The Freelancers’ Show 084 – Taking Time Off

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The Freelancers talk about taking time off for sickness, vacation, holidays, family events, etc. And how to approach clients about time off.


CHUCK: Oohhh… REUVEN: Oh, they’re dropping like flies. ERIC: Why do people say that? Do flies just actually drop? I thought they fly around… CHUCK: [Laughs] [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] [You're fantastic at coding, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at!] [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration net built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price out new estimates and once you’re underway and help answer the question, these get done on time and under budget. I’ve been using Planscope to do my estimates and manage my projects and I really, really like it. It makes it really easy to keep things in order, and understand when things will get done. You can go check it out at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 84 of The Freelancers’ Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Jim Gay. JIM: Howdy! CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What’s up! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi everyone! CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from I just want to remind you to go check out and get that half-hour video of how I went freelance. This week, we decided we are going to talk about “Taking Time Off”. I’m kind of curious, how often do you guys wind up taking time off? ERIC: I tried taking the nights off. [Laughter] JIM: You sleep? That’s a good idea. ERIC: A lot of you think it’s a joke because I know a lot of people, they don’t. CHUCK: Oh…it’s so true. JIM: I think that tends to happen both for freelancers and for employees as well. For me, I know that was actually a struggle. I had to make sure that I was closing up shop at a certain time. That I think was step number 1. And then later, it became everyone I knew around me was taking off for some federal holiday or something, and I would be totally unaware that there was a holiday [laughs]. CHUCK: I’ve done that. But with the holiday, what I tend to try and do, depending on what my kids’ school schedule is, if I think they are going to have some free time, then I’ll work it out so that I work the holiday and then take another day because that’s when a lot of other people go out and do the kinds of stuff that I want to get out and do with my family so we can miss some of the crowds that way. REUVEN: Right. JIM: It’s a good idea. We had some opportunity to go – I live outside Washington, DC, so there’s plenty of good museums and what not – but turning government shut down… REUVEN: When the government’s open. JIM: Yeah [chuckles], we can’t get into them, so…[chuckles]. CHUCK: [Laughs] JIM: We need to come up with new ideas. CHUCK: That’s funny – kind of sad, but funny. JEFF: I was supposed to chaperone my daughter’s field trip to the National Zoo last week. Everybody was concerned about whether or not the zoo is going to be open, and it wasn’t so they cancelled it. But the entire first grade, like 300 kids, just lost their field trip. Small thing, but it’s annoying. CHUCK: Yep. So how often do you guys wind up taking time for like sick or family things or things like that as opposed to sort of the planned time off? REUVEN: Well, for instance, I take off every Saturday like Friday night to Saturday. That’s sort of forced no computer and no phone time and with family time, which is actually nice and convenient. So it’s sort of guaranteed once a week, plus, usually my whole life takes one day to work late at work – that’s my afternoon, sort of Saturday afternoon with the kids and there should other time with them. So at least every week, I’ve got sort of guaranteed 1 ½ to 2 days to be with family and do stuff there. And the sick time, I guess it’s not recorded in the [unclear] every too often. I know I don’t sleep enough. I tend to work crazy hours, I tend to work after when the rest of my family goes to sleep; I’ll keep going for another 2-3 hours so I’m sure that there were correlation there between the fact that I don’t sleep enough and the fact that every maybe 6 weeks or 8 weeks, my body says, “Stop!” and sort of forces me to go in bed for a day or 2. You would think that I would learn the lesson after this long. CHUCK: Yeah, you would think, wouldn’t you? REUVEN: [Laughs] As they said in Calvin and Hobbes, “Live and don’t learn, that’s us!” CHUCK: I’ll chime in here, I tend to take a vacation every so often; we’re planning out a trip to Disneyland right around Christmas. But for the most part, I don’t really get a lot time off that I’ve planned on. So, it was just kind of an impromptu, “Hey, we’re going to go down to the in-laws,” or I don’t feel well so I’m taking the day off or whatever. One thing that I do wind up doing is planning around the podcasts. Sometimes, that’s something that brings some discussion with some of my clients. So it just really depends on what’s going on. But, yeah. So I guess we can transition here, if you’re planning on taking some time off like to speak at a conference or go on vacation, how do you usually arrange that with your client? JIM: I tend to have clients who want me to help them train their teams so I’m usually right in there in the thick of it with an existing development team. For me, if we have 2 weeks sprints, I’ll let everybody know, “Hey, the next sprint, I’m going to be away for this conference,” or I’m going to be just taking a few vacation days. Or, if I am either going to a conference or I happen to be lucky enough to speak at a conference, I might practice presentation with the group and sort of express some [unclear]. Sometimes, it can be a win for the client. But other times, I just sort of fit it in to the schedule that we already have. Everybody else, if they take time off, they just say, “Hey, I’m going to be going on these days.” CHUCK: That’s usually what I do, and I just try and give them as much notice as I can. REUVEN: I tend to have this sort of 2-way negotiation between clients and families. If we’re going to take a vacation, we usually go away 2, at most, 3 weekends a year, and then usually for about a week or 2 during the summer, we go away. Some of my clients like my returning clients, I just say, “I’m not available on the following days. Let’s find other days.” But, if I’m supposed to be in constant touch with people, it has supposed to go to them once a week or twice a week, then typically, as far and advance as I can, a month or 2 in advanced, I say, “Well, I’m not going to be available during this period.” But then I always tell, and this is true, that whenever I am with a WiFi and if they’re really emergencies, they can always reach me. But they’ve generally been pretty good about respecting my time off and understanding that everyone needs to take time off. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you ever wind up taking time off that’s a little bit longer like a week or 2 weeks as opposed to just a couple of days? REUVEN: Yeah! I guess, except for this past summer when I took 2 months off to push out at my dissertation, the 3 previous summers, we went to Europe for about 10 days – 10 days to 2 weeks each summer. It required a little more scheduling. But I think when I started freelancing, I felt sort of guilty. I was like, “Oh, my god! I’m leaving my clients in a lurch, what are they going to do? I feel so bad.” And then I realized, they take vacations, too, and they’re normal, they’re human, they understand it, and they don’t have anything against it. And when you’re working in a larger organization or even medium-sized organization, you’ll realize the organization will continue even if someone is not around this week or next week. JIM: That’s a really good point – getting over the guilt of taking time for yourself and realizing that other people do the same. I think it took me too long to realize that. CHUCK: The reason that I’m asking is because that week that we’re going to Disneyland, the week after that is New Media Expo and CES so I’m looking at taking part or all of that week off, too. I’m trying to weigh everything out and figure out what all I can get away with without leaving the client in a position that is not the best for them. REUVEN: Even when I’m on vacation, and maybe this speaks to my [chuckles] miniature of being addicted to such things, I’ll still spend about an hour, maybe even 2 hours in the evening going through email and reading things so if they need a quick response, I’m there to respond. But for the most part, my clients are actually been very reasonable about this, “I know you’re in vacation, we’ll see you in 2 weeks. Don’t worry about it.” CHUCK: Yeah, that sounds about right. When you’re taking that much time off, for example, when you went and did your dissertation stuff, did you save up just a whole bunch of money? REUVEN: [Laughs] Yes, but…There were some savings there certainly, that was enough for about a month of salary. There are more savings as well, but [unclear]. So we’ve been putting money aside both in the company and in our own personal accounts every month. So basically, I use the savings from the company to pay for my salary for about a month. But, since I’m away for 2 months and then we had a month of holiday since September, I really needed extra 2 months of salary. So basically, I just went to the bank and I took out a loan for that because I’d rather have the company paying for a loan than take it out from my own personal savings. People who actually go to something in financial planning might laugh at that, which is totally acceptable. CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah. Eric, didn’t you take some time off? Some extended time off? ERIC: Yeah, and I’m actually doing it right now. Last year, around somewhere when my daughter was born, I took 2 maybe 2 ½ months off. I had no work at all like I barely checked email. And then right now, I think I’ve been off since July, maybe end of July so a couple of months there. I used to do kind of like agendas where I’d tell the client, “Hey, I’m not going to be around.” It was nice because my clients, we’ve been on a weekly schedule so I would just say, “I’m going to work full-time this week, but then next week, I’m not working for you, and I’m actually not going to be around.” For this long extended ones, I’ve actually just kind of finished off my client projects, got them to a place where they’re happy, and then say, “I’m not going to be around until like November. And then around that time, we can reconnect, see if you want to do another iteration or 2 on your project and we can pick it up there.” I basically just don’t have any clients for a while, which is working pretty good. It’s a nice relaxing time and I can take care of self that you kind of put off when you’re really busy. REUVEN: I’ll just tell a bit of a horror story from years ago. You can feel a little bit guilty or worry about your clients, so I guess it was probably close to 15 years ago, I had a bunch of people working for me, and I went on vacation. Not just a vacation, I was along with the then called “The Geek Crew”, it was a tech conference at sea. They changed their name since then, it was a lot fun, although, it turns out I’m [unclear] our thing as a couple to travel. At that point, there was no internet access on the ship at all. So it was going away, and I didn’t have access to email or phone for about 8-10 days or so. I told my clients, “Don’t worry, you’ll be in the safe hands of this employee.” And then, I think I stopped off at one of the ports, it was in Puerto Rico, and checked my email in an internet café. I had mail from my client saying, “What happened to you? That employee isn’t around,” so I stand the rest of vacation making phone calls from wherever I was to Israel trying to figure out what happened to this guy who basically just decided to leave me in a lurch. CHUCK: Oh my god. REUVEN: So that thing can happen. And I spent a lot of time then repairing the damage from various places via email and via phone. Now I just make sure to really prep people and make sure that even he was going to take over for something that isn’t reliable. CHUCK: Yeah, there’s a horror story for you. What about sick days? If you’re not feeling well, to what extent do you handle that? ERIC: It depends on how sick. If it’s a minor sickness and maybe my head just not all there, I’ll take a half day and try to rest half the day and put in another good half day. If it’s worst than that or I feel it’s going to affect the quality or if I do some really intense thinking, I’ll try to take the day off and then make it up later that week. If it’s an extended sickness, I’ll tell the client, “I’m just not feeling good. Here’s why. I don’t think it’s in your best interest for me to work. If you really want me to, I can.” Basically, I let them make the decision on if they want me to go with half pace or if they’re willing to kind of push the deadline back or reschedule things. JEFF: If I’m sick, I tend not to get – I have to lay down and drink fluids and eat soup or whatever very often – but when I do, I generally just take off. It’s almost worst with the kids. Whenever they get sick, my wife’s a teacher and I’m at home most of the time so it’s easier for me taking the kids from school, and school rules, if they’re sick with a fever, they have to be out until their fever is down for 24 hours with medication so I end up just taking all those days off, too, because it’s hard to deal with a sick kid and try to focus on work at the same time. REUVEN: I said earlier that I probably get sick every 2 months or so, there was probably a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m rarely stuck in bed for a few days; that probably once or twice a year. Somehow, the germs are very cooperative and manage to only put me on the condition when I don’t actually need to be anywhere. So it really happens. I’m sure it’s also probably psychosomatic. But basically, if I have 3 days when I don’t have anything scheduled and I’m going to be in the house, that’s when basically they’ll be out of condition. So it’s pretty unusual for me that I cancel for being sick. But with just about kids, that definitely happens where my kids would be sick.  So most often, I move meetings around for that; my kids are now big enough where I can leave them at home on their own for half a day or even sometimes a day. JIM: I’ve got 4 kids and they’re all still pretty young. I remember, I think it was last year, it was particularly bad; people are getting sick all the time. We would get well for about a day and then get another illness. We’ve had times where we were literally getting sick every couple of weeks or every couple of months. So far, this year has been better. But the way I tried to manage it is I would try to do what little work that I can. If I needed to be in a particular meeting, I’d make time for the meeting or something like that, but then just say, “I can give my feedback, but any effort I put into critical thought, probably this is going to lead nowhere except for just burning time.” So I often try to just take time away and not do anything. And even that is a challenge because I already have kids and family to deal with outside of work, so I felt like I can never spend the time – my wife is the same, we never really get the chance to spend time just in bed even though that’s probably what we need and we get us recovered faster. CHUCK: I get tension headaches periodically. With those, I’ll tend to go and lay down for half the day and do that kind of thing. I just shoot off an email or get on Skype with my clients and just let them know that that’s where I’m at. Most of the time, they’re pretty understanding. It’s like, “Okay, well, thanks for letting me know. We look forward to whatever work you get done when you’re feeling better.” ERIC: Another thing is it depends on your project, too. A lot of the stuff I do is internal things and there might be a deadline, but it’s mostly an internal deadline like there is a big PR launch, so most of my clients are like they just pushed back their expectations a few days. It’s not a big deal for them to change and renegotiate schedules. But if you’re doing a lot of public work, that can have an impact because you have to actually get stuff done. REUVEN: I was going to say that I’m not a big fan of medicine especially cold medicine because I figure, “Well, I’m actually out with the symptoms. They’re actually there to help me get better and fight the germs off.” But since I started doing a lot of lecturing and I actually have to appear somewhere at a time and be able to perform, even if the cold medicine is just helping with the symptoms and even extending the cold, it turns out that could be pretty useful. So it’s not unusual if I get a little sick or medium sick and I still have to lecture; I’ll just go out and take a few cold pills with me and drink enormous quantities of tea or even more enormous quantities than I usually do while lecturing. CHUCK: One thing that I want to talk about just a little bit is when you’re forced to take time off and you don’t have a client. Do most of you guys have money in the bank that you can kind of live on for a little while? ERIC: Yup. JEFF: Now I do. Not when I was starting. When I was starting, I did just about everything wrong that you could do wrong, I got wrong. It’s like quit or leave a job or [unclear] of not having a job, no one in the bank, taxes was an issue, getting clients to pay was an issue. But, I’m much better now. I have 5 or 6 months or something of salary that I can do what I need to it to give me a little bit of buffer. But, man, the beginning, it sucked! CHUCK: [Laughs] I’ve been in that position a few times actually where I wished I had saved up some more money than I had. It’s not a pleasant place to be. REUVEN: We started, I guess it was a number of years ago already, I said before putting money aside in both the business accounts – business comes to start about a year ago and a half ago, but personal account, we started a number of years ago putting money aside. I’m guessing we have about 8 or 10 months of salary now in there just in case. It’s nice to know. As I said before, we’re not using it right now for my time that I took off over the summer for variety of reasons, but it’s good to know that if things are really tight, if we really need, we’ve got it there. My wife is also a freelancer and she just left the big job that she had. Basically, we don’t have to worry about it that much because worst comes to worst, we will be able to pay the mortgage, we will be able to buy food to eat. JIM: I think I had not quite as bad as Jeff, but when I started, my wife and I sort of had this plan. I had been doing freelance work on the side, and before I quit my job, we prepared for several months putting away what we could. I’ve had at least 6 months on the side waiting to be able to either take time off if I wanted to or take time off if I had to. I’m right now, actually, sort of in a holding pattern. I’m working on finishing up my book so I’m turning away work at this point for now. So I’m going to take a couple of months and just try to finish it up and get that done. Thankfully, we have the cushion there that we’ve been saving that’ll be able to last a few years. So, it definitely pays off because I’m still able to care for my family, I’m still able to be involved in the things that I want to be involved in, and I’m not stressing out about it. If I needed to take time to finish up this project and get my book out there and done, and I didn’t have the money in the bank to give me at least the breathing room where I felt like I could buy food for my family or pay the mortgage, it certainly be really stressful. I had definitely gone through times where you work on your day job all day long and you have all those stresses and then you have to help take care of your family and then you try to do your side project where you’re trying to build a product or something like that, that is just exhausting and that usually when I get sick. And then I end up needing to take time off when I felt like I can’t afford it, and it’s just a cycle. So I’ve been focusing lately on making sure I’m exercising, making sure I’m getting plenty of sleep, and just generally being healthy so that I can take better advantage of the cushion that I have. ERIC: One thing I’ve had, like I said, I’m kind of in the middle of a break right now, and a lot of this came from having a new baby and then I jumped into a really large project where I was over fulltime, work every week for 3 or 4 months. Basically, that completely burned me out. Now, it’s taking months for me to get back to eating better, exercising, trying to get sleep and all that. I finally felt like I’m kind of back to who I was 6 months ago. That’s just something like I know I should be careful because if I get too far gone, I completely burn out, I can’t work. And if I can’t work, then it drains the savings and then I’m even more stressed out because I have no savings. So, it’s important to do that. If you can do it and forgot a way to make it more sustainable than to work really hard, take time off, work really hard, that’s something to put some effort into doing even if that means you have to turn down a few clients here and there. JEFF: Part of that is you can get into a vicious cycle, a vicious downward sparrow with. You  work hard enough to burn yourself out, and then you need to take a break, but you’re draining your savings and you feel guilty for draining your savings and not giving it to improving it, and then you go and get burned out again. That’s tough. CHUCK: Yup. JIM: Vacation is something that came to mind for me. I had, at least in the past, I’ve been pretty bad about tuning out, turning vacation. We would go away and I would still check my email and I would try to say on top of things. Somehow, emergencies always crop up when you’re not supposed to be working. It took me a long time to slowly pull away like my family would need time away, we’d take either a long weekend, or a week, or two weeks, or whatever it is, I’ve slowly been able to get to the point where I realize that I don’t’ have to check my email everyday or at all. And then I just make sure I let everybody know, “I’m not going to be responding and I’m not going to be able to help you through whatever problem you find [chuckles]; you’re just going to have to either do it yourself or wait. And that, I think most of my wife’s delight, and my kids as well, has been much better for all of us that had been able to just tune out. That was tough for me especially in the beginning when you’re hungry and you don’t have that savings in your account. Your family need the time off and you need time to spend time together, but you’re so stressed out about making sure you can actually provide for everybody that you keep checking your email or whatever it may be, it’s at least a really exhausting vacation. JEFF: I’ve done that a few times. I’ve done a work in holiday – on vacation, I go to beach and I work a couple of hours a day and then do the vacation the other time, and it just bleeds into everything. It’s just not that helpful. You can’t completely get away from everything and de-stress and enjoy the family. But back to what you were saying earlier, Jim, that you’re getting better at shutting the computer down or leaving the office at dinner day, that’s something in the last 9 months or a year that I’ve gotten much better. Over the weekend, I try not to do any work or any of the stuff over the weekend, I try not to hang out on the computer at all especially if the kid’s out because we have soccer and swim meets and God knows whatever else going on in the weekends, but it’s nice to have a break a couple of days and not doing anything, but stuff to get that I haven’t. REUVEN: It took me a long time to get work of the confidence to say to people, “Well, I’m just not going to be available for the next few days.” In fact, this just happened literally in the last 24 hours, 2 companies called me and said, “We really like to meet with you.” I planned on the next few days being just dissertation days, doing a little bit of work for clients, but not huge amount. So I said to them, “Sure! I’ll be happy to meet with you next Tuesday, next Wednesday.” When I started freelancing, I would have been petrified to say this to someone because from my perspective then, if I say that to people, clearly, they’re just going to leave me because I’m not at their beckon call again; snapped their attention. But no, they seemed okay with that. So I’ll meet with them next week. So clearly, what they thought were problems, that doesn’t make them burning emergencies. JEFF: But then the flip side to tell of that is, if you show instantaneous availability, then it could either (1) made you more undesirable because you have honestly nothing to do because you’re just sitting around, waiting for someone to call and ask you to do it. Or, you’re sitting up precedent that lets them know that they snap and you jump kind of thing. REUVEN: Yeah. JEFF: The psychology of this is annoying, but… REUVEN: We have this electrician and plumber who we used in the house; we’ve used him for a few years. My wife is always amazed when we say, “Oh, we’re going to call the plumber,” she calls them and he says, “Okay, I’ll be over in half an hour.” We’re always wondering, “Is he just waiting for our phone call. Doesn’t he have any other clients?” CHUCK: [Laughter] REUVEN: Given all this thought, I mentioned this before, I’ll say it again one more: on vacation, I do still check my email. I don’t think that’s a terrible thing, but I’ve usually restricted to say only about an hour, maybe 2 hours a day, so wherever we go, whenever we get a place that we’re renting on vacation, I just make sure that there’s a WiFi. But [unclear] we just plan the next day anyway beyond just email. JEFF: One thing that changed for me was that I’ll go on vacation with my laptop and then I’ll work with idea because it just too easy for me to do any work I needed to do on a laptop. I think the last time I went to Universal over the spring break or something, I didn’t take a laptop, I just took an iPad. I could still use Skype if I had to do Skype – I think I did it one day because there was a [unclear] going on that I knew about. I get SSH with ISSH or whatever you try to use an iPad is really freaking painful especially if you’re on a keyboard so it just conditionally not to use it for anything. REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: [Chuckles] REUVEN: Radio expressions [Laughs]. JEFF: [Chuckles] Just anything. It’s really annoying trying to use it. And all the [unclear] you use are not convenient because you don’t have the keyboard for that so you always press to get modified to get something else. But it’s nice because it’s so painful that you don’t want to do any of that. You can check email, but I’m not going to reply with a sentence or 2 without a keyboard. So if I have to touchtype, I’m not a texter, so it just limiting myself and [unclear], makes a big difference on how much I actually want to do or try to do for a little business. ERIC: One thing we did a couple of years back is we went up to the BC Islands in Canada. I don’t remember the island name, but there’s literally one semi-public WiFi spot on the island and it was like a café that was only open 5 or 6 hours a day and it shut down before it even got dark. It was tiny. We didn’t have whatever international stuff on our cell phone so the only internet access we had was my old Kindle had 3G in Canada. And even if anyone has used the old kindle web browser, you know like it is – REUVEN: [Laughs] ERIC: Dial-up modem makes it look pretty cool. JEFF: It does step above links. [Laughter] ERIC: Yeah! I tried to do that to log in to my Webmail account for Rackspace to check in on stuff and I’m like, “This isn’t going to work.” I can’t remember how long we’re up there, but it took a few days and I finally disconnect it because I couldn’t actually get the things. I’m like, “If there are actual servers on physical fire right now, I can’t do anything to put them out and just let them burn.” When I got back in the US, I immediately jumped in my email, but there wasn’t anything that really blew up and anything that was an emergency or got downgraded to like a threat level yellow by the time I got back. It was a nice experiment to really get away and completely off the grid, and it was relaxing. That’s something I think about for vacations. You can try to take just an iPad and try to limit it. But, if you actually go some place where you actually cannot physically get on the internet, that’s kind of an adventure. JIM: The discussion we’re having about time off is interesting. I had a project where checks just weren’t coming in, invoices were being ignored, they were late. So I contacted my project manage and I was just like, “Hey, I’m not getting paid. I’m not going to be in. I’m going to take the day to work on some other things, and hopefully, this will get sorted out.” Had that just been a sick day, it would have been, “Oh, I’m sorry we’d make do without you. I’ll see you on the next day.” But, because it had to do with payment, everything sort of just got really crappy. I think it’s so interesting because everything is very amicable when somebody’s sick. But as soon as there’s money problem, at least with this particular situation, it became a serious problem that’s straining the relationship which I found was odd. They didn’t apologize and commit to quickly remedying it; they were upset that I would take the time off. [Laughter] REUVEN: How dare you expect to get paid you greedy person you! JIM: [Laughs] Exactly. CHUCK: That’s funny because I’ve kind of had the opposite of thing where I basically told somebody, “You know, I haven’t been paid so I’m probably going to wind up taking tomorrow off,” and they like jump through hoops, “We’ll, overnight you a check!” or whatever it is. JIM: Yeah, that’s what I thought. I thought I’d get that, but…I should have said, “Oh, I’m going to take the sick day. And by the way, I don’t get paid.” REUVEN: [Chuckles] CHUCK: The thing though is, I don’t know about you, but I tend not to like the Peter on the bush. So if I’m going to take a day off because they’re not paying me, I’m going to tell them that. JIM: Oh, yeah. CHUCK: It’s like, “Sorry, guys, but we’re kind of the ‘stop work’,” [laughs] that place, that ‘stop work’ place and “Hopefully, we can work this out before we go too long and I find another client,” or whatever. REUVEN: Every so often, when I have clients who not pay, a lot of times, it’s a big organization, it just got lost in the bureaucracy. So the person with the one I’m doing the work is actually happy to hear about this because they say, “Oh, let me talk to the payment people and see where it got lost or messed up,” usually that tends to solve the problem pretty quickly because they want the work done. CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: As I said, we’ve gone to Europe for a few summers, and it was all about it, so it’s my wife and then our 3 kids. Basically, my wife and I both made sure to have some work meetings there. Obviously, tax laws in different countries work differently, and how black or white or gray you wanted to accept it is up to you and your accountant and your confidential discussions. But basically, because my wife and I both did work, had some meetings during our vacation, we were able to treat both our plain flights and the rental of the apartment we got through VRBO as business expenses as opposed to personal expenses, which was kind of nice. CHUCK: Well, that’s nice. That’s a good idea. I’ve done it where we travelled to a conference or something and rode off my portion of things. But I’ve never done it to that degree where we rode off everything. My wife is my partner in my business so I suppose we could do that. JEFF: Yeah, talk to a lawyer. CHUCK: [Laughs] JEFF: And accountant [chuckles]. CHUCK: Yup! ERIC: One thing to kind of keep in mind is don’t feel guilty if you need to take a day off or 2 days off. It’s not the end of the world, especially if you compare it to like how you used to be as an employee. I know some people that they might get 2 hours of productivity done in a week. So if you actually worked really hard when you’re on and then take the afternoon off, that’s still probably, and that went over some people. So don’t beat yourself up about it because, like Jeff was saying, that’s just a vicious cycle and it’s just going to get worst and worst. JEFF: And I think there’s a lot of misplaced loyalty. I know we’ve talked about this a couple of times before, and I don’t know if it’s culture or what, but as an employee or as a freelancer, I think there’s this overwhelming misplaces of loyalty that you have to whoever is paying your bills that’s not reciprocated by the person paying your bills. The other side of it, and it’s been brought up in this episode that whoever is paying your bills also take vacation, and they might not plan enough ahead to tell you the things you needed to know so you keep working while they’re out on vacation. I don’t know. I agree, don’t feel guilty about it. I think there’s a lot of misplaced loyalty. It’s one of those things when Eric was saying that the situation got downgraded to code yellow or something so not only was he able to go off, but the customer survived. And having that barrier of time, actually it could figure out that it wasn’t such a bad to you – the customer could figure out that it wasn’t such as big a deal as he thought it was and fly off the handle and oh-my-god-everything-is-on-fire kind of thing. ERIC: Egotistical is not the right word, but if you either as an employee or freelancer think that by taking the day off that the company you’re working for is going to go bankrupt, I don’t know what else to say, but that’s kind of egotistical. The company is going to survive; the business is going to survive. Yeah, they might have problems and it might take a little bit to fix stuff, but realistically, you’re not the core centerpiece of anyone else’s business but your own. So, you have to keep that in mind. REUVEN: Yeah, if their company won’t survive, then they’ve got bigger problems than that. CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah. ERIC: Right. CHUCK: Whenever I start talking about taking time off for things, sometimes I get crap from my wife that we can’t afford for me to take that long often. For me, that’s just a sign that we need to get a little bit more into savings and make sure that we’re in that place. Do you guys find yourselves negotiating with your family sometimes to take the time off? ERIC: Yeah, but my wife is telling me to take time off, and I’m worried that we can’t. [Laughter] JEFF: Like I said, when I started this until recently, my bank account has not allowed me to kind of have the issues about taking time off; I did it before. Before that, money is one of the biggest problems in our family just to when are we going to get paid, when is the client going to pay the invoice, the invoice is a couple of weeks late, you got to deal with this guy, and you have more clients in the pipeline, all the stuff. And then once we got this buffer 5 or 6 months or whatever in the bank, everything is just so much nicer now; a lot less concern about, “Alright, so, why are you playing video games instead of working?” I was like, “Well, I’m bored. I need to do something different than do ore review our 186 Rails 202 project. It’s making me stupid.” REUVEN: [Chuckles] JEFF: So we did for a while at the beginning. That was probably one of our biggest points of contention. It was just the money flow issue, cash flow issue, and where – where and when was it coming in and the house are coming in, and all these other stuff. But once we’re able to build this cushion, I’m now a lot less concern. She would be happy, I think, like Eric is saying, if I get take off this summer and not work – that’s my goal; my wife and kids are about to attend the school as a teacher and students – if I can take the summer off and not have to do with it, I think I’d be happy to do it and so is she. REUVEN: With that, it’s always sort of, as I said, this is like ‘multiway’ negotiation. So, we definitely want to go whether you’re picking next summer so I just, in the last 2 or 3 days received the invitation to a conference that has to do with my PhD research, that’s in your every 2 summers. So I said, “Oh! Vienna and [unclear], that might be nice.” So we’re talking about, “Can we do this for one week? Can we do this for 2 weeks?” so we’re already starting to sort of put the process in place, then allow us to consider financially what would be involved and how we could pay for it and how long we would be there. I wouldn’t say I get pressured to go way more, but my wife said, “Look, if we’re already going away, why don’t we just make it 2 weeks?” because we always really enjoy going away and a few days aren’t going to make that much difference. And she’s probably right. And – this is a slightly different point – when I take a vacation, it really is nice and refreshing! I come back with a clear head and I can do better work. So after years of not really taking vacations, it’s definitely worth doing. CHUCK: Yeah. So that leads me to one other question. You did mention that you take off to Europe during the summer, how long do you usually go? REUVEN: I think the most we did so far was 2 weeks. I think it was either 10 days or 2 weeks. Once was in conjunction with a conference, and then twice, we just sort of went on our own once we’ve sort of figured out the formula for it, which is we go to a city, we don’t rent a car, we only use public transportation, we rent an apartment there as opposed to a hotel room through VRBO our home away, and then we just use that as our base and we go shopping at the local supermarket and don’t go out to eat much, which is a huge, huge money-saver. And we go to a lot of museums because my wife is a curator and we’ve all learned to do that a lot, including my kids. CHUCK: [Laughs] REUVEN: [Chuckles] So if you ever want to see children enjoy an art museum, you’re welcome to tag along with us; it’s not science fiction. CHUCK: Yeah, it just sounds like fun. I keep thinking that it’d be fun to do that kind of thing where we just kind of go live in another for a few weeks. I would just work; I’d make that work out, and just make sure that it’s not as full-time as it normally is so that we can enjoy it. REUVEN: Right. So when we went to Paris, I guess we’re there for a total of 10 days, 4 of those days, I was out at a conference. So for those 4 days, my wife took the kids around and they did things together. And in the evening, we got together and did stuff. So it’s sort of like part time work, yes. CHUCK: Alright. Well, anything else that you guys want to bring up before we get to the picks? ERIC: Nope. REUVEN: Just as I said to encourage people to take vacations, it is good for you, it’s even good for your business, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to do it. CHUCK: Alright. On that note, let’s go ahead and jump into the picks. Jim, do you want to start this off with picks? JIM: Sure! I don’t know if everybody here is familiar with “Sass”, but it’s a pre-processor for CSS and SassConf. I wasn’t added, but SassConf was this pass so we can – although by the time this podcast comes out, it will be a long time ago in New York. So has a new website up, and my friend, Roy Tomeij, had a workshop today for Saas for learning everything about Compass and Sass, and he did it in Reston, Virginia, but I think he’s planning on doing some more, but he has a “” website, and I just recommend everybody to check that out. And then to plug my own stuff, “”, I have a newsletter that I’m sending out tips for cleaning up your code. I’ve been sending out about, I think 5 have gone out, and I haven’t yet archived them on my blog yet, but eventually, I’ll get around to that. So, check those things out. CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: People every so often talked about bags, laptop bags, and there’s just things. So my pick is a triplet that I got from TOM BINH a few years ago, I guess about 2 or 3 years ago. I just absolutely, positively love this bag, it’s called the “Brain Bag”, it’s immense. But if you carry lots of stuff, because I always carry my laptop, and in case I get bored, 2 or 3 books, and maybe something to eat, and my travel mug, so it’s nice to have lots of room in there. Inside, for extra protection, they have this thing called the “Brain Cell’, so it’s the Brain Cell in the Brain Bag. In theory, you can use this as a separate sort of mini-bag, and I did that for a while before I got the Brain Bag, but they work really well together. And then they’ve got this sort of even smaller bag called the “Snake Charmer” which is for all of your cables and such. I can’t say it’s amazing, but it is kind of convenient to have all my cables in one place – the power cable, the video cables, my cellular modem. So I’ve been enjoying those. And it seem, so far, I guess about 2 years later on the Brain Bag, and more than that on the Brain Cell, virtually indestructible, which is definitely better than I can say for the previous cheap of bags I’ve bought. CHUCK: Awesome. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: My pick, I might have picked it before, but it’s the “Lamy Safari Fountain Pen”. I’m picking it because I started actually writing down my pomodoros in the notebook. I just happen to grab this; it’s been not used for a couple of months now, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve never used a fountain pen before, and it’s actually nice. It’s good for me because I have bad handwriting and I have wrist problem, so I actually being able to write without stabbing the papers. It’s kind of nice. It’s very inexpensive fountain pen to get started and you can get cartridges or refillable things for it so it can actually be inexpensive and not a couple hundred of dollars to use. CHUCK: Awesome. Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: I have a couple. The first one is actually because of something you said, Chuck. It’s an article “Lessons Learned in Two Years as a Digital Nomad”. Maybe this is the one I thought I read a month or so ago, but it’s interesting. The guy is a developer and I think his wife is a designer. They’ve been travelling for the last 2 years or so, still doing all their work and whatever. It’s similar to what you just said. I read it in the last few weeks so I thought I’d include that as my pick. Another thing, which I don’t really have a great link for is “Whispersync”. It’s an Amazon technology; they bought Audible, the audiobook company. I was reading a book my suggested to me a while ago, I actually started last week, and then we went to Busch Gardens over the weekend. What Whispersync does is it matches up the book on Kindle and the Audible audiobook. So you stop reading on whatever page you left off in the book in the Kindle. When you start listening to Audible, it’ll say, “Do you want to fast forward to wherever left off? “ and you say yes and it just works. It’s pretty amazing. I’ve used it for 2 books now and it works pretty fairly. That’s pretty cool. The last thing is a “VEX IQ”. I coached my daughter’s robotics team in an elementary school. We do first LEGO League – it’s LEGO robotics, but they’re expensive as hell! It’s like $700 to get the team up and running if you plan to go to a competition. VEX IQ is very similar to LEGO; snap together parts. Real VEX is metal, and they’ll do cutting and a lot of other stuff. With VEX IQ, it’s plastic where you snap together parts. But the cool thing is you can get the big set with all the sensors for like $300, in a competition, it’s $100, and every other team is $50, so it’s pretty cheap comparatively for robotics club if you enter that or your kids are into it. It’s a lot of fun. That would be my last pick. CHUCK: Awesome. I don’t have any picks this week. I just been kind of crazy busy and stuff, so I’m going to not pick anything. Just to remind you, in a couple of weeks here, we’re going to be talking to Joe Kutner about his book, The Healthy Programmer. Besides that, we’ll wrap up the show. We’ll catch you all next week!

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