Freelance is a word that sounds enticingly like freedom. But while freelancing does, theoretically, give you the freedom to work when, where and how you want for who you want, you still have a boss (yourself), plus deadlines and demanding clients. Organising your workload and getting work done on time is entirely down to you, meaning freelancing can be hard work – and quite stressful – and there’s no paid leave.
All Hell Breaks Lose
When you’re employed, there will be provision for you to take at least a few days’ paid leave if there’s some kind of disaster in your family or personal life. But freelancing doesn’t provide paid compassionate leave.
Nobody likes to think about bereavements, family illness or relationship break-ups, and even less about other, thankfully far rarer, tragedies that we see happen to others on the news.
But when you’re trying to cope with the loss of a loved one or a life turned upside down by the break-up of a relationship, the last thing you want to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. You need to be able to allow yourself to take a break from work, even if just for a few days. That means having money put aside.
You Break a Leg (or are otherwise injured or ill)
No paid sick leave can see freelancers carry on working even when seriously ill, either mentally or physically. But sometimes, your body or mind needs time to rest and recover; pushing yourself can just delay recovery or mean it never happens properly at all.
Save a little of the money you earn every month when things are going well and you’re feeling fine. That money will give you the space you need to take time off when you’re ill – or if you need to take time for to care for someone else.
It’s Spring Break/Summer Break (or in the UK, Easter/summer holidays)
If you have school age children, they’re going to be underfoot for around 13 weeks a year. How much this affects your freelancing career will depend on your circumstances and what your job entails. It also depends on your children’s ages and general level of delightfulness/ability to entertain themselves.
While there are numerous childcare facilities, holiday clubs and residential activity centres willing to take the children off your hands for hours, days or even weeks at a time, they’re not free. You’ll need to consider the career and cost implications of either taking a break to care for your children yourself or paying someone else to care for and entertain your children. Either option means you’ll need to save a portion of your earnings each month.
You Want to Shout, Give Me a Break!
‘All work and no play’ isn’t good for us; it’s bad for our mental and physical health, and can affect our ability to do our work well too, so we’re not doing ourselves or our clients any favours. As much as it’s become a badge of honour in some circles to work yourself into the ground, you should remember that life is short and aim to work to live, not live to work.
Put aside money so that you can afford to take a break now and then, whether it’s the odd day to yourself doing something you enjoy or chilling at home, or joining family or friends for a week away to somewhere picturesque/sunny/relaxing/mountainous, depending on preference. You will feel better (and work better) for it when you return.
Sometimes, taking a break is essential. You don’t want money worries to add stress to already stressful situations and nor do you want them casting a shadow over time that should be spent relaxing or enjoying time with your family and friends. Get in the habit of saving a portion of your earnings whenever you can afford to, so that when you need to take a break, you know you’re financially covered.