Feeling Guilty About Taking Time Off

Amber Weinberg

New member

One of the coolest perks about being a freelancer is that there’s absolutely no nine-to-five and no one around to scream at you if you’re late to work. I’m definitely not a morning person, so this was a big factor when I decided to go into business for myself.​

The problem with this though is that we’re so ingrained to “work, work, work” that this perk begins to become a liability. You start feeling guilty because you’re at the nail salon on Thursday, playing with your kids at Chucky Cheese’s on Tuesday and hanging with friends on Friday. I mean, everyone else is working, shouldn’t you be too?

I’m Guilty​

I’ve always been a bit OCD on organization, but lax about time rules when I had a full-time job. I would get to my job super early, but leave as soon as five to ten minutes before 5:00 p.m. I couldn’t wait to leave and I never had a guilty moment leaving early or calling out sick. And, I would never think twice about refusing to work late or on weekends.

For some odd reason, now that I’m in business for myself, I feel guilty about not working. This whole week I’ve dragged my feet (probably because I worked 15-19 hours every day last week) and haven’t gotten to the office till about 11:00 a.m. or noon.

I actually feel guilty about it because I’ve spent most of this week playing around with some friends and personal projects and I’m planning to take the entire week after next off as well.

The Secret Work Life of a Freelancer​

You feel this guilt because your whole life, from the time you began kindergarten until your last full time job, you were put on a schedule. You get up at 6:00 a.m., you get to school or work at 8:00 a.m., you get off at 5:00 p.m., and you come home. But, freelancing is not like that at all.

Sure, you can still work nine-to-five as a freelancer, but it’s all too easy to keep working till 11:00 p.m.; to finish up the last bit of that job on a Saturday; to skip a couple of family functions on the 4th of July for a rush job. Pretty soon, you’re like me and just worked 19 hours straight with a 30 minute break to eat food.

The average freelancer works almost twice as long as the average nine-to-five employee. So, why is it that we feel guilty taking some time off?

The Guilt People​

I love my family. But, sometimes family can be hurtful without realizing it. My mom calls in the middle of the work day and I don’t pick up because I’m in the middle of a coding job or talking to a client. She gets angry (and if you know my mom, you wouldn’t like her angry) because she thinks she can call any time and since I’m not at a “job” I should be able to pick up every time.

I have friends who call me too, and if I’m taking some time off, I pick up right away. Their response? “Shouldn’t you be working?”

I’m lucky enough to have a significant other who understands what I do and that it’s real work for real money. But, not everyone else does. My family doesn’t understand that I can’t drop everything right away for them to chat about going to flea markets. My friends don’t understand that I just worked from 10:00 a.m. yesterday to 10:00 a.m. this morning, so I’m taking the day off.

The problem with this, is that every time someone makes a remark about it, it reinforces our guilt thinking. It makes you wonder “Gee, maybe I should be working right now” instead of nodding it off because you know you just worked 12 hours. This is very harmful because it can lead to you never taking the time off and burning out.

Forcing Time Off​

If it weren’t for my significant other, I would never take time off. I’d work 24/7 because I feel so guilty. I always wonder what would happen if I worked that weekend and on late nights. Would I make more money? Be more popular? Snag some big name clients?

Thankfully, I’ve got reminders around me that there are more important things than money, work and clients. Besides, what’s the point of making so much money if you never stop to enjoy it?

Stop the Guilt​

If you’re feeling guilty about taking time off, don’t. Remind yourself that you work hard and it’s okay to take a couple of hours, days or even weeks off. Nine-to-five employees get at least two weeks of paid vacation, so the least you can do is to give yourself some as well. Don’t let people deter you from taking the time off. Remember, they’re just jealous!

The same goes for taking sick time too. You need that time to heal. Yes, that means you’re going to be behind for a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch up.

It’s been tough for me, because I’m so busy that I’ve been over-scheduling myself. It’s tough for me to turn down jobs, especially when they’re cool projects, so I almost think about scheduling it for the weekend–but, I don’t. Now that summer’s here, it’s time for you to relax a little bit, take a little less work and enjoy life some. That’s why you really became a freelancer, isn’t it?