Those are my feet in that photo above. And as we speak, I’m most likely finding my lounge chair at that same pool.
I didn’t always take vacations. Not real ones that didn’t include working, anyway. This is a new phenomenon for me. And now that I’ve started doing it, I can’t imagine making it through my busy times without dreaming of my vacations. It keeps me sane. It gives me something to look forward to. I pushes me to meet my goals so I can afford to take a nice vacation.
When you are first starting out with your own business, taking a vacation can seem like a bad idea. You’re hustling for clients and deadlines are looming. Or maybe things are just dead and you need to be around for any opportunities that might come your way. Whatever your situation is, I urge you to get away from it all at least once a year. Even if it’s just a camping trip, a quick weekend getaway, or simply closing the home office door for two days in a row, you need a break from work whether you realize it or not.
What do you need to do to prepare for a vacation?
Before you go:
- Let your active clients know early that you are going on vacation. At least a month in advance. Send a notice with your care plan reports and also do another email via Mailchimp about a week later. Tell them to send anything they need done asap.
- In those communications, explicitly say, “I’m not working during vacation”. This is really important. Many people might assume that you are on the beach with your laptop. I’m not kidding.
- Define an emergency. I usually say – if you website is down for a period of time. An emergency is not that the clients need three new pages added to their website for a presentation tomorrow.
- Give clients an option in case of an emergency. I tell my clients they can text me in an emergency, but I might not be able to help them on the spot. I tell them to have their hosting information handy in case I instruct them to call their hosting company on their own.
While on vacation:
- Set you vacation message to say you aren’t responding to emails while on vacation.
- For incoming inquiries, I create an email template to respond with. I don’t want to miss any good leads. I do this from my phone.
- I also set my online forms to say I’m unavailable until (DATE) and will return their message on (FIRST DAY BACK IN OFFICE).
When you return:
- Use an autoresponder to say you are working through your emails and you’ll get back to the sender as soon as possible. I use this because I might need a day or two to answer emails.
- Let clients with incoming requests know you just got back from vacation and you might need extra time to get back to them. I never just let my autoresponder say it all to an incoming request.
Before you go:
- Look at your current to-do and first list the things you can finish before you go. What projects are close? Let the client know you are pushing to get the site done prior to vacation. This can be a good push to clients that are slow with content.
- Make sure you are launching any websites with enough time to trouble shoot issues before you leave. If you don’t have it ready to go 5-7 days before leaving, wait until you return to launch.
- Decide what just needs to move forward. Set a task to accomplish and just get that one thing done. If you can, make sure you’re a sending a “to-do list” for the client. This is a great chance for them to catch up on getting content together.
When you are gone:
- If you have a long flight, mine is nearly five hours, and you want to get out that laptop and wrap up a few things, do it. You’re just sitting there anyway. It might help you relax more to feel like you got just that little bit extra done.
- Resist ALL WORK when you get to your destination. I mean anything that isn’t a dire emergency. I put my computer in the hotel safe. It’s there for emergencies only. I don’t do business planning, make to-do lists or listen to any work related books on Audible. This is downtime, not time for my business. My one exception to this rule is if you realize you forgot something important, send a quick email to yourself and/or your client and remind yourself to do it first thing when you return. Don’t let it eat at you on vacation.
- If there is an emergency, don’t stop your daily outing. I once looked up a client’s hosting info and emailed it to her from a street car in New Orleans. I followed up with the client when I got back to my hotel. All was good.
- I will just mention here how important it is to have your client information on the cloud. Passwords in a password keeper, access to emails and files. This is why I use LastPass and G Drive.
When you get back:
- Don’t schedule a bunch of meetings on your first day back. Use this time to unbury from your vacation email and get back in the swing of things. Look at your to-do list and work through what your clients might have sent when you were gone.
- Make anything that nagged you on vacation a top priority. We always forget something along the way.
- Breathe. You can’t do it all. Don’t make coming home from vacation so stressful you are apprehensive to take your next vacation.
The benefits of taking a vacation will show in your work, attitude, creativity and most importantly, your ability to deal with running your own business when you return.
Remember, you are your own boss, you work hard, and you deserve to give yourself a much needed break every now and then.
RESOURCES: A Freelancer’s Guide to Taking a Vacation