Consider whether you need additional buffer days to cool down and ramp up around a vacation.
Don’t overdo the honesty, though. If somebody gives you a handmade sweater this season, tell them you like it. They worked really hard on it.
How do you prepare your business for the holidays? How do you keep customers interested while you’re on hiatus? Share your ideas in the comments below!