Holidays are approaching at a steady pace which means it’s time to prepare to take time off and enjoy the holiday season. If you feel panicked just thinking about the theoretic possibility of letting your business run itself for a while, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve noticed that many self-employed people have difficulty taking time off. If you’re the only one in your business it feels like everything is going to collapse when you step out of it for a second. Do you just put everything on hold? Hire help? Check emails while sipping cocktails? How?
It’s tricky. Today we’re going to talk about why it’s so important to step out of your business every once in a while and how to do it without your business collapsing while you’re gone. This applies to the holidays, vacations or even short breaks when life gets in the way.
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WHEN DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO TAKE A BREAK?
As someone who has struggled with workaholism I’m gonna tell you right here and now that taking regular breaks and vacations is crucial. Please don’t undermine it.
Spending time away from your business doesn’t run it to the ground. Not giving yourself permission to rest and working past your limits does.
You need to create a lifestyle that has space for regular breaks:
- daily breaks (i.e. gym break at noon)
- weekly breaks (taking the weekend off)
- monthly (going out of town)
- yearly (vacations)
For some reason, we as a society are programmed to think that taking any kind of break is being lazy. We’re always busy-busy, running from one thing to another. It’s an obsolete way of thinking. To overcome this, you’ll need to change your mindset.
Taking time off is good for you and your business. Even if you love your work sometimes you lose your mojo and feel disconnected. After taking a break you’ll feel rested, inspired, motivated and creative again. You give yourself space and gain perspective. Client work and content creation will come more easily and you’ll enjoy working again.
You can’t force good ideas. Taking vacations and long weekends off always inspires me to no end. No matter how unmotivated and disconnected I feel when I go, ideas and creativity start flowing while I’m away and I feel like I’m bursting with new ideas. I’ve even started bringing a notebook with me just so I can write everything down and look through it when I’m back to work. I’ve started calling my vacations creative retreats because of this.
The right time to take a break is whenever you feel like your resources are used up. The key here is taking care of yourself. As a solopreneur, you’re the heart and soul of your business. If you’re not on top of the game, who else will be?
So you’re totally entitled to a vacation! To make sure you get to totally log off, you’ll need to take some steps in preparation.
1. PLAN IN ADVANCE
I like a little spontaneity as much as the next person but when it comes to vacations it’s a good idea to plan them in advance. I like to do this at the end of the year when I’m creating a plan for the new year.
Look at your months and see where it’s possible to fit in a vacation. For example two weeks in June and two weeks in October. Dedicate time for it (even if you don’t know the exact details yet) and then start looking for flights and accommodation. While you’re still locking down the exact details, you can already plan your client projects accordingly.
When a spontaneous opportunity shows up, make sure to not book work for that time, reschedule as much as you can and tackle your priority list.
2. LET YOUR CLIENTS KNOW
I promise your business is not going to collapse while you’re gone. Clients are people too. The first time I ever took a proper vacation away from my business I was surprised to find out that my clients were totally cool with it.
The key is to let them know early so they can adjust to the idea. I think one month in advance is a happy medium.
One month before leaving notify your clients (via email, project management software or whatever medium you use) of the dates you’ll be gone, when is the last day you’ll answer. I make sure to let them know when I’ll be back and answering their messages again. That way I don’t suddenly disappear for them.
I recommend adding an out-of-office notification to every email you send. Remind them again one week before leaving at the latest.
Make sure to give yourself enough buffer rest time when you get back. Depending on the destination and jet lag I might experience I always leave at least one day to rest and ease back into everyday life. Here’s a great example. With my last trip, I was scheduled to get back on Tuesday morning but had previously planned to not start client work and big projects until Monday (emails and other small things I could do from bed). Now I’m glad I did because I fell sick before getting back home and had the chance to spend the rest of the week fighting off a nasty cold that took away all my energy.
Although clients are people too, not everyone pays attention or respects your right to time off. I’ve learned this the hard way and that’s why I’ve included a hard date for last-minute requests and questions. It states that after a certain date (usually about 2-3 days before I leave so I have time to attend to them) I don’t answer emails, work, send out proposals or respond to inquiries. Anything sent, asked or requested after that date will get a response when I get back. I’ve become really strict about that rule because I know I’ve given my clients a decent amount of heads up and several chances to let me know if they need anything done before I go. Sometimes you just gotta say no.
3. CREATE A PRIORITY LIST
Okay girl, now we’re really preparing for time off. But-but, before you get to log off there are things you’ll need to get done so using your preferred method of note-taking, make a list of everything that needs to be done that you can think of.
It might end up looking like a brain dump (mine always does) but that’s okay. Not everything is crucial! When you’re done, take a hard look at it and circle the big important things that always come first. For most service-based businesses it includes client work.
Whether a pre-planned vacation or spontaneous one, clients should be the top priority. After all, they’re paying you and rely on you so you can’t just vanish on them. If you have smaller projects it might be a good idea to try to wrap them up in the week before you leave so you have less loose ends.
If you plan in advance you’ll have plenty of time to batch content for blog and newsletter. If your time off is more spontaneous, you’ll have to either skip a week or two, repurpose content or tweak & republish an old post. Honestly, repurposing is a great way to get content out there without necessarily creating something new.
4. AUTOMATE AND SCHEDULE
Thanks to technology a big part of your business will still run like usual while you’re gone. Most people won’t even notice that you’re not actually present! Use a client relations management program like Dubsado to automate client onboarding (sending out welcome packets and scheduling calls), invoices, quotes, and contracts.
You can even schedule all social media posts with tools like Buffer, Hootsuite or Planoly. With Tailwind you can schedule tons of pins for while you’re gone so it looks like you’re present.
I’m a fan of working ahead as much as possible at all times and advise you to do the same. Having content prepared and ready to go out at all times not only simplifies your everyday life as an entrepreneur but makes dealing with pre-vacation pressure and unexpected life situations easier and more stress-free.
Depending on your client work you might be able to schedule some of it too. For my Pinterest monthly management clients, for example, I plan and pre-schedule content for the whole time I’m gone plus an extra week or two just in case. Then I let the client know their recurring tasks are taken care of so they don’t worry about their project being on stand-by while I’m gone.
Recommended reading: Beat Overwhelm: 8 Ways to Simplify Your Solopreneur Business
5. CREATE AN OUT-OF-OFFICE NOTICE AND AUTORESPONDER
If you don’t have an out-of-office template yet, now is a good time to write one. Add the dates you’ll be gone and don’t forget to let them know when they can expect to hear from you again. That will keep you accountable and them at ease knowing you’ll get back to them. I also put my out-of-office notification on my email signature and contact form.
If you’re using G Suite for email then you can pre-set your autoresponder to turn on and off on certain dates. You can turn it on weeks in advance and it will start working when you leave. No more forgetting!
6. LOG OFF AND ENJOY
When the day you’re leaving comes and tasks on your list have been checked off, log off and enjoy the moment. It can be difficult to completely switch off work but you know it’s not a vacation if you’re still attached to your phone and keeping tabs on emails.
Let it go and allow yourself to rest and recharge.
BEFORE YOU GO, PIN THIS