Tue 3rd Jan 2012, 23:22
When you work for yourself, can you take time off?
It's no simple task, but here are a few strategies from business owners who've managed to do it.
FORTUNE -- Not many job categories are growing in today's economy, but here's one that is: the number of workers calling themselves "free agents." According to temp staffing agency Kelly Services, more than four in 10 workers call themselves "free agents," feeling unattached, long term, to any employer. This is up from 26% in 2008. People flit between organizations and -- often -- spend significant time working for themselves.
There are many upsides to calling yourself boss. The downside? Every year, around the holidays, entrepreneurs learn (and relearn, as the case may be) that it's tough to take even a week or two off, let alone a longer absence, like a maternity leave or sabbatical.
While corporations dangle paid vacation as a perk, as James Sutton, a self-employed psychologist in Pleasanton, Texas puts it, "the self-employed person pays for their 'fun' twice: the cost of the time off, and the revenue lost from not working."
It's tempting to just keep grinding away. But that's counter-productive. Sutton claims that "some of my best ideas and marketing approaches came when my mind was refreshed and 'idle,'" and many other free agents report the same thing. Here are a few strategies for taking time off from business owners who've done it:
Plan ahead. Way ahead.
Figure out your 2012 travel plans by the end of 2011. Knowing your vacation times at least a few months in advance lets you build that lack of availability into your client proposals and plan your pipeline accordingly. Says Tim Parkin, president of Parkin Web Development in Orlando, Florida, "last minute trips make it difficult to adequately prepare and give notice to your clients. It's unfair to both parties."
Knowing your schedule ahead of time also lets you plan for some long days before and after, and arrange employee schedules with that in mind. Parkin notes that clients who learn of your vacation plans "might have immediate requests ('Can you do XYZ before you leave?'), which is why more notice is better."
Watch your business cycle.
If you run a retail business, forget about starting Christmas vacation before Christmas. Mark Aselstine, who co-owns a wine club called Uncorked Ventures with his brother-in-law, notes that "50% of our sales typically occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day." 2010 was their first in business, "and we didn't have a real plan and ended up, frankly, not doing a good job seeing family, or getting customer orders delivered in a timely manner."
This year, the rest of the family will start Christmas without them, and Aselstine and his brother-in-law will take off on the night of the 23rd. At that point, it's too late to get wine delivered before the 25th, and with January being a slow month for wine, they won't have to hurry back.
Meghan Ely, owner of OFD Consulting, a Virginia-based wedding marketing firm, took an eight-day trip to Ireland last September with her husband. "Prior to leaving, I trained one of my staff members essentially how to 'be me,'" she says, answering emails, taking the first few steps with prospects and the like.
Don't have staff? Doctors cover each other's shifts for vacations, and if you have a colleague you admire and trust, you could try referring work over there during your time off -- particularly if you plan to take a longer leave. You could also ask a trusted friend or family member to check your email and voice mail and call your hotel if anything disastrous happens.
Consider shorter, more frequent breaks.
Gaurav Sharma, who now runs the startup RightBuy.com, used to run a web consulting company. "I took a week off last year and even though I planned it well, a few clients were frustrated," he says, and did not become repeat customers. Now he sticks to long weekends.
Others squeeze in a week by thinking outside the usual calendar categories. Tim Pacileo, owner of TheBoardRoomAdvisors, a marketing firm, often takes his vacation from, say, Wednesday to Wednesday. If clients think on a weekly cycle, this allows you to never actually skip a week. "It's easier on my customers and doesn't affect my income stream as much," he says.
Schedule short "work breaks" on your vacation.
Brad Friedman, an attorney who now works in social media marketing, says that "My type-A personality wouldn't possibly let me completely shut down for an entire week." So what he does is "set a schedule before I leave town. That schedule provides me with some time every day, or every other day, to check email and phone messages. I try to limit this 'work time' to no more than an hour a day. Frankly, this tip helps me relax on the vacation much more than if I would try to totally cut myself off from work for a whole week."
But even keeping all this in mind, happy business owners say that you sometimes just have to go for it. Taking time off is a risk, but so is running a business in general. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of the consulting and marketing firm Mavens and Moguls, took a month off for her 40th birthday, staying in a rustic farmhouse overseas that had no Internet access or cell phone reception. She told everyone months ahead of time, and then just went. She enjoyed the experience so much that she and her husband will be taking another month off to go to Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
"Not a milestone birthday for either of us but just a way to celebrate our lives," she says. She and her husband have lost several relatives in the past few years, and the lesson they are drawing from it is to "not … wait for an excuse to take time off" -- even if it takes some effort to scale back up when you return.
By: Laura Vanderkam
Wed 4th Jan 2012, 19:03
This is a good read especially for both self-employed people and those who are employed into a company. A good heads up that mant really a god thing in determining how much can you really get on from a time off on your job, self-employed or not.
Thanks anyway for sharing.
Wed 4th Jan 2012, 20:39
I used to feel guilty about taking time off but after I did start I felt great & now I take breaks on a regular basis. My mind now feels refreshed & it's not so hard & frustrating for me to think clearly. Also when you take time off & relax you appreciate working for yourself even more.
Sat 28th Jan 2012, 23:05
Ill tell you this from experience. If you do not take time off you will fail. It is a MUST.
and a friend (who also owns his own business) said to me "if you cant take a week off and come back to your business and it is running exactly the same, you don't have a business, you have a job"
Think about that for a second...so true!
Mon 13th Feb 2012, 13:55
When you take off, it is like restarting a computer - letting it rest for a while so that it can work faster for you the next time you open it. As simple as that.
Tue 14th Feb 2012, 00:20
Totally agree. Re charging the batteries always is a good thing. You will come up with better and new ideas and you will be more enjoyable to the people who work around you!
Originally Posted by Alexander P.
Mon 26th Mar 2012, 06:22
I've been working for myself for almost a whole year now and I've taken quite a lot of time off I think. It all depends on my earnings though. If I've sorted out my clients' problems then I will take some time off for myself or to spend with a loved one. But on the days that I do work, I spend many hours (most of the hours of the day) working and I definitely do "overtime". But it all pays off.
Thu 29th Mar 2012, 14:03
Well initially to establish yourself as a reliable, skillful and value providing agent, you need to put in those long hours with out taking a break. But once you are established then you can enjoy your vacation for certain period every year.
Fri 30th Mar 2012, 16:35
Thanks for sharing this article Kacie.
The most important thing in business is to systemize. I call it KNN and it stands for 'Krisz Not Needed'
Of course you first have to work a lot, gain experience and learn from the tons of mistakes you are going to make during this process. But if you focus on systemizing your business - on the long-term it will pay off. It did for me!
Fri 30th Mar 2012, 18:34
I find it easier to take time off now with all of the electronic communications available - smart phones in particular - but it is harder to keep work from creeping into free time. Free time is never very free any more.
Fri 30th Mar 2012, 23:59
When starting any kind of business it is safe to say that you will be working more hours than 40 in a week. This is if you are very serious. Once you establish yourself you can take some time off. Working for yourself is an American Dream. It is not easy but once you can do it, it is very rewarding. I think the key to life is balance. It can be easy to fall into the category of all work no play. So the question when you work for yourself can you take time off? Well, this is why we work. LOL
Wed 11th Apr 2012, 17:46
It also helps in preventing to be burned out with your business or work. I had seen a lot of people burned out of their jobs and businesses and most of them failed.