8 steps to taking guilt-free holidays as a contractor

As a contractor, lots of people think you have it easy – they’re wrong. Yes, there are plenty of benefits of being a contractor employee like higher pay and more flexibility. But none of these are a given. Everything you get is based on hard work. For starters, you’ve got long hours to contend with and hard deadlines to meet. Then there’s the time you invest in maintaining a steady work flow as well as managing your owns finances and taxes. Just like everyone else, you need to recharge your batteries from time to time. Here are 8 simple steps for taking holidays as a contractor.

1   Pencil in the dates

It’s pretty simple, really. Commit to time off by literally blocking out days in your diary, calendar or schedule. If you’re already committed to a project, just let your client or section leader know in good time – they should understand that everyone needs a holiday once in a while. When everything’s in black and white, you’re more likely to go through with this belated break of yours.

2   Budget for a break

While there are lots of benefits of being a contractor employee, one of them isn’t holiday pay. That’s why it’s a good idea to set aside some savings. Look, you might be able to use last week’s pay cheque for the whole thing. But what if work dries up? You’ll never be left short if you budget. Get started by thinking about how many weeks of holiday you want to take this year. Let’s say 6. Subtract this time from 52, which leaves you 46 weeks left to generate the income you need. Some contractors will work extra hours before or after a holiday.

3   Book your flights and accommodation

Funds, check. Days off, check. Let’s make this thing official by making your travel reservations. Many contactors get to this stage and get cold feet. By actually buying your flights and sorting out your accommodation, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted. That’s when you’ll start getting excited about your trip – you know, that holiday feeling.

4   Line up projects before you go

We hate to say it, but you’ll probably be poorer when you get back. After all, pina coladas and meals out every night don’t come cheap (but are so worth it). While those holiday indulgences might burn a hole in your pocket, having worked planned for you return will make you feel a whole lot better.

5   Don’t leave clients in the lurch

Make sure client needs are met before you go. Admittedly, there’s no such thing as holiday pay for self-employed contractors, but that doesn’t mean you should just disappear – this is how you lose clients. If you’re working outside IR35, you may be entitled to offer a substitute to complete the work while your away. On the other hand, you might want to consider taking breaks during quiet periods.

6   Stay super-organised

When things run seamlessly, your client stays happy. If someone’s fills in for you during your time away, use spreadsheets and to-do lists to explain exactly what needs to be done, when, and in what order. Leave yourself detailed notes outlining status updates, so you can hit the ground running on your return.

7   Stay in your client’s good books

Leave on a good note. Clearly communicate what work is in progress, what’s in the pipeline and when you intend to return. Set an out-of-office reply that clearly states who to get in touch with while you’re away and the dates of your return. Stay on top of things by occasionally checking your emails and reply to important messages. However, don’t go overboard, this is your time to unwind.

8   Browse LinkedIn while soaking up the sun

Can’t shake that itch to be productive? Whilst basking by the pool you might decide to dedicate some time to connecting with new clients. This won’t earn you money right away, however, it could improve your social media presence and set you up for potential projects when you return looking bronzed and refreshed.

Less guilt, more fun

Taking your holiday might mean passing up a work opportunity. Don’t let this ruin your getaway, because time off will benefit you in the long run. After all, your physical and mental health are far more important than your career – according to a recent report, half a million people in the UK suffer from work-related stress*. So take advantage of that one big contractor employee benefit: freedom. In all likelihood, you’ll come back fresh and brimming with ideas, excited to take the next step in your career.

Don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back. Hit the ground running again with a wide-range of services including accounting, insurance and umbrella companies at Contractor Supermarket.