How to Enjoy guilt-free Time Off, when you're Self-Employed

Posted by martin.parnell |

Life has been pretty hectic, lately. I have travelled to Ontario for a Rotary conference, been to the Cinefest film festival, in Sudbury, for the Premier of *The Secret Marathon and, this past weekend, drove to Edmonton, Alberta, for the Edmonton International Film Festival, where the film received thePeople’s Choice Award for Best Documentary Feature. 

On Saturday, I fly to Montreal for Thanksgiving with family and, the following week, I’ll want to take some time off because our son is arriving from the UK and, as he’s a keen amateur photographer, we want to attend the Dark Skies festival in Jasper. 

This all sounds great and, so far, it has been. But, it’s unusual to have so many disruptions to my working life, in such a short space of time. Fortunately, I was able to combine visiting Sudbury, for Cinefest, with two Keynotes at Cambrian College, in the same city. 

This is a strategy I’ve used before. If I am going somewhere, for any reason, I try to make better use of the time, even if I have to tack on a day at the beginning or end, and try to use it for business purposes. This is of particular benefit to me, as I’m self-employed. 

When you are in this position, it can be hard to allow yourself time off. According to Kat Boogaard, in her article How to Take a Vacation When You’re Self-Employed, posted on the QuickBooks Resource Center website,  “only 57% of small business owners planned to take a vacation in 2014” and suggests it’s because  “Oftentimes, unplugging from your work seems like a larger hassle than it’s even worth.” 

So, how do you take time off, without feeling guilty or facing the prospect that your business will suffer, when you are self-employed? Personally, I make sure I’m organised. I plan well-ahead and make a schedule for the time I’ll be away. I look at the hours when I’ll definitely need to concentrate on activities that are not work-related and then see where things work-related will fit in. 

This works really well, when I’m just taking a few days, but what if you want to take a vacation, maybe 2 weeks in the sun, or heading for a campground with the family for some outdoor adventures? The same tactic can apply here, too. It’s all about planning, getting as much work done as possible, beforehand and being flexible. 

Another thing you might consider is to employ someone for a few hours a week to keep on top of things for you. It might be basic work that may not need your level of decision-making, but can help keep the general workload to a minimum. It may seem easier said than done, but there is good reason for ensuring that you take time off and recharge your batteries,  as Boogaard goes on explain, according to science: “Reaction times increase by as much as 40% following some time off. An annual vacation cuts the heart attack risk by 30% in men and and 50% in women.” 

This is supported by Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist, telling ABC News: “The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound. Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.” 

One of the added stresses of taking time off, if you are self-employed, is the notion that if you’re not working, you’re not being paid.  You are not, technically receiving “holiday pay”.  This is something else that Boogaard addresses: “Being self-employed doesn’t mean you don’t get any paid vacation time—you just need to figure out how to offer it to yourself. 

One of the best ways to do this is to build it into your standard fees. For example, let’s say at the beginning of the year you decide you want to offer yourself two full weeks of paid vacation throughout the next calendar year. At that point, you can calculate how many working hours you’re losing and multiply that by an estimated cost per hour. Then, you can slightly increase your fees and prices throughout the rest of the year to make up for that lost time.

While significant price jumps usually aren’t recommended, spreading a small increase out across the remainder of your working time can help you take some much-needed time off—without feeling guilty about lost wages.

Many self-employed people also have begun diversifying their income streams with products—whether it’s courses, ebooks, physical goods, or something else entirely. After your initial time investment, these are a great way to earn some passive income while you’re on vacation.”

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us and other annual festivities on the horizon, why not start thinking about how you are going to take time to unplug and not feel guilty about spending precious hours with family and friends? After all, you can’t get those times back, once they’re gone.

*The Secret Marathon movie is about my trip to Afghanistan to support women and girls in their struggle to have the freedom to run and partake in sports. My best-selling book The Secret Marathon, which includes chapters written by the girls themselves, is published by Rocky Mountain Books. 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” will be out in the fall of 2019. Find out more about Martin at  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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