All Work and No Play: Vacation and the Business Owner

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory

vacationWith the holidays and the end of the calendar year, it seems that the last few weeks of December are universally slower-than-normal in terms of work. It’s a popular time for vacation as we spend time with family, close out the current year and start gearing up for the new one.

If you’re self-employed, though, getting even a day off can be a challenge. You have clients to worry about, a business to maintain and an income to keep steady. But without a break, you face burnout, increased stress, added frustration, and getting off on a rocky start in the New Year.

Down time is so important, it’s worth taking measures to ensure you get at least a small break. And it’s possible to get some vacation time in, regardless of the state of your business, amount of work you do and who you work with.  You have the power to take vacation; you just have to be proactive about it.

Budget for Vacation

When you do your end-of-year review and consider a rate increase, include what it will cost for you to take a non-working vacation. Then adjust your numbers to allow you to maintain your typical level of income, even when you’re not working for a week. You may be surprised how easy it is to work a “paid” vacation into your budget.

Plan Ahead

Face the fact that you will probably never be able to take a spontaneous vacation without losing income and causing unnecessary stress. It’s just the way it is when you work for yourself. Plan your vacation way in advance (at least three months) so you have time to get ahead with work. Then give your clients early notice and send reminders as you get closer to your no-work time.

Set Expectations

Before letting clients know you will be unavailable, decide how accessible you will be. Will you check email every day or will you be completely out of touch? And when is the cut-off for incoming work? You don’t want to be fielding last-minute requests as you’re trying to get out the door.

Let your clients know your plan when you inform them of your vacation time so expectations are clear from the beginning.

Get Help

If you don’t already have a trusted subcontractor on your team, consider finding someone to fill the gap so the work continues when you’re not there. But in order for this to be successful, you need to start looking for someone to outsource to months in advance so you have time to test out the relationship, build trust and get them up to speed.

Time It Right

If you plan your vacation time during typical work down times (i.e. holidays), it may be easier to manage and prepare for. There’s no worries about missed work if your clients are on vacation, too!

Take It with You

It’s not an ideal solution, but you can always plan a working vacation. With some creative scheduling and rock-solid limits, it’s possible to enjoy some time off, even when you’re keeping one eye on your work. Just be sure you’re clear with everyone — clients, family, yourself — what “working vacation” means to you so there’s no unnecessary struggle over your time.

Weigh the Loss

Taking a break is so important that many times it’s worth accepting the reduced income to get time to refresh. If you’ve taken all of the measures you could take, but still expect to suffer a moderate but manageable loss when you’re not working, just accept it. Then get away from work and make the most of your time off.

Do you take regular vacations? What helps you get that time off without added stress?

Image credit: hortongrou