Having a holiday is easier said than done when you run your own business. If you do get away, how can you manage things so you don’t spend every minute worrying about what's happening back at base? It's vital to plan ahead, says Rachel Miller
As a freelancer, I have had my fair share of holidays that involved searching for wi-fi hotspots, sitting in cafes trying to discreetly charge my laptop and bribing the kids with ice creams while replying to work emails.
The fact is that when you run your own business, holidays can be stressful; they can become something you dread or even avoid altogether. And if you do get away, it can be hard to switch off. But taking a break from time to time is vital in order to recharge your batteries.
Taking time off is possible - if you plan ahead and draw up a game plan. Here are some ideas to help you have the relaxing holiday you deserve.
Change your mindset
If your work-life balance is not that healthy, you may need to change your mindset in order to have a decent holiday. The fact is that time off is actually good for you and for your business; it allows you to decompress and get some perspective. Many entrepreneurs find that they get some of their best ideas on holiday when they are relaxed and they can let their minds wander.
Preparation is everything
The more you get done in advance, the more relaxing your holiday will be – and you'll have the satisfaction of having left everything in order. Draw up a pre-holiday schedule so you can tick off jobs in advance. Don’t forget administrative tasks like tax returns – these are often the jobs that business owners find themselves doing at the last minute.
Make a plan
Few businesses can simply close while the owner takes a holiday. If you are a sole trader, why not take on another freelancer to handle some of your work while you are away. You could also employ a virtual receptionist to provide a professional call answering service and to take messages. Write down all the information that you need to pass on to anyone that is managing in your absence – including customer contact details, schedules and procedures.
Delegate and trust your team
It can be hard to let go; but if you have employees, train them and then trust them to get on with the job. It's empowering for them and it’s better for your business in the long term. It's worth taking a couple of days off ahead of your holiday – by doing a few trial runs you and your team will soon find out where any potential problems lie. You'll also need to come up with some "emergency" guidelines – under what circumstances should staff call you when you are away? Establishing these ground rules will help you relax - if they don’t ring, you'll know things are going smoothly.
Be up front with your clients
If you work remotely, it can be tempting to keep your holiday plans to yourself; after all, your clients don’t need to know you are answering emails from a beach. The problem is that your clients will have no idea they are interrupting your holiday. But if you tell them in advance, you can manage their expectations, make promises to help when you are back and let them know who's in charge while you’re away. This way, they will get a better service and you will have a more relaxing holiday.
Make the most of technology
Set up an out of office notification on your email giving your holiday dates and providing alternative contact details. You can also use social media automation tools such as Hootsuite to schedule regular social media posts while you’re away. And don't let your holiday disrupt your cashflow; a cloud bookkeeping system will allow you to stay up to date with invoicing.
Choose the right kind of holiday
It's worth thinking about the kind of holiday that's going to best help you to unwind. Lying on a beach, for instance, may not be the answer – with nothing much to do, you may never switch off from work. Think about the kind of holiday that will give your mind a rest – whether it's active, indulgent or adventurous. And, if you are going with family or friends, don’t forget this is their holiday too. Make sure you are in the moment as much as possible.
Do some work if you must
For many of us, the idea of ignoring work completely is actually more stressful than checking in from time to time. A good solution is to find an hour in the day when you can deal with emails; this is probably best done first thing. Then you can get back to enjoying your holiday.
To make this as stress free as possible:
- Check that there is somewhere you can work with decent Wi-Fi access.
- Make sure you have access to any work you might need by storing it in the cloud or by making sure you can access it via a secure VPN.
- Work at a suitable time of the day - perhaps when your children are taking a nap, it is too hot outside or when local bars and restaurants close for lunch.
Take your holiday when the business is quieter
Every business ebbs and flows. If you can find a quiet time of year for your holiday then you're already halfway there. There can be a summer lull for some; or you could take advantage of bank holidays. And unless you are in retail, then Christmas can be an excellent time to get away.