Learn how to ask for time off, when you should take it, and the differences between paid and unpaid time off. Plus, check out examples to seek inspiration.
As an Independent, you’re always on the hustle –– juggling multiple clients, their projects, and, of course, your day-to-day life. But amid this whirlwind of tasks, it's crucial to remember the importance of taking time off. Not only does it rejuvenate your mind and body, but it also renews your creative energy.
In this article, we’ll discuss when you should take time off and how to ask for time off for personal reasons. We’ll also share tips and examples on how to ask your boss for time off.
How to know when you need time off 🤔
Recognizing the need for a break is crucial for maintaining both professional and personal well-being. Here are a few situations that are red flags:
- Constant fatigue: If you find yourself perpetually tired, struggling to focus, and relying excessively on caffeine, it could be your body signaling the need for rest.
- Reduced creativity and productivity: When tasks that once sparked creativity now feel monotonous or if your productivity dips significantly, it might be time to recharge.
- Increased irritability and mood swings: When you feel frustrated with clients or projects or experience uncharacteristic mood swings, it could be a sign of burnout, indicating a need for time off.
- Physical health issues: Experiencing frequent headaches, sleep disturbances, or other stress-related health issues can be your body’s way of saying it’s time to step back and take a breather.
How to ask for time off at work: 7 steps 🪜
Asking for time off can feel daunting, especially as an Independent managing multiple clients or projects. But with a thoughtful approach, you can effectively communicate your needs while maintaining professionalism. Here are seven steps to guide you:
1. Plan ahead ⏰
Determine the best time to take a break, ideally when it won't disrupt critical project stages or deadlines. The earlier you plan, the better — it shows that you consider your clients’ schedules. Aim to give at least a few weeks' notice, if not more, depending on the leave’s length.
2. Check policies and contracts 🗃️
Carefully review any agreements or client guidelines related to taking leave. Understanding the fine print ensures you adhere to the required notice periods or specific conditions. This helps avoid any contractual breaches or misunderstandings.
3. Communicate clearly and professionally 🗣️
Write a clear, concise, and polite request for time off. Specify the exact dates you’ll be away, and ensure the tone is respectful and the paid time off (PTO) request email is direct, avoiding any ambiguity. Also, briefly mention the reason if it’s pertinent and you’re comfortable sharing. The most common types of leave are vacation, personal days/time, and maternity/paternity.
4. Offer solutions 📝
Demonstrate initiative by suggesting how you’ll manage work and deadlines during your absence. This could include completing tasks in advance or outlining a temporary coverage plan. This proactive approach shows your commitment to ensuring minimal disruption.
5. Be flexible and negotiable 🤸
While asserting your need for a break is important, be open to discussion. If your initial dates pose a challenge, show readiness to find a compromise. This flexibility can foster goodwill and make securing approval from your clients easier.
6. Follow up with your clients 📩
If you haven’t received a response within a reasonable timeframe, send a polite follow-up. This could be a friendly nudge or an inquiry to check if they need any more information. This highlights your professionalism and helps keep your request on their radar.
7. Prepare for your absence 🖥️
Once your clients approve your leave, ensure all your projects are up-to-date. If possible, provide a brief guide or notes for anyone covering your tasks. This keeps your clients informed, giving you peace of mind knowing that everything is in order.
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Examples of how to ask for time off via email 📧
Crafting a well-worded time off request email is key. Below are two examples to seek inspiration:
Example 1: Advance notice for planned leave 🌴
Subject: Request for time off –– [your name], [dates of leave]
Dear [client’s name],
Hope you’re doing well.
I am writing to inform you that I plan to take some time off from [start date] to [end date]. This leave is for [mention reason if possible — e.g., a family vacation or personal matters].
I understand the importance of ensuring continuous progress on our projects. Therefore, I’ll ensure all my tasks are up to date before my leave. Additionally, I’ll be available for any urgent queries until [last working date before leave].
I’d appreciate it if you could approve my time off. Please let me know if there's anything specific you’d like me to address or prepare before my leave.
Thank you for your consideration.
Example 2: Short-notice leave for an urgent matter 💨
Subject: Urgent time off request –– [your name], [dates of leave]
Dear [client’s name],
I hope this email finds you well. I regret to inform you that due to [urgent/emergency reason], I need to take a short leave from work from [start date] to [end date].
I understand this is short notice, and I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. I have taken steps to ensure all current tasks are either completed or at a stage where they can be paused without causing disruption.
I assure you I’ll resume work promptly on [date of return].
Thank you for your understanding.
Tips to ask for time off and get it 🔥
If you’re still on the hunt to find the best way to ask your client to take a day or two off, here are a few tips to help you:
- Ask ASAP: Give your client as much notice as possible so they can make contingency plans. Don't wait until the last minute.
- Be clear: Make your time off request specific, clear, and concise, avoiding unnecessary details.
- Offer a plan: Provide a strategy for managing the current projects during your absence. This could include completing tasks beforehand or delegating responsibilities.
- Prioritize tasks: Finish urgent tasks before your time off, ensuring critical projects aren't left hanging.
Paid time off vs. unpaid time off: What’s the difference? 💬
Before you ask your clients for time off, check whether your leave would be PTO or unpaid.
That’s because both differ. Also, not all clients offer paid vacation time, so you should familiarize yourself with your clients’ PTO requests or leave policies to see if and when you can accrue paid leave.
Here are a few key distinctions between the two:
- Compensation: The most obvious difference is financial. PTO provides continued earnings during your absence, while unpaid time off doesn’t.
- Availability and policy: Typically, PTO is a part of your employment package or contract, with a specified number of days or hours allotted per year. Unpaid time off, however, is often taken when paid leave is exhausted or unavailable.
- Usage and flexibility: PTO is commonly used for vacations, sick leave, or personal days and is usually planned in advance. Unpaid time off, on the other hand, might be used for extended leaves, like sabbaticals, prolonged illness, or when PTO is insufficient.
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Understanding when and how to take time off as an Independent is key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. From recognizing the signs that you need a break, to mastering the art of requesting time off, and distinguishing between paid and unpaid leave, these insights are invaluable. Remember, time off is not just permissible; it’s also essential for sustained success.
Join Contra to explore a world of remote and flexible opportunities that respect your need for balance –– all commission-free. And if you’re already a pro at balancing work and life, upgrade to Contra Pro to enhance your profile’s discoverability, increasing your chances of landing your dream freelance jobs.