Small Business Strategies: 6 ways to take a vacation — even if you don’t have a staff

vacation dudeAs a freelancer or solo practitioner, it can be tricky to arrange time off for a vacation. What happens if a client calls and suddenly needs something quickly? How do you keep existing projects moving while you’re gone? And would being out of the office on vacation actually be more stressful than just working?

But there are ways to make it work. Here are six to consider:

1. Trade out time with someone who does what you do. I know a realtor who uses another realtor as her backup when she’s on vacation. If she has a closing while she’s out of town, the other realtor goes in her place. Then she returns the favor when that realtor wants to take time off.

2. Train a temporary assistant to keep the place running. This works best if you don’t mind fielding the occasional phone call or email to deal with work issues while you’re out. The temp can keep the ball rolling and deal with minor issues, but call you for anything that requires your skills or decision making. 

3. Have someone on call, just in case. In the early days at Tribe, I would have a freelance creative director on call when I was out of town. If anything came up that had to be addressed while I was away, I  trusted his judgement and knew he’d handle it similar to the way I would, or at least at a taste level I would approve of. Many times, my clients were fine just waiting until I was back. 

4. Call in a mom or retiree. If you’re wary of having a competitive freelancer filling in for you, try someone who’s not really in the market for clients anymore. A colleague in your industry who’s now retired, or a parent who quit working to be home with the kids, will often enjoy the chance to get back in the game for a short while. 

5. Take your work with you. This works best if you can keep your business running for a week or so with just an hour or two of your attention a day. A media planner I know is in Chautauqua right now for a three-week family vacation. She’s keeping up to date on emails while she’s there, and doing the occasional conference call, so her clients are getting what they need even while she’s out.

6. Tell your clients you’ll be out. I remember hearing about one freelancer who actually found this a pretty good way to drum up business. She would call all her steady clients several weeks out to let them know she was taking a vacation such and such a week, and that she’d like to get anything they might need taken care of now so they weren’t inconvenienced while she was out. Her clients felt like they’d been given sufficient warning of her unavailability and appreciated her professional approach. Often, it would even make her clients think of new projects they’d like to add to her plate.

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2 responses to “Small Business Strategies: 6 ways to take a vacation — even if you don’t have a staff

  1. Great advice! When your career is non-traditional, it’s sometimes hard to find a good way or time to take vacation. Especially if vacation is unpaid. I’m sure all of the Janes in the Career Shifter Sisterhood will appreciate your tips.

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