One of the things about being a freelancer that many people don’t really appreciate, is that it can be very hard to take time off.
While everyone understands that a freelance writer, or any other contractor, only makes money when the work (and bill hours for projects), most people have a little bit of difficulty understanding that the making money freelancing is only part of the trick.
Someone with a regular corporate job with an office and a cubicle and multiple coworkers wants to take time off, they just put in a request with management. A good manager will ensure that there is adequate coverage for all of the duties required of his employees and then, typically, will approve the vacation request as long as it isn’t during a critical time or otherwise not feasible. If a project comes up the day before the employee is scheduled to leave, it just gets assigned to someone else, or a coworker covers for the employee by doing just enough to keep the project afloat.
A freelance writing business works a bit differently. Most freelancers who are professional writers have a solo operation. There are exceptions (like Arctic Llama) to the rule, and some freelancers are lucky enough to have another professional freelancer that they can count on to cover for them a little bit. But, when it comes to business writing, the client usually wants a specific person (you) to write it. That is why they called you in the first place. So, subbing it out isn’t typically a very good option.
Additionally, while most clients with flexible timetables are more than understanding about a trusted pro taking some time off, clients with hard deadlines don’t have a choice. So, when a very good, long-term client calls on Friday with an important project that they have to have by next Tuesday, the last thing they are interested in is letting someone else you know do it, or waiting for another week.
The phone call with the professional freelance writer usually sounds a little something like this:
Client: “Hi, Brian. I have a really important project that I need on a really tight deadline. Do you think you can handle it?”
Freelancer: “Actually, I’m just heading to the airport. My family is going on vacation. I’ll be out of the office all next week.”
For those of you new to the freelance writing world, that silence translates into: Please tell me that you will do my project anyway while you are on vacation, because I don’t like my other options. As most professional freelancers will tell you, depending on who the client is, how important the project is to them, and how forgiving your family is, in a lot of cases, a freelance pro will offer to do just that.
The exception to this state of affairs occurs every year during those glorious four to six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. During this time, no one is surprised to hear you will be out of the office on vacation. Not only that, most projects that come up during this short time of year are not attached to make-or-break deadlines, since whoever initiated the project in the first place is also very aware that plenty of key people will be out on holidays at that time of year.
That is why experienced freelancers build up a solid January pipeline at year end and then work extra hours in November to earn extra money and pad the bank accounts so that come Thanksgiving, they can take as much time off as possible to make up all of those other hours that didn’t end up quite as “free” as they had hoped.
So, that is why on January 6th, 2010, I am here to wish you all a Happy New Year.
There are a lot of exciting things coming this year for Arctic Llama and our clients. Stick around. Things are going to be very interesting.