When summertime arrives, it’s typical that many of your clients and customers start going on holiday. But what about you, the solo self-employed professional? Do you ever get to take a vacation?
Yes! You can and should. But it may take some careful planning.
First, you need to find the time. Consider what shifts in your life or business might help you create more free time. Can you defer projects until later in the year? Could you hire helpers in your business or at home? Are there responsibilities you could delegate to a professional colleague or family member? Any steps that reduce your business or personal workload can help you to begin carving out vacation time.
Whether you do business primarily by appointment or by project, send your regular clients a note telling them you plan to be gone for a period of time. Ask them to arrange their schedules to work with you before or after your vacation. If your clients might need service while you are gone, think about referring them to a colleague whose work you respect.
You can return the referral favor when your colleague takes a vacation, or ask your colleague to pay you a fee for any referrals that become paying clients (unless your profession prohibits this practice). Leave an email autoresponse and outgoing message on your voice mail with the same information, so any new prospective clients will also know they have this option.
When your business is only you, you also need a back-up plan for times other than vacations. What would happen if you got sick or had a family emergency? Consider hiring a virtual assistant or part-time helper, and training them to watch over your business when you are absent. You may need only administrative help which doesn’t require a trained pro. You could draw from the many smart folks who don’t want or need a full-time job, like students, homemakers, retirees, artists, writers, and musicians.
The key to worry-free vacationing is to provide your helpers with advance training and written procedures. You could also ask a colleague to act as a temporary boss if your helper gets stuck, and reciprocate this service so your colleague can vacation also.
Taking time off can cost you money, of course. The financial impact may be lessened if you take your vacation at a traditionally slow time of year. For many solopreneur businesses, this is during the month of August, or between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
You should plan for the cost of vacation when you determine your billing rates, prices, or owner’s draw. To budget for three weeks’ vacation every year in a one-person business with no passive income, estimate your business income based on a 49-week year, and your business expenses based on 52 weeks.
In the above example, the drop in your income will be about 6%, so consider increasing your rates or prices by a similar amount. Then put the extra money aside every month in a savings account until it’s vacation time.
You can also reduce the cost of the vacation itself when you combine it with a bit of business. According to the IRS, travel expenses within North America are fully tax-deductible when more than half your trip is spent conducting business. A business day is considered to be any day when at least one meeting takes place. If you plan to meet with clients or colleagues for lunch or coffee while you’re traveling, you may be able to write off your whole vacation. (I set up meetings like these for most of my U.S. trips.)
Sometimes the only thing that keeps business owners from taking a vacation is their belief that the business can’t function without them. If this sounds like you, try an experiment. Take a planned day off in the middle of the week, and see what happens. Then try taking two days in a row.
If everything goes well, you can then schedule a vacation with confidence. If something goes wrong, you will know what you need to take care of in advance.
Everyone needs time to relax and recharge, so choose a time for your vacation and just do it! Your business will benefit from having a rested and restored owner.