Can You Really Get Away from Your Design Business?


If you’re fortunate enough to find some success as a freelance web designer, you might just carve out a week or two of vacation time each year. It’s a well-deserved chance to reconnect with family, friends or maybe enjoy a solo adventure.

As a business owner, this is actually a lot more difficult than it may seem. Sure, getting away in the physical sense is simple enough. Just hop on your favorite mode of transport and get moving. The mental side of the equation, however, can be much more of a challenge.

It’s the constant urge to check your phone and the clients who won’t leave you alone. It’s the fear that something will go wrong when you’re not around and the dread of the pile of tasks you’ll return home to.

With all of the challenges, it’s fair to ask if getting away is at all possible or even worth trying. Or maybe we’ve just been doing it all wrong?

You Need the Break

First, let’s establish that there is a good reason to remove yourself from work for a little while. Web design is a mentally-draining field and can wear you down over time. We need some time away from the office to recharge creativity and perform a bit of a reboot on our outlook.

Unfortunately, taking a long break isn’t always realistic. Perhaps you’re swamped with work and are facing difficult deadlines. Or a proper vacation just isn’t the budget this year. That’s okay – you don’t need to go anywhere fancy. Even just a day off here and there can make a difference.

The most important part of this is in the act of doing something different – something that doesn’t include your day job. That could be lying on a beach or volunteering your time to help others. There are any number of things that give your mind the rest it needs.

A pair of sunglasses sitting on a sandy beach.

Ignore the World, If You Can

Even if you can find the time and means to get away from your business, that doesn’t mean everything else just comes to a stop. While we may understand this in the abstract, dealing with it is a whole different ball of wax.

For instance, I’ve taken a number of holidays over the years (never more than a week). And I’ve found that, the more years go by, the more difficult it has become to get away mentally.

Part of the blame lies with technology. The very same tools we use each day to keep our businesses going also make it darn near impossible to escape them.

When my career started back in the 1990s, this wasn’t an issue. It was pretty much a given that going away for a week meant no access to email. In fact, I can recall a trip to Mexico where internet access cost a dollar a minute. Therefore, there wasn’t much choice other than to wait until I returned. Now, we don’t have quite the same luxury, short of travelling somewhere very remote.

Then too, the websites we build these days are far more complex. When you start to realize all of the things that can go wrong with a CMS-based site (broken plugins, security breaches, hosting outages, etc.), there’s all the more reason to stay on top of things.

The technological advancements, coupled with our dependence on them, lead to the bad habit of staring at screens instead of interacting with our loved ones. We’re so focused on the potential for things breaking or missing out on something, that we aren’t in the right frame of mind to just relax.

A beach scene displayed on a phone screen.

Taking Control

If we’re really going to make the most of time spent away from work, we must take control. Not of others, mind you. But rather in how we handle the challenges we face in attempting to leave it all behind.

In my own case, I typically send out an email to clients once or twice before I’m scheduled to go away – just to let them know I’m not around. Most do pay attention and won’t make contact during vacation. However, there are those who get in touch for various reasons.

During a recent holiday, I had a very difficult time in shutting off my “business brain”. I was responding to emails immediately and worried about all the work that was piling up. It was upsetting in that I had zero control over others and felt as if I should just be back at work. Yet, that wasn’t the most productive way to view the situation.

Thankfully, I was helped out with some great advice from a few social media friends and a stroll through an amazing garden. That put me right where I wanted to be – and away from where I didn’t.

The point is that it’s up to us to block out distractions. We can’t help if someone emails us while we’re having lunch with our family. But we can choose to ignore these things within reason. If it’s not a life-or-death situation, it can wait. In that moment, there are simply more important things to do (even if that something is nothing).

So, maybe it’s not possible to completely get away from work. Or maybe it’s that work doesn’t go away just because we do.

Either way, don’t stop yourself from taking that vacation. The experiences you’ll have are worth it.

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