Understatement of the year: Running your biz is a big part of your life. But what happens if–or, more accurately, when–you need to take an extended break, either for a nice, luxurious vacation, maternity leave or health issues?
The good news is that with just a little planning, you can not only take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Barcelona (or get in all the baby snuggles) guilt-free, but you can also ensure your business operates smoothly–and makes money–while you’re away.
Already know you’re going to need a break from the biz in the near future? Here are the top eight steps to take to plan for extended time off:
1) Get Clear on What You Need to Survive (and Thrive)–and Start Saving
First things first, get clear on exactly how much money you need to live off of every month. What is your usual monthly salary? Also, make sure you’re clear on what your business needs to survive, too. What are your monthly businesses expenses? How much will it actually cost to proverbially “keep the lights on” while you’re living your best life?
If you know far enough in advance, one #protip is to start saving your monthly salary for 1-3 months. (You’ll obviously have to dip into other areas to do this, so always be sure to consult your own accountant.) Having a little extra cushion in your bank account–at least a month’s salary, but maybe more, depending on how much time you plan to take off–will help you feel much less stressed when you’re hanging on the beaches in Nice or waking up at 3a.m. to feed the newest addition to the family.
2) Decide What You’ll Do–and Won’t Do–While You’re Away
Now that you know what your financials look like, it’s time to get clear on what you’re actually going to do–and not do–during your time off.
You’ll want to take a look at everything you do each month (or however long you’ll be away). Make a list. What can you delay, delegate or stop doing altogether?
Do: What do absolutely need to continue to do during this time? What do you absolutely need to show up for? (This might be nothing, but keep in mind this may vary. In fact, the way your business is currently set up might mean you can’t completely walk away from work–at least not this time around. You might have to pop in to do a few things here and there. Don’t let this ruin your leave if it’s a reality–just embrace the fact that your workload will be significantly less heavy!)
Delegate: Is there anything you normally do that you can delegate to a team member? Maybe you normally craft social media captions, but entrust your VA to deal with all things social while you’re away, for example.
Stop: Finally, you’ll also want to see if there’s anything you can wipe away completely. Is there anything that you can let go of during this time (or heck, permanently)? Maybe you’ve been making daily TikToks for months but haven’t seen traction. Your extended time off might be the time to wave it goodbye for good.
3) Set Clear Expectations with Your Team
Once you know what help you need (and don’t!), it’s time to get that fantastic team of yours on board. Of course, you want to make sure they know the basics: how long you’ll be gone, who’s in charge of what and what their own responsibilities will be (and if that’s different from “business as usual”). You’ll also want to be clear about what they have the agency to do while you’re away (respond to your Facebook DMs, perhaps?) and what don’t want them to take on.
You’ll also want to let them know the best way to get ahold of you, and in what circumstances you’d prefer they do so.
Also: Think about what resources they’ll need to succeed while you’re away–from passwords to applications to the names of the specific marketing tools.
Don’t just rely on them to remember or take note of all this information, either. Be sure to compile it all in an easy-to-access doc. (Bonus: Once you’ve created this once, you can tweak it and use it anytime you need to step away from the biz!)
4) Automate Your Business Processes
Hopefully you’ve already got a few strategic processes in place. But if you don’t yet, now is the perfect time, friend.
You’ll not only want to put as many automation tools in place as possible–from scheduling apps to chatbots to automated bookkeeping software–you’ll also want to document it all.
Start by think about every separate area of your business, from lead generation to client and customer service to marketing. What can you set up to go out in advance (or have your team help you with)? This might look like everything scheduling a month’s worth of social media or emails upfront or putting together a new marketing funnel for a product that you plan to offer a limited time promotion on while you’re away.
Pro tip: Be sure to also set up an email autoresponder that lets anyone who sends you a message during your leave know you’re “out of office,” when you will be back and who they can contact in the meantime.
This will ensure your customers are taken care of on all the avenues they might potentially contact you. It all also ensure your team can focus on the essential tasks they need to–instead of popping into your inbox every 20 minutes.
5) Create a Backup Plan
In an ideal world, everything would go off without a hitch while you’re basking in sunshine or baby snuggles. That said, we do not live in a perfect world–so creating a backup plan is essential.
Who is second in command if something goes awry–like your right-hand VA gets sick? Who can step in if there’s a legit emergency (like your website’s been hacked) or if something unexpected happens (like your Facebook ad costs start skyrocketing)?
Think through the various scenarios, and make sure you’ve provided your team with exactly what their roles & responsibilities are–or who they can contact to help resolve a problem (like your web designer or Facebook ads manager’s contact information).
6) Communicate with Your Clients or Customers (If Necessary)
If you run a services-based business, you’ll obviously want to check in with any retainer or recurring clients prior to jetting off. Make sure they also know the basics: including how long you’ll be away and who to contact if they need to reach you. I suggest always making sure you have a ‘buffer’ in place between you & your clients’ while way–like a team member who can ‘screen’ whether this is a request worth bothering you with.
7) Set Realistic Goals
While your time off probably isn’t the best time to start a new marketing campaign or launch a new service, I get that life happens–and sometimes we need to step away without as much prep as we’d prefer.
In this case, do your best to set realistic goals–and/or re-evaluate any current goals. Setting realistic goals before you leave can help your team stay focused & motivated–and ensure your business stays on track (and focused on what you want to focus on) while you’re away.
8) Enjoy It!
It might feel like a lot of work when preparing for extended time away. That said, it’s even more important that you take time to truly disconnect from your business and rest and recharge while you’re away.
In short, planning for extended time off in your business is totally possible–especially if you have the right tools and teams in place. (And if you’ve been waiting for a sign to take that trip or staycation–here it is, friend!)