“Oh bloody hell, that’s a GREAT idea”. I was walking along a lakeside trail while on holiday in Boston with my family. My brain was idly turning over some problems I had with my business when suddenly an idea struck.
I quickly jotted down some ideas on my phone and then when back to enjoying the fresh air (I live on a main road in London, ain’t much clean O2 there).
Had I not been on vacation and giving my overworked mind a rest, I never would have solved my own problem.
It was like coming up with ideas in the shower, but over a period of two weeks and without getting wet.
Since starting the ‘I Want My Life Back Project’, I have been on a couple of vacations.
I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant about going as I knew it would mean time off from working on my business.
If you are in the same situation as I am, you are probably worried about a few things:
In the ultimate guide to taking a vacation as a solopreneur, why it is so important to take a vacation when you own a small business and how to set yourself up for success.
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It’s easy to fall into the ‘hustle’ trap. Where you think that you have to work 21 hours out of every 24 to get your business up and running.
I am not a fan of the hustle. I think it somehow ‘work-shames’ people into thinking they can’t have a balanced life if they have their own business.
If you don’t take proper breaks or give yourself enough time to relax, you could end up burning out. And then you can’t work on your business at all!!
It’s tempting to defer ‘happiness’ until the point where you feel your business is stable or successful (whatever that means to you).
If you have a family, the memory of the week’s vacation you took together will be so much more important than whether it took a few weeks longer to get your business going.
Or, if you are already profitable, even if you lose some revenue for a couple of weeks, assuming what you do earn can still sustain you, it isn’t worth missing out on time with loved ones.
If you keep thinking that you will automate your business ‘at some point’, going on vacation gives you a clear deadline for when you need to get this done by!
If you HAVE to get automated to be able to relax on vacation, then you will make it a priority.
It’s amazing how ideas come to us when we aren’t ‘working’.
Taking a step back allows us to see the wood for the trees and make some strategic decisions about our business.
Although it seems counterintuitive to stop working in order to generate ideas, it does actually work. As your mind wanders, your brain has the space to explore possibilities rather than being forced to think of a solution NOW.
This is really down to personal choice and cost. A few days off for a mini-break from your business can be great.
To truly unwind and test your automated systems, I personally think 2 weeks is needed. Again, this is up to you.
Vacations don’t have to be expensive. It depends whether you have the money to spend or not.
If you can’t afford anything fancy here are a few ideas:
I use the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (the fee is free for the first year and you get 20,000 airmiles if you spend £2k in the first 3 months). If you live in the UK, you can use my referral link to get an extra 2,000 airmiles.
If you live in the US then you can use the Mad Fientist credit card tool to find the best card for you. The tool is free to use.
When you do go away on vacation as a solopreneur, it’s really important that you actually switch off from work.
This can be hard to do as you are the only person working on your business and it’s your baby!
If you schedule most things in advance however you should be able to unplug for at least some of the time.
Judging by the 80/20 rule, only 20% of what you do results in 80% of the income you make. Be ruthless in what you really need to do while you are away.
Seeing how many likes you got on Instagram isn’t going to make or break your business so you don’t need to check it while you are away (Note to self!).
Here are some ideas on how to unplug properly:
Ah, now this is what is going to make the difference between a relaxing holiday and you just working from a different location.
If you publish regular content on a blog, youtube, podcasts or social media, you will need to get this all done in advance.
I would recommend making a plan for this at least 2 months out from your vacation.
For example, if you publish a podcast twice a week and you will be away for 2 weeks, you will need 4 podcasts scheduled and ready to go before you leave for your vacation.
There are a number of different tools and apps that can be used for scheduling.
For blog posts, you can schedule in WordPress. Youtube videos can be scheduled on the platform.
For social media there are loads of tools to choose from. Here are some that I use and others that come recommended by others.
I used Hootsuite for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as I like that you can see all of your posts on a calendar. They also support LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, WordPress and Pinterest.
I don’t use Hootsuite for Pinterest and Instagram as I already have a paid plan with Tailwind. Tailwind is primarily for Pinterest but I am currently on the free trial for Instagram.
The great thing about Tailwind is that generates the best posting times according to your reader engagement.
You can also access Tailwind Tribes which allows you to post your content to groups of people in similar niches so you get your content shared by others.
Buffer is another scheduling app that has a free plan if you want to have a look at that one.
I have heard great things about IFTTT (If this then that) which allows you to automate specified actions between devices. For example, you can set up IFTTT to send a Tweet whenever you post an instragram photo.
Before you go away on your vacation, you’ll be producing a lot more content than usual in order to get ahead.
Repurposing content simply means, taking what you have already produced and turning it into content on another platform.
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel though. If you already have blog posts, can you turn these into Youtube videos?
If you have Instagram posts, can you post these on Twitter?
Have a look at all the content you have produced and see how you could use it in a different way.
If you can afford it, this could be the perfect time to start outsourcing parts of your business.
Like setting up systems to automate certain tasks, going on vacation can sometimes MAKE you do the things you’ve been putting off!
Time-consuming admin work that could be outsourced could really free up time for vacations or more productive tasks once you get back.
Chris Ducker talks about the 3 lists to freedom when deciding what to outsource first. He says to get a piece of paper, divide it into 3 columns and then make 3 lists according to the below. Then find a VA or team members to do whatever is on these lists!
Femtrepreneur had Chris on as a podcast guest talking about outsourcing (and personal branding) if you want to have a listen.
If you do decide to outsource, get someone in at least a month before you go. You want to make sure you are happy with them.
It would be a disaster to have them start right before you go and then realise they are rubbish!
If you have the money you might want to test out a couple for a week and choose the best one.
When you are planning your content or social media in advance, give yourself an extra buffer.
By this I mean create additional content or posts for an extra few days or even a week after you get back.
Don’t just schedule in content for the time that you are physically away.
Jetlag is a bitch. If you’ve been anywhere long haul you are not going to want to spend your first day back doing something taxing with a tight deadline.
You’ll also probably have a mountain of washing and life admin to sort too!
Giving yourself an extra few days breathing space will allow you to ease back into your business with a lot less stress.
To make sure you don’t schedule anything in while you are away, block out the time in your calendar. If your business has clients, you can use free software such as Calendly.
This not only automates your client booking system but also means you can block out times, days or weeks when you are unavailable.
If you have regular clients, set the expectation from the beginning that you take ‘X’ number of weeks vacation a year.
Everyone needs a break so any regular client should understand that there will be a reasonable amount of time with you are unavailable.
With advanced warning, you can work out a plan with them to make sure the essentials are covered.
Before you go away, set up an out office email to set the expectations for anyone trying to contact you.
Even better, why don’t you put a list of FAQs on your ‘out of office’ to deal with any common questions or queries that come up?
With the best planning in the world, sometimes things do go wrong.
Make sure you have access to everything on your phone or laptop so you can quickly deal with any issues.
Keeping all files on DropBox or all planning documents on Google Drive means you can access them anywhere without a problem.
With the right level of planning, you can have a stress-free vacation as a solopreneur without your business plummeting through the floor.
The key is to view a vacation or break as an important element to running a business. The quality of your output will be that much better if you are refreshed and relaxed.
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