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Contractors Deserve Vacations, Too

Contractors Deserve Vacations, Too

Have you put yourself in the position of not getting a vacation every year since you became a contractor? You really shouldn't, because you need time off to rest, recharge and get to know your family and yourself again. That's why I've put together a six-step program to help you beat vacation avoidance syndrome and have your day in the sun.

1. Budget for Time Off

It's pretty simple, really. Decide how many weeks of vacation you want to take this year, say six. Subtract the weeks of vacation from 52, which tells you how many weeks are available for generating income, in this case 46. Figure out how much money you need to gross, including vacation expenses, say $100,000. Divide $100,000 by 46, and you know you need to gross $2,174 per week.

This scheme may sound simplistic, but if you focus on your goal, you'll be on your way to a guilt-free six weeks of vacation. No need to send me a thank-you note; one of those "wish you were here" postcards will do.

2. Make a Personal Commitment

Your clients won't try to persuade you to take a vacation, and your credit cards won't declare a holiday on interest payments just so you can hit the beach. The only way your vacation is going to happen is if you make an appointment right now -- with your family, your traveling companion or yourself -- to get out the calendar and choose dates for your time off.

3. Set Clients' Expectations

Many clients assume consultants and contractors are as available as running water, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It's up to you to change this perception. The next time you negotiate a contract, let the client know when you'll be taking time off. If the client can't tolerate an interruption in the services you provide, arrange for an associate or subcontractor to cover for you.

If either you or your client believes that your client can't cope for a few weeks without your personal attention, it's time to change how you do business.

4. Make Travel Reservations

Lots of contractors get this far in the process of vacation planning, but then they never actually plan the vacation. Commit yourself to your time off by actually buying air tickets, reserving a lakeside cabin and putting down a deposit for that hot-air balloon ride. You'll start to feel lighter as soon as you make the calls.

5. Create a Countdown Schedule

How, exactly, are you going to get everything done before that three-week vacation in August? Minimize the stress by creating a day-by-day plan that begins tomorrow and ends on the eve of your vacation. Don't let yourself try to shoehorn a month's worth of work into the last week before your time off. In fact, your final week should have the lightest schedule so you can attend to the inevitable last-minute snags.

6. Stow Your Portable Tech Gear

Did you think I'd let you sneak your cell phone and laptop into your luggage? No way. If you're on call, you're not really on vacation. Let your clients know that you'll be entirely offline, make arrangements for colleagues to handle emergencies and give yourself a break. You deserve it.

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