Adrienne Sheares is an award-winning social media marketer and the owner of ViviMae Labs, a data-driven social marketing consultancy. She has over a decade of experience and a track record of delivering impressive work for clients like Issa Rae, AARP, and Discovery.
Despite her demanding schedule, Adrienne manages to prioritize her OOO time. She shared her perspective on the importance of work-life balance and some pro tips on taking time off without shutting down.
Taking Vacation as a Freelancer
1. Is time-off, specifically vacation, important to you? Why?
Yes! I’m a creative person, but my creativity starts to wane when I’m stressed out. I’m not a robot; I need time to enjoy life. Taking time off is essential for me to recharge. I notice that I’m more thoughtful and excited about my work when I come back.
Sometimes if I feel myself taking too long to complete basic tasks, I’ll give myself a three-day weekend. Taking time off to get ahead might seem counterproductive, but I find myself flying through my to-do list after getting proper rest.
I’ve worked with clients who have team members who never take off for the “good of the company.” But their sacrifice didn’t really help the company. They were making silly mistakes and weren’t producing their best work—you could tell they were running on fumes.
2. How often do you take time off as a freelancer?
I generally take four weeks off a year. I take a lot of mini-vacations attached to weekends to get the most time off without having to miss too many workdays. Thursdays through Tuesdays are my jam.
This year, I’m being more strategic with my time off. Before, I treated all time off the same. This led me to burn out a lot, especially last year. Not all time off is created equal. For example, while fun, family time is not very relaxing for me. My mom will have me running errands, teaching her things on the computer, and helping her out around the house. Being a bridesmaid in a destination wedding is also not very relaxing, nor is getting your home organized. So this year, I’m separating the two. One category is life obligations, and the other is relaxation. That way I can make sure I’m getting enough rest.
I’m testing out just taking time off and not doing anything, including travel, since that can be stressful as well.
3. How do you go about planning for a vacation as a freelancer?
I’m a big planner, so I generally plan my year out in advance. Of course, I don’t plan every little vacation, but things like weddings, graduations, and big vacations serve as the anchor that I plan around. From there, I block off my calendar.
My clients are excellent, and as long as work gets done or I give them an alternative deadline and notice, they’re fine—and very happy for me.
4. What was the hardest part about taking your first vacation as a freelancer?
Honestly, nothing. I just worked ahead and took off and enjoyed.
5. Do you completely turn off work while on vacation?
Not always. I take three different types of vacations as a freelancer. 1) Working Vacation 2) Part-Time Vacation 3) Unplugged.
The first I wouldn’t really call a vacation. My work schedule stays the same, but I have a change of scenery in a place like Florida. I do this when I have a family gathering or a friend’s wedding out of state and I don’t necessarily want to take time off. Flights are typically cheaper if you travel mid-week so I’ll work in a different and hopefully more tropical location. I’ll also take a long lunch to enjoy my new surroundings during the day.
I’m still working but not full-out. For example, my family rented a beach house for a week. I didn’t want to take a week off, but I also didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so I worked in the mornings the first half of the week and then took completely off for the second half. That way, I could get some work done, but have family time and rest time.
I do this once or twice a year. I’m unreachable and don’t even bring my laptop. My clients know in advance, and if need be, I work ahead or have a backup if the project requires it. I will spend a few weeks in South Africa for my postponed honeymoon this year. I cannot wait and will be completely unreachable.
6. What advice would you give to other freelancers who want to take vacation or time-off and aren’t sure how?
There’s never a good time to take time off, so just do it. Also, consider partnering up with other freelancers if you want to have coverage while you’re out. My clients mean the world to me, so I don’t want just anyone helping me. I generally work with other freelancers months before I need to take off so I can feel good about unplugging.
The first time I did this was during the pandemic in May 2020. My wedding had to be postponed due to shutdowns, so I opted to get married in my living room and took a few days off to celebrate. That was around the George Floyd murder. I knew my client had content scheduled that would not be appropriate given the current events unfolding. I frantically logged on to Slack to tell my client to stop all social media—but I didn’t have to. I saw the freelancer I hired for the project had beaten me to it. I logged off and went back to my honeymoon in my living room.