You've been good - sending out queries, landing great assignments, turning them in on deadline, wooing editors who keep coming back for more of your great work. You deserve a vacation, right?
Full-time freelancers know one of the major perks of working for themselves is the freedom to make their own schedule. But if writers want to step away from their business for a vacation (no writing allowed) it takes careful planning to ensure that upon returning home, they won't be struggling to get back on track.
I've gathered some tips from successful freelancers to find out their vacation secrets. For example:
Plan Ahead. Keep your vacation dates in mind before accepting any new assignments. You should finish as much work as possible before you leave and make sure that future deadlines are far enough out that you can finish them when you return. For a busy freelancer this can take some juggling, but it can be done.
Writer and consultant Ally E. Peltier likes to take on more work than usual in the weeks leading up to her vacation. "I earn some extra money and it helps make up for the week or two of work lost."
"I believe freelancers often make the mistake of not treating themselves like true working professionals," says Diana Lambdin Meyer, a freelance travel writer based in Parkville, Mo. "In a traditional workplace setting, a minimum of two weeks vacation is provided each year and no one questions the validity of that, so I believe clients and editors should reasonably expect writers to take a vacation. But like the traditional workplace setting, that requires planning around projects and assignments. Mark the vacation on your calendar and plan accordingly. In a traditional workplace setting, there's usually a mad dash to get everything done prior to vacation, and a huge workload to deal with when you return, so that is no different for freelancers."
If you decide to take on extra assignments, be careful that you can complete them before you leave. The last thing you need is a deadline looming the day before your trip when you should be packing.
Consider the Season. Work loads for writers can be slow during certain times of year especially during the heat of summer and around the holidays. Use these slow periods to take a break. "I generally take all of August and most of December off," says freelance writer and teacher Jennifer Lawler, author of the Dojo Wisdom series. "Book publishing is at a virtual standstill in August and slows down a lot in December, so it makes sense for me to take off when all the editors are gone. Depending on what kind of writing you do, there may naturally be slow times like this when you could take advantage of the lull and take a break."
Inform Your Editors. "I always let my editors know far in advance when my vacations are. If you don't, you end up with people wanting to send you page proofs the day before you leave. I also make it very clear that I will not be working while I am away. I've found that if you don't do that, they want to send you work. Also, I don't give out my cell number to editors," said freelance writer and author Brette McWhorter Sember.
Linda Formichelli, co-author of The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press 2006), advises writers to use their upcoming time off as a marketing tool. "A couple of week's before I leave, I like to mass e-mail all my editors -- including ones I haven't worked with in a while -- to let them know I'm going on vacation. This alerts them that you won't be available for work, but it's also a great excuse to contact your editors and remind them that you exist. Make sure you blind copy their addresses to keep them private."
Utilize Technology. Another useful strategy is to make sure you turn on your auto-responder message on your e-mail and change your voice mail message. "If an editor should write or call with an assignment, she will know to wait until you get back instead of thinking you're blowing her off," Formichelli advises.
Pitch Your Destination. Going on vacation is a great opportunity to write about something new. When you inform your editors that you'll be on vacation, mention your destination and ask if they are interested in article ideas. If you haven't broken into the travel writing arena, query new editors telling them where you'll be and what you'll be doing. When you get to your destination, look for interesting things about the culture that would peak an editor's interest. Your destination alone is not an article, but a unique restaurant or custom might be.
Clean Up. "Another important tip is to clean your office before you leave. There's nothing worse than coming back to a disaster zone after time off. It totally ratchets up your stress level immediately," says McWhorter Sember.
Relax. The whole point of a vacation is to relax, right? This can be difficult for writers who are paid and praised for coming up with great ideas. But by forcing yourself to leave writing at your office, you'll actually be helping your writing career. "Chances are, if you don't push yourself to work or generate ideas, the creative juices will start flowing on their own," says Formichelli. "You're likely to return home with renewed motivation and plenty of new ideas."
Lawler agrees in taking time completely away from writing. "Although I do my best to be responsive and professional at all times, I do not represent myself to clients as someone who is available 24/7 via phone, cell phone, email and instant messaging. Thus, when it's time for a long weekend, it's pretty easy to accomplish. Earlier in my career, I think I was too readily available to people and could never really relax on a break. So I got rid of the electronic leash and no one has complained."
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Copyright © 2007 Denene Brox
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.