You’ve finally decided (or perhaps your doctor has told you to take a break!) that’s it’s time to get away. It’s time to not think about your business and your office and your clients. It’s time to not check your email. It’s time to not answer the phone. It’s time to enjoy some of the fruits of your labor!
How do you leave? Won’t everything fall apart without you? How does the business keep on going?
When I first started with Your Gal Friday, I worked, and worked. I did whatever I could, as much as I could, any time I could. There were no breaks. (Unless you count sleeping as a break!) One day my husband and I decided our son was old enough to start travelling, so we could start taking vacation.
For him it was easy. Put in the time off on the calendar. Voila. He didn’t have to think about it. But for me? I was the owner of a business. And a worker. I was doing a ton of stuff. I had a team - but...how could I leave my business in their hands?
The first time I left for vacation, I must have checked all of my emails a million times. We’d be driving in the car and I was answering questions. I was still working. The second time, about 100,000. Last year, I’m not sure. Maybe once. Just to say hi. :)
It was all very terrifying. But I needed to go. For my own well-being. I needed to vacate. And you do, too. So here are four tips you MUST do when planning a vacation.
BEFORE YOU GO
Inform Your Clients
Once you know the dates of your vacation, send an email out to all of your clients letting them know when you’ll be gone. I recommend doing this a couple of months beforehand. And then one month before you leave. And then a couple of days before you leave.
Let Your Clients Know the Plan
It’s great to let them know you’re going to be out of the office, but that’s not good enough. You need to make them understand that they are still going to be cared for while you’re gone. What I typically say is something like this:
While I’m out, all regular weekly work will continue to be done by the team. If you have any emergency work, please email X (whomever is in charge) and she’ll be happy to help as she is going to be “me” for the week I’m out. :)
This tells them that they’re not going to be alone. They have a point of contact while you’re out. All is well.
Train Your Team
If your team already does all the same things you do - great. You’re ahead of the game. But, if you do some exclusive work for a client, you’re going to need to train someone to do that work while you’re gone. Start early. Start slowly. Do not dump three years worth of knowledge on someone the day before you leave.
You might not be able to train them in everything, so pick key tasks. And, the week before you leave, have them do all of them. Why? Because you’re there. You can supervise. You can answer questions. And they don’t feel overwhelmed and left adrift in a sea of confusing work.
BUT I DON’T HAVE A TEAM. IT’S JUST ME.
That’s okay. You’ll still do the first two steps. You’ll still inform your clients. You’ll still give them a plan of attack. But that plan will be different. You’re going to tell them that they need to have any requests in to you by a certain date prior to vacation, because you’re going to accelerate your work schedule. You are going to power through possibly doing twice as much work in half the time. But this just means you’ll be ahead for your clients and you can leave without having anything left in your To Do pile.
An alternative to slamming yourself is to ask a fellow freelancer/entrepreneur to help while you’re away. You have to be confident in your relationship with that person. You can’t feel like they’re going to steal your business. (Oh, she makes better cupcakes than me. I can’t give my clients her contact info!) Look, chances are, your clients aren’t going to have any requests while you’re gone. Because you told them you were leaving, so they aren’t going to want to contact you. So relax!
AFTER YOU GO
Leave everything behind. Leave your desk behind. Leave your email behind. Leave your phone behind. Leave your cupcakes, your cleaning supplies, your spreadsheets, your blogs, your everything. BEHIND. The whole idea of vacation is to VACATE. Why the hell are you bringing your work with you?
The first time won’t be easy. I remember the first time I left Frankie in charge. It was frazzling. Because YGF is my baby. And how DARE I leave my baby alone with someone who isn’t me? But you know what? It turns out Frankie was a damn good mother to YGF. It didn’t burn down. My clients didn’t leave. I didn’t get hate mail. Everything moved along well. Just as it should. Trust that the people you work with actually do good work. (After all, YOU hired them. Is your judgement bad?) :)
When I leave for vacations now, I say, text me if you need me, but I probably won’t have phone service. And that’s that. I don’t do anything with my electronic devices except take pictures for Facebook and play games in the car.
So, go. Take a vacation. You’ll enjoy yourself. You’ll feel better, and then you’ll come back and be better for your business and your clients.
Frankie and Andrea take turns sharing stories. Just good talk over a cup of coffee.