How To Take Time Off As A Small Business Owner / Freelancer

Cancun beach, Mexico working remotely 2022

The idea of booking a holiday to an exotic country such as Thailand or Mexico sounds idyllic.

The idea of just sitting back in the sun and sinking your teeth into that delicious pad-thai or tequila, cannot get any better… Until, deep down you think of work!

One of the worst things about freelancing and running a small business is that it can feel almost impossible to switch off, and take a holiday without thinking about work or bringing your work along for the ride. This is especially the case when working for multiple companies, or working ad-hoc. Risking the loss of a few clients for being unable to deliver can really drop the numbers on the books. With no one to steer the ship, and with clients still expecting a service, how do you escape and find time to relax?

It’s never easy to step away from work. But there are ways in which you can enjoy a holiday. Here are some tips on how to get away, without damaging your business or reputation:

Give clients notice when taking a break from working

All clients worth keeping will understand that you need to take a holiday from time to time. Just give them plenty of notice, and they’ll be happy. Inform them of your holiday plans a month in advance and send a reminder email a week before you go away. your diary may start filling up fast, but that will help you appreciate your holiday more. Think of your diary filling up as a holiday bonus.

Deal with ongoing work and deadlines before you go on holiday

In the weeks leading up to your break in the sun, remind clients that if they want anything done before you go away, it’ll have to be done before a specific date, otherwise tasks will have to complete on your return. Be honest, transparent and clear.

Setup an out of office message

Organise everything, including ‘out of office’ autoresponders. This will help you relax while you’re away, and ensure you have systems in place to keep your business running smoothly.

Out of office email template:

Thank you for your email! I am currently out of the office, sipping coconuts in Thailand until [end date]. If you need assistance while I’m away, please contact [Colleague Name] at [email/phone number].

Kind Regards,

In case of an emergency when on leave…

Some clients will suddenly have “urgent” jobs that need doing. They’ll know you’re on holiday but will still call your mobile, panicking about something that’s come up.

If this happens, look into an “emergency contact” for your client, and provide their contact information. If this isn’t possible, set expectations early on by offering an emergency, out-of-hours on-call rate. That way, you can respond on holiday but make more money for the time lost.

Hire a virtual assistant (to work when you’re away)

If you don’t want to check your voicemail or messages one thing to do is to hire a virtual assistant, this will give you the reassurance you need, that nothing’s kicked off while you’re away. Redirect your work phone or landline to a virtual assistant who can screen all your calls and emails will relieve so much stress. They can filter urgent/non-urgent problems, so you’ll only open up the laptop if there’s a real emergency. 

You can find virtual assistants on almost all Freelance platforms, some great ones include Fiver and Upwork.

Prepare the finances

As a freelancer, you don’t get paid for the time you take off. So start saving a pot while you work and save as much money as possible. You’ll want to compensate for the weeks you won’t be earning and you deserve a comfortable break.

Go on holiday at the right time

There are certain times of the year when your business will experience quieter periods, this depends on what industry you are in and when the national holidays are.

The most obvious time to take a long holiday is during Christmas and new years; when everyone completely steps away from work for at least a week or two. Take advantage of this festive break and go on holiday. Pick a winter sun destination, have you ever visited Portugal? It might be the only time of year when clients won’t expect you to be in the office, so go for it!

Turn off notifications when on the beach

Does it sometimes feel like you get hundreds of notifications per day? And do you need to know if someone has liked your latest Facebook or Instagram post? Or if you’ve had a message from an old WhatsApp group? The notifications – even if not work-related – can bring stress and even anxiety when you just need to be relaxing.

Switch them off or delete apps completely, so you can give your mind the rest it deserves, like in the 90’s. And while we’re on the subject, delete your email app from your phone, too, so you’re not tempted to check work emails. Deal with work, when you return and are 100% focused on the job. In fact, why not try switching everything digital off!

So, can business owners and freelancers go on holiday?

If you’re still worried about going on holiday and are tempted to take your laptop…

Remember that you’re only going away for one or two weeks, in the grand scale of things, your holiday is very temporary. The world won’t end, and clients will still be there when you get back. Only take your laptop if you have to, and only use it in case of emergencies. More than anything, you must remember to relax. It’s crucial if you want to avoid burnout and be a productive, happy business owner/freelancer.