Life

I'm self-employed and take 46 days off each year — here's how to figure out the right number for you

Business Insider US
If you're self-employed, planning the number of vacation days you'll take can help you stay focused and on top of work.
Hans Neleman/Getty Images
  • Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire.
  • She gives herself a set amount of days off each year to stay balanced while running her business.
  • To pick how many days, she looks at the past year and considers where she could have used time off. 
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

One of the hardest parts of being self-employed is figuring out how to design your schedule. 

When I started working for myself seven years ago, I was very strict with my schedule. I was nervous that time off would hurt my business, so I didn't take any vacation days. Instead, I worked more than 60 hours a week and I often found myself plugged in on the weekends. 

After two years of working like that, I decided to put a plan in place to give myself a set amount of days off each year. This year, it's 21 vacation days, 20 "break" days, and five sick days.

Here are the rules and strategies I use to decide how many vacation days I should take.

1. I give myself more time off than I'd get at as an employee 

At the last company I worked for in 2015, I was only given 14 days off. It was never enough time and figuring out how to use those vacation days was stressful. I vowed that when I became a full-time entrepreneur, I'd give myself more time off than what I'd receive if I were an employee at someone else's company.

So, every year as a gut check, I take a look at open roles on Linkedin or Indeed that match my years of experience and expertise to see how many vacation days are offered. Since I often work longer days and on weekends, I decided that warranted more designated days off, so I typically tack on at least an extra week to the number I see on job listings. 

2. I take inventory of time-off from the previous year

At the end of the year, I give myself an annual review as if I were an employee at my own company. One category I take inventory on is how many vacation or personal days I took, and I've always found that I took less time off than I promised I would.

Rather than seeing that and just saying, "In 2022, I'm going to give myself more time off," I look back and analyze why I didn't take that time away and when it would have made sense to take a vacation or use personal days.

Doing this helps me schedule vacations for the year ahead and plan  realistically to make sure I'm taking time off every year. 

3. I take 5 'break' days per quarter 

At the start of every quarter, I give myself an extra five days off to take at any point. If I don't have a trip planned or an event that I need to use those days for, I pick random days during the month and mark those as work-free days on my calendar.

This helps me plan in advance for an occasional long weekend getaway or just gives me a day off in the middle of the week that I can look forward to. 

I consider these "break days" rather than vacation days since they're used to reset and unplug. 

4. I make up for any extra days off 

If I find that I need to take more time off (because I want to go on a three-week honeymoon or take a week off to work on a fun project), I make a deal with myself. 

Every extra day I take off equals eight hours of additional work time that I have to tack onto my schedule throughout the year. That might mean extending a few work days in August by an hour or two or working on a Sunday. 

Using this approach to vacation days has helped make sure I'm in control of my calendar and on top of my work. It also keeps me accountable so I don't feel like I'm taking advantage of the flexibility that being an entrepreneur can offer. 

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