The days are getting shorter and cooler, and most permanent employees will wistfully remember relaxing on the beach or hiking in the mountains during their summer vacation. For freelancers in IT, however, looking back on the warm months often looks quite different: Massively complex IT projects and constant availability have made vacation planning an almost impossible undertaking for them. Not only because there is no legal right to vacation. The result: the feeling of being completely exhausted. This winter should be different! Fin Glowick, CRO of WISO MeinBüro, offers tips on how good vacation planning can guarantee a relaxing time off.
No excuses: Vacation promotes creativity and well-being
Being your own boss – especially for permanent employees in the computer industry, self-employment sounds like a lot of freedom. In addition, self-employment in IT is quite lucrative with an average hourly wage of around 90 euros. But with the high salary comes a lot of responsibility. Due to the shortage of IT specialists, various companies are dependent on self-employed people from the field. So it’s no wonder that nine out of ten companies use freelancers from the IT sector. So established IT-freelancer don’t usually know the feeling of not getting any orders.
But this is precisely where a major challenge crystallizes: How can you confidently go on vacation with such a massive order situation? Self-employed persons in Germany do not have a statutory vacation entitlement. While permanent IT specialists enjoy at least 20 days of vacation with a 5-day week and, depending on the company, even receive vacation pay, many self-employed :ITers panic at the mere thought of a few days off. There’s this huge project that needs to be finished soon, clients are calling day and night asking about the progress of the work, and so slowly exhaustion sets in.
This is a warning sign that no IT-freelancer should ignore. The magic word here is: vacation. If you don’t give yourself time off over a long period of time, you can become seriously ill. Starting with cardiovascular diseases and ending with burnout. So no more excuses! Because even in the cold months, a vacation can offer relaxation. In addition, taking time off increases creativity, such as traveling to unfamiliar places, meeting new people, spending time daydreaming, and taking a cognitive break from the challenges of the workday.
The timing: when and for how long to go on vacation?
The decision for a vacation has been made. However, for the days off to be truly relaxing, some planning is required. Tip: Make a note of fixed times in your calendar for this. For example, a good place to start is two hours on each of two evenings per week.
The first step of planning refers to the timing of the vacation. When the first symptoms of overwork – such as frequent headaches, lack of concentration or sleep disturbances – already appear, IT-freelancer should definitely allow themselves some time off.
But even when there is no stressful and overwhelming phase at the moment, vacation should become the norm for IT-freelancer. After all, according to freelancermap’s Freelancer Compass, freelancers take an average of 27 days of vacation per year.
When is the right time to do this depends on what projects are currently underway and how long you have been in business. Especially at the beginning of self-employment, clientsand organizational tasks, for example, are much more time-consuming and working days are often longer than is the case for those who have already been self-employed for several years. Under these conditions, the decision to take time off is often all the more difficult. Here, public holidays or bridge days are suitable for a first shorter break. During this time, the laptop and smartphone can safely remain switched off, as clients are usually on vacation themselves. In this way, self-employed IT professionals can not only curb their guilty conscience, but also keep the organizational effort of days off within a very limited scope.
However, if it is to go on vacation for several days or even weeks, the planning requires significantly more effort. For example, it is important that all essential projects are completed beforehand.
The order situation: what to pay attention to before the vacation
IT freelancers must therefore scan the order situation carefully. What projects can and must they finish before the vacation? These have absolute priority. In addition, the self-employed should assess which orders do not need to be processed urgently. They can safely postpone this until after the vacation.
IT freelancers sometimes receive many project offers and cannot consider all of them. This is especially true in the period before the vacation. Since many jobs turn out to be more time-consuming than originally planned – for example, because additional tasks are scheduled by the clientsduring processing – self-employed people in the computer industry have to calculate exactly what can still be done before the vacation. Tip: Three weeks before the vacation, you should not accept any new orders. This way, you avoid working masses of overtime just before your vacation or, in the worst case, finishing the project while on vacation.
In addition, IT-freelancer should complete all important office work before going on vacation. Tools such as WISO MeinBüro can be used to save valuable time on time-consuming tasks such as creating invoices or managing finances.
The buffer: Efficient time management for a relaxing vacation
Now the vacation is just around the corner and all of a sudden what all holiday-minded IT-freelancer are afraid of happens: The project has already been handed in for days, but the customer has taken a long time to give feedback and now wants to have a few more time-consuming changes made.
Such a situation is annoying, but it happens relatively often. Therefore, it is important to plan a buffer of about two days before the vacation. There are various project management tools, such as Trello or Asana, which help to ensure that the short period of time before the vacation can be used as effectively as possible to make one or two changes. This way, IT-freelancer can make sure that nothing is left undone in time for the start of the vacation. However, the tools are also helpful when multiple independents are involved in a particular project. In these cases, employees can see exactly what the current status of each task is.
In the days leading up to your vacation, you can also brief your contact person, who manages your mails during your relaxation period, on any orders. They will contact you on your home number in case of emergency once you are on vacation. So the company cell phone can stay at home. Now just activate the out-of-office notification of your mail program, and nothing will stand in the way of a relaxing time-out.
As IT-freelancer take full advantage of digitization potential, they have a reputation for always being available. Not only does this put pressure on them, but it also makes it difficult to plan vacations. However, with enough lead time, supporting tools and good communication towards clients, people traveling with them and a contact person for emergencies, IT-freelancer can get the most out of their time off even in stressful phases.