How to Take a Vacation When You Work for Yourself

November 19, 2012

Working for yourself doesn’t come with paid vacation, and it can feel difficult to get away.

Taking time to relax and recharge.

Taking time to relax and recharge.

Self-employment gives you control over your schedule, which means you can organize your work around your life (rather than the other way around) and take time off when you need it. But if you want to take off more than a day or a weekend, it gets tough, especially if you have clients. And when you work in the 24-hour social media sphere like I do, that must-always-be-available feeling intensifies, because a conversation or need could develop at any time on one of the blogs or Facebook pages or whatever social platform you manage.

Yet we all NEED to get away, to have time to recharge, especially if we truly want to produce quality work when we are at our desks. So how do you take a vacation when you work for yourself?

This week while I’m on vacation with family, I’m attempting a total email and social media detox. (And yes, I scheduled this blog post ahead of time.) You might laugh — how hard can that be? — but for me, it’s far from easy. My entire business runs online, not to mention much of my social life. So getting away for an entire week is a real challenge.

Here’s how I’m making it happen:

Do as much work as possible ahead of time

A lot of the work I do, including writing and editing blog posts, plus creating tweets and Facebook updates, can be done ahead of time. So I worked extra ahead of this vacation to complete as much as possible.

That’s one of the cool things about working for yourself — it often doesn’t matter when you do the work, as long as you do it well.

I also communicated ahead of time with my clients to let them know I’ll be available via phone if they need me, but away from email.


Also known as asking for help. I’m asking some of my assistants to do extra work this week, mainly keeping an eye on my accounts (and my own blog!) so I can get away without worrying about something going wrong. If something does need my attention, these helpers will let me know.

The trick to delegating is already having your team (even if that’s just one person) in place well before you want to take a break. That way you’ll trust them enough to actually be able to enjoy your vacation.

Don’t forget this will probably cost you some money, because team members who work extra will need to be compensated accordingly. But it’s worth it for your sanity! And it will ensure that taking some time off will mean a step forward for your mental health rather than a step back for your business.

Be super organized

Working for yourself, especially when you have a handful of projects and clients, requires serious organization. And taking a vacation on top of that means being even more organized.

That’s why one of the white boards in my home office reads: Email Detox. I jotted down everything I could do ahead of time, which responsibilities I’ll hand off to my team, and who I’ll need to communicate with about my break (clients, team, etc.).

I also managed to get my inbox to ZERO before heading out. It will still be overflowing and overwhelming when I return, but at least any action items won’t have been in that queue for more than a week.

Not only will being organized help me pull off this vacation, it will also make me feel like everything’s in place. Because if I don’t feel good about things moving ahead as normal without me, I won’t enjoy the time off.

Cut out anything that’s not absolutely necessary

If you look at your weekly responsibilities, there are probably a few things you can cut out without taking a major hit to your business.

For example, I’ll neglect my Google Reader, Twitter feed and personal Facebook profile during my vacation. Those things simply aren’t necessities.

And this sounds obvious, but avoid taking on any new projects just before you get away. This isn’t always something you can control, but do your best to take time off when you have fewer responsibilities than normal, not when you’re about to launch a big project.

Let everyone know you’re human

While it’s never easy to step away from a business you’ve put your heart into, most everyone will respect your need to get away from your computer, maybe even admire you for making it happen. And the more we make time off a priority, the more society — or at least our own community — sees it as normal.

One way to let people know you’re human and need time off even though you work for yourself is by creating an email away message that will make readers laugh or think. Rather than setting up an automated email response that includes the boring “I’m away from my email,” use it to show your personality.

Offer an away messages that’s funny or ironic, and anyone who writes you will remember you as an outside-the-box thinker. That can only help your brand and your business, right?

Have you managed to take time off even though you work for yourself? What tips would you add?

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