Can Free Agents Take a Vacation?

Last Updated Aug 26, 2011 9:28 AM EDT

By the time you read this, I should be somewhere in the rustic parts of Maine, hopefully not checking email (and hopefully not checking email because I'm relaxing -- and not because Hurricane Irene has cut all communications). We put off taking a vacation until the very end of summer. In Pennsylvania, where I live, there's already a nip in the air in the morning. But later is better than never and I plan to come back refreshed with all kinds of new ideas.
Still, every time I try to take a vacation, I'm amazed by how hard it is to do so. I've worked for myself for the past 9 years. Before that, I had a low-stress job, basically working as an editorial assistant at a newspaper. When I came home for the day, with the newspaper off to the printers, I was done. In 9 years of working for myself, I have never been done. There is always something else I could be doing to seek out new assignments, work on the long-term ones I already have, promote my books, etc. While I have help from a few other folks these days, I don't have full-time colleagues who would cover for me in exchange for me covering for them. So the temptation is to never fully disconnect (unless I wind up in a place where I can't check email).

This is the cruel irony of the free agent life. You can take as much time off as you want. But you wind up never really taking time off. I include the months after my two children were born in that statement. I had a baby on September 24, 2009, and turned in the manuscript of 168 Hours the first week of October.

Of course, to be fair, I didn't have much left to do in those 11 days -- I knew the baby and book were coming due and planned ahead! Over the years, I've learned that maintaining a reasonable life as a free agent is much about this pipeline management. When people throw out deadlines for projects, you can always ask for different ones. When you're trying to get new work, you remind all your clients that you exist. So when you aren't trying to get new work, you make yourself disappear. On occasion, you may have to take a phone call or turn around something very quickly, even from the rustic parts of Maine. You may miss an opportunity or two. But so it goes. There are still so many benefits from controlling your own time that the loss of the ability to disconnect on vacation has to be taken in stride.

If you work for yourself, how do you take a vacation?


Photo courtesy flickr user, eutrophication&hypoxia