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June 28, 2001
Vacation! The Freelancer's Struggle To Get Away From It All
By Sherril Steele-Carlin

Most popular conceptions of people who work at home tend to run toward the amusing MCI commercial that ran a year or so ago. It showed a woman working from her home office, wearing flannel PJs and waving her bunny slippers at the camera. Friends, relatives, and even spouses may think that when you begin working at home, you're on an endless "vacation" from the real world. While that may be true in some respects, any successful freelancer who's been working at home for any length of time knows the vacation myth is pretty far from the truth.

Freelancers face isolation, overwork, and the stress of earnings that fluctuate continuously. People who work from home need to get away from their work just as much as all those people who commute every day, perhaps even more so. Their work is also in their home, making it difficult to differentiate the two. Freelancers need a vacation, too, but often they think it's an impossible concept, they simply cannot leave their work behind. Several successful freelancers say that's just not the case.

In an article at FreeAgent.com, author Dana Hudepohl's article Mission Possible: How to Take a Vacation says, "When you run a one-man show, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that leaving town equals business disaster. It doesn't have to." There are ways to take a vacation, without losing your clients or spending the entire day working when you're supposed to be relaxing. One way is to team up with another freelancer that you know and trust, and outsource your work to them while you're away, or at least let your clients know they can contact them if they need anything.

In an article in the Ants.com Reading Room, Annette Lough says, "On a recent skiing trip, for example, I managed to complete the revisions of a brand-new client's e-zine with the help of a fellow freelancer. Between my mobile phone and my partner's e-mail, we were able to scribe new leads, ponder revisions and deliver the project on time. Be sure your client is comfortable with this arrangement, and, if necessary, ask the subcontractor to sign a confidentiality agreement and/or non-compete clause."

Many other work-at-home professionals don't believe you need to work while you're on vacation. They extol the virtues of voice-mail, auto responders for your e-mail, and leaving the pager at home. The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away and relax, they counter, not continue your workload in an unfamiliar location. One freelancer says he "crams four weeks of work into three" when he goes on vacation, so be prepared for some long hours leading up to your getaway. He also creates a "vacation-to-do" list, just to make sure he doesn't miss anything before he leaves.

Many professionals also insist on checking their e-mail and voice mail once every day. Some enterprising freelancers make sure they do this early in the morning each day, while their spouse is still sleeping. However you do it, it let's your clients know you haven't "abandoned" them, and that you're still in command of your business. With many hotels offering Internet access today, and all the wireless devices abounding, checking up on your e-mail while you're enjoying the surf in Maui isn't nearly as daunting as it used to be.

Hudepohl also suggests, "If completely shutting out office thoughts is not in your nature, write out a creative issue that you don't have time to think about in the day-to-day craziness of your home office. For example, 'How do I want to market myself over the next six months?' Use the spare time in the airport or in a cab to have this issue running through your mind."

Taking a vacation may at first seem impossible for the freelancer, but with a little preparation, a relaxing vacation doesn't need to become a working vacation.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book "How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park." http://www.dreamjobstogo.com/titles/dltg0002.html?10402.
Visit her web site at http://www.powernet.net/~carlin.

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