Freelance tips: What to do when you need a break

No matter how much you plan, things can happen throw you off course. Breaks are necessary because rest is good. Here's how to ask for it nicely.

It's Sunday evening and you plan your entire week out. You pen in Zoom calls with clients, Google Meet coaching and/or writing circles, even calls with friends because you no longer tolerate the never ending WhatsApp conversation of which you have far too many cluttering your phone, already struggling with storage space. Sometimes I wonder if my Samsung Galaxy's A01 eternal lack of space is a deeper metaphor for my equally falling short state of mind. Who can tell, really?

You also evaluate the habits you've been working on over the last couple of weeks, and fill those out in the habit tracker on the bottom right corner, already brimming with excitement imagining the coloured boxes you hope to see again in a week affirm what a wonderfully productive human being you are being. Finally, you write the list of goals you want to accomplish on the right page, before evenly dispersing them out throughout the days on the left page, careful to write only three in each day, and in the order of priority. You see, 'achieving two work goals' is also a habit I am trying to build, among reading, writing, exercising, learning, and consuming with intention. That means, not mindlessly drowning in Netflix and news, but moderating how much, and what exactly to watch/ read/ listen to.

I swear, I am not a robot. Nor am I necessarily obsessed with productivity and personal development, merely curious with regards to optimisation and efficiency. I know how important rest is. In theory, at least. Sometimes we all fall into the slump of overworking, but that's what's great about having friends and family- they are constantly there to remind us of the things we most need reminding of. However, there are two things I wish I had known a year ago when freelance writing, which would have immensely helped me to deal with the unforeseen circumstances life can throw your way:

You can plan all you want.

Your goals, habits, earnings, and any other metric you think can accurately measure your progress. But remember that life can throw you a curveball at any moment, without any warning or regard for your sacred timeline of success. It will be entirely up to you to decide how to deal with the emotional toll that will personally meddle with your motivation to so much as get out of bed, which affects your ability to work, and turn deadlines into corners that you really do not want to take (is this an F1 reference? Wow.). What I mean to say is: bad things can happen, and not only is it okay if they do, but it's good to be prepared in knowing how to deal with it. Break-ups, the passing of a loved one, or an armed stranger jumping you while you're on a solo night run (hint hint) sometimes come without a notice. Just remember, that it's not your fault, and you will be able to get through it if you keep a cool head about you (definitely a reference to 'If" by Rudyard Kipling.).

You are allowed to take breaks.

As a freelancer, I've mentioned that you define all your own terms, and that includes taking breaks when you want/ need to. My coach takes two full days off for every five days of work, on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the world, and myself, is accustomed to Saturdays and Sundays off, after working from Monday through Friday. You can experiment to your heart's content, of course.

But if something happens outside of your control and scheduled off days, don't feel bad to reach out to your clients. Explain to them what has happened, how it affects you, and that you need to take X amount of days off before you can deliver on the agreed upon deadline. Your clients are people too, and their capacity for understanding your situation is bigger than you think. The bout of melancholia that followed my departure from Jogja saw me quit every single one of my freelance writing gigs, and I did not part with them on the best of terms either. I'm not proud of this, but acknowledging your faults, and using shame as a positive tool for growth, is an essential part of the journey to crafting a life uniquely yours.

As you can probably already guess, something happened to me recently which shook my last week of plans up, and it's given me some well-needed perspective on the kind of problems we give attention to in our lives everyday. I am definitely guilty of making a bigger deal out of things than necessary, and realise there is so much I am grateful for. Gratitude is a great way to mute your moanings when life doesn't go your way. Anyway, I'm not at a place to yet disclose the juicy details but you can be sure it will come with a force when it does. I reached out to all the clients with whom I had pending deadlines with this message:

Hey, (insert said bad thing here) happened to me yesterday. While I am physically unhurt, it is taking a mental toll on me. I know we agreed that the (insert work) would be delivered on (insert day/date), but I need time to collect myself before I can hand over the work with the quality I aim to achieve. I hope that's okay by you. I will get back to you on Monday. Thank you for understanding.

There is something empowering about taking time off for yourself when you need it, and not in the crummy fake sick leave and 'my dog has died for the 15th time this year' kind of way. Perhaps, this is a reckoning from a legacy of pretending to be okay, missing school only when you're sick to the point of hospitalisation, and a catastrophic non-belief in mental health concerns. Healing is a process that does not have an end date, but with time and resilience, you will be able to spot the waves from a distance, and let it wash over you gently, as opposed to tumbling in the current (surfing metaphor?). Give yourself time and space against the desire to sweep it under the rug and just 'get on with life'.

I can promise you that at the very least, you will feel nurtured, and come back with renewed energy, looking forward to doing what you love.  

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