How to take time off as a freelancer

Freelancer smiling while walking down a side street on holiday in Italy.

Taking time off work to relax and recharge is vital to our wellbeing and overall enjoyment of life. After all, we don’t live to work. We work to live.

When you’re a freelancer, contractor or other self-employed professional, taking time off can be difficult. Clients are depending on you and there’s bills that need to be paid.

In a survey by IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), it was found that the average freelancer takes 24 days of holiday a year. That’s four days less than the standard holiday entitlement of an employee.

It was also found that even when taking holidays, freelancers don’t feel they are able to completely switch off, with 78% working while on holiday (1).

The survey concludes that overall, freelancers would ideally like to take 38 days off a year.

To help you prepare for annual leave, freelancers Natalie, Ellen and Michael share their top tips on how to take time off as a freelancer.  

Freelance time off

A chart showing how freelancers feel about their time off - 77% saying they would like to take more days off than they currently do.  Source: IPSE

1. Decide at the start of the year when you are taking time off

Freelancer Natalie Sharp of Sharp Thinking Marketing says: “Decide at the start of the year when you are taking time off and build it into your schedule.”

“This may sound obvious but do this religiously at the beginning of January to stop diary clashes with projects and deadlines.”

2. Give clients as much notice as possible

Natalie says: “I let my clients know up to two months in advance that I’m taking time off, to ensure they have ample notice.”

“I will then schedule work to ensure meetings take place and projects are delivered before I go on leave.”

Explaining her thoughts on how to take time off as a freelancer, Ellen Cole of Little Seed Group says: “As a rule of thumb, I always try to give all my clients two months’ notice if I am going to be taking time away from the business."

“There has however been times where I’ve only given them a couple of days’ notice if something urgent has come up that I need to focus my attention on.”

3. Use social media scheduling tools

Natalie says: “Social media is a huge ongoing commitment, and you don’t want to be worrying about this when you are trying to switch off from work.”

“Plan your social media way in advance and use social media scheduling tools. This way you can keep things going and do all the upfront planning way before.”

“I also try to pre-plan blogs for my website in this way too so there are never any real gaps in publishing new blogs which could have a negative impact on my search engine optimisation.”


4. Factor time off into your freelance rates

Freelancer Michael Rosen of Soundbite Communications says: “I factor time off into my pricing - and that's the same all year round.”

“My pricing structure takes into account the days I can't work because of holiday or sickness, as well of course as my need to account for pensions, medical insurance and all the other benefits that I no longer receive.”


5. Maintain strong relationships with clients

Ellen says: “The Marketing, PR and Social Media industry is fast-paced, meaning there are times where you have to work out of hours to further support your clients.”

“I have excellent working relationships with my clients and will do my utmost to support them. In return, they will support me back in any way they can.”

“My clients value my reliability, commitment, and loyalty to them, as I consistently make a difference within their businesses.”

“This makes it much easier to take time off for personal and professional reasons as my relationships with my clients leave them at ease, rest assured that their on and offline communication channels have been prepped and scheduled in before my short period of absence.”

6. Use additional freelancers as a fill-in resource

Natalie says: “If absolutely necessary, use trusted freelancers to work on time-sensitive projects or campaigns.”

“I took a month off in August and recruited a freelancer to work along with a few of my key clients that have campaigns launching.”

Doing this is also helpful in demonstrating that you’re working outside of IR35, by using your right to substitute. If a client refuses a substitute, it might be worth reviewing the clauses in your contract or seeking a contract review to make sure your contractual terms and working practices are not placing you inside IR35.

7. Provide clients with an emergency contact number

Ellen says: “When on leave, I always provide all my clients with an emergency phone number in case something comes up which needs my urgent attention.”

“My emergency phone is rarely rung but if it is then I either do the work, if it is a high priority, or forward it onto my assistant to work on so that my clients have peace of mind that there is always someone who has got their back.”

8. Take care of your finances in advance

“Don’t forget to do your billing before you go on leave and pay any invoices ahead of taking any time off”, says Natalie.

Unforeseen time off

There are occasions where planning time off just isn’t possible. You could end up having an accident in work that leaves you unable to work for weeks, or you could unexpectedly be called for jury service. In these instances, holding Occupational personal accident insurance and Commercial legal expenses insurance can make a great deal of difference for you financially.

For more information on how you can stay protected with Freelance Insurance, read our Freelancer and Contractor Insurance page.



Business insurance from £5 a month