July: Let's all go on a Freelance holiday...

Or just take some time off!

It’s July! It’s holiday season! Let’s talk time off, downtime and freelance holidays! Ok, so you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from all that ROFL-ing… but this is something I really want to delve into.

I know, it seems like THE WORST TIME to talk holidays and relaxing, right? The world is trying to take a holiday at a very different pace to what we’re used to right now. For many, holidays are cancelled. For others, they’re just a dream – whether because of location, work, finances or time.

My summer holiday was going to be glamping at Glastonbury – clearly, I didn’t go. But did I have those days off anyway? Nope, I worked. It’s like we just can’t give ourselves permission to have time off. We’d tell others to have some downtime, wouldn’t we? I say it to people all the time! But myself? Well, ‘just one more email’ I say, ‘one more pitch’… ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. But what happened to PLAY while the sun shines? Or do nothing all day while the sun shines?

Freelancers are perceived as having loads of flexibility, and we don’t have to ask the boss for time off, right? Well, in theory, yes…

I heard you all say ‘no!’.

The brilliant folk at IPSE have research on this, from August 2019, and found that the average freelancer takes 24 days off a year – that’s four less than employees are entitled to.

One in six take no time off for the birth or adoption of their child (AKA parental leave).

78% of us work while on holiday.

9% took NO days off in the year before the survey.

78% want to take more time off than they do.

I could go on, but you can probably guess there is a theme here. And you can download the full report on IPSE’s website.

Thing is, 92% of those polled also said that time off had some positive effect on them.

Hold on, one more. This survey from Dinghy, an insurance firm for freelancers, found that 98.3% admitted to checking in on emails and projects on their time off.

So how can we find some balance?

Holidays

At least when it comes to the ‘big’ holidays, we can set the out of office and have our work cleared. We might get a call from a client we have to fob off, but generally if we are ‘strict’ with ourselves, we can take time off and know we’ve earned it.

‘Earned it’ is a strange concept to freelancers too, though, as we don’t get paid holiday, right? We have to work harder before and after the break to make up for the time off. I guess that’s just one of those freelance things, but at the same time, it does make switching off harder. What if you miss THE client email or THE most important offer while you’re sunbathing/cocktail sipping/wrangling the kids out of a banana/rowing boat? Or just in a caravan somewhere, kind of isolating, because of the whole world situation. In fact, might it be worse now we aren’t having ‘big holidays’ because we use that time to work?!

Days off

I am good at having days off. I am good at saying ‘I’m not working today!’ or ‘I’ve set my OOO and I’m OFF!’. Then I go somewhere – to see friends or family, to the garden centre, on holiday - and I ‘don’t work’. AKA I do things that are ‘sort of work’. You know, social media. Writing an idea on the back of a receipt. Basically, I have ‘fake days off’.

Familiar? It’s hard to resist because often we see emails and being sat at a desk as work, so anything we do away from the desk is ‘not really work’. Only it is. And it’s dangerous for our mental health to never switch off.

Even with downtime, we tend to take work with us. Yes, I’m talking to you people who take your phone in the bath, or on a dog walk. If you, like me, read a magazine on an aeroplane (although I know at the moment that’s less likely) and turn down the corner of a page because you want to pitch to that section, you’re not 100% switching off.

My biggest ‘question to self’ this month is whether it matters if we are often ‘on’. Does it matter if I respond to a tweet while browsing the cactus section at the garden centre?

Well, I guess, yes. Because then we’re not present. And our old friend over-comparison along with his close pal anxiety can turn up. You go from ‘chilled and looking at plants/paintings’ to a quivering wreck wondering if there’s a toilet because yep, now you’ve got stress tummy ache, too.

There was a very popular tweet recently from the lovely Fiona Thomas – it struck a chord with many of us.

It’s so true, and it goes from ten minutes off to an hour off, a day off and a week or more off. We forget to give ourselves the breaks we give others. I’ve written before about how we forget to praise ourselves and celebrate our own wins, and this is the same but with downtime.

And while we’ve got so much of this freelance life nailed, I think the one thing we are all a bit rubbish at is switching off, taking time out and being kinder to ourselves in the non-work time we do claim.

The difference between time off and downtime

Holidays are one thing, and days off, but what about some downtime? An afternoon, or even a real lunchbreak. I know! Imagine! But there is a definite difference, and I think it’s important.

Downtime isn’t complete OOO status, but it is taking a break. And we need to be sure that we take a break properly. Not (as I often do) yoga with the phone in the room which I check straight afterwards. Not (as I don’t do, but I know many others do) a bath with the phone. Argh, it’s the effing phone, isn’t it?! Maybe it would be better if it DID drop in the bath!

Downtime with access to work stuff, over-comparison feeds and general communication isn’t always good.

Things to do in your downtime which will boost your mood and hopefully get your emails out of your head and your phone out of your hand (well, apart from the first one):

Calling a friend

Meditation

Yoga/exercise

Dancing

Singing

Guilty pleasure TV

Napping (although I always wake up from a nap more tired, do you?)

Baking/cooking

Drawing

Games with the kids

Sunbathing

Watching an old/new film

You get the idea.

Introducing the #Freelanceselfcarechallenge

So, with all this in mind,I’ve decided to set us all a challenge – throughout July, it’s time to embrace some downtime with the Freelance self care challenge.

Here’s what you need to do:

·      Decide on your FIVE self care non-negotiables I’m going to share mine on Instagram as I’m still deciding but they’re likely to include getting fresh air, houseplant tending, friends, herbal tea (good for the tummy and hydration), dogs and taking my gummy vitamins.

·      Write them down somewhere that works for you. Could be a piece of A4 paper, could be a notepad, might be a spreadsheet. You might draw them, type them… up to you.

·      If you have a moodboard, write them down and pin them on, too!

·      Pledge that you’ll try and do your five things as often as you can all through July

·      Every time you practice one of your freelance self care non-negotiables, tick next to it. Use cute felt tips if you want. Or colour code that spreadsheet.

·      Share your lists and self care wins by tagging me on Instagram @freelance_feels and using the hashtag #Freelanceselfcarechallenge

·      If you’re feeling brave, share a pic of you DOING the challenge! Selfies on walks, yoga pics, a bar of your fave choc or the TV screen with your guilty pleasure show. Is time with the kids one of your downtime wins? Get it on the list! It might be singing, dancing, gin, non-alcoholic gin, playtime with a pet… definitely share pet pics!

I’ll do the same! So I’ll post my self care non-negotiables on July 1st, and then keep checking in. Looking forward to seeing them all!

Insta links to make you think

@digita1women Digital women – I’ve been attending some webinars from this group recently and they’ve got a lovely inclusive vibe.

@maddy.shine SEO Queen, soon launching a ‘Blogging for Gold’ course. I’m halfway through her ‘Show Up’ challenge and loving it.

@selfworthacademy We connected at National Freelancers Day and now chatting about collaborating – a win for online networking!

On @45not_out Una Cottrell brings insight into life for women in their 40s who are ‘serious about their career and not finished yet’. I’ll be on her podcast soon!

@therepairshop.tv I love The Repair Shop and it’s essentially lots of very creative freelancers! I think they have a new show coming soon and I’d love to interview host Jay Blades on the podcast.

Podcast of the month

The Media Insider by Helen Croydon (who is also a recent guest on the Freelance Feels podcast) focuses on advice for pitching. It’s a great way to get inside the heads of editors if you’re a writer, and clients if you’re pitching in general. Episodes include advice on what makes a ‘thought leadership article’ and how to make your PR pitch stand out as well as insight from magazine and website commissioning editors.

Thanks for reading! Please do share with others and on social and I look forward to seeing your #freelanceselfcarechallenge posts!

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