• Ana Gascon Ivey

Can You Afford to Take Time Off?

8:49 AM: "They sedated her yesterday and she won't wake up again." That's the text message I got one Friday morning a few weeks ago. I couldn't write, I couldn't focus. I sunk into sadness and piddled on my computer, wondering if my dear friend's life would end that day.

I couldn't get any work done. Instead, I spent the day crying, praying and remembering my last few visits with her. I did what most freelancers can't afford to do — I took the day off.

Many freelancers can't manage time off to take a vacation, recover from surgery or grieve the loss of a loved one. If we don't work, we don't get paid, right? Well, not necessarily. Take steps to ensure your financial stability . Here's how:

1. Create a budget. "Start with a spreadsheet and list recurring monthly expenses such as rent, phone bill, utilities, and so forth," says Valerie Williams, a financial representative with Modern Woodmen. "Next, figure out the monthly average cost of non-recurring expenses like your business license, quarterly taxes, office supplies, etc. Add that in. This will provide the average monthly business expenses."

2. Build an emergency fund. Once you figure out your monthly budget, start saving towards an emergency fund. Save up enough money to cover your expenses for 9 to 12 months, unless you set up your business as an S-Corps and get paid through W-2 wages.

"This will allow you to have a steady paycheck coming in," says Valerie, "so you can go on vacation for a week and know you will still have income flowing."

3. Set up regular payments. "For projects that span multiple weeks or months, send invoices for partial payments at milestone points or certain intervals," suggests Valerie. "This will keep income flowing on a regular basis instead of receiving one big paycheck at the end."

4. Get health insurance. "This will cover (most) expenses of surgery and reduce the out-of-pocket expenses you may have to take from your emergency fund," says Valerie.

5. Look for retainer clients. Switch your mindset from one-off projects to long-term clients. Negotiate a set amount of money and a monthly pay day.

6. Develop passive income products. Create an online course, PDF guide or training video. Offer your product for sale on your website and on other sites like Amazon.

7. Put together a backup team. Hand off projects to freelancers you trust when you're overwhelmed and need time away from work.

At 7:17 PM: "She passed away about an hour ago." It was heartbreaking but peaceful. Taking the day to reflect rather than work made her passing a little more bearable.