Most people take time off from work, especially around the holidays and especially with the pandemic, a lot of businesses had to close their doors for months.
But what can you do when you're the only employee or when stepping away from your business just feels completely impossible?
No worries, you can take time off as a business owner and beyond that, you owe it to yourself to take of some time.
We know you care deeply about your business, you wouldn't be working so hard if you didn't. But occasionally stepping away from work is a very important aspect of building a sustainable company. And with a bit of planning beforehand, your business should still be standing when you get back.
If you never take time off, how will you feel about your business in three months? Over three years?
There’s nothing worse than investing all your time and energy to build a business from the ground up, just to burn out because you couldn’t add time for rest. Your business does depend on your time, but your enthusiasm for it depends on your time off.
What counts as vacation or time off?
Before you can plan your vacation or time off, you need to decide what time off will look like to you.
Maybe you want a full week or two off or maybe you just need a weekend away from your business to recharge. Maybe vacation or time off just means a break from most tasks, but you’re happy to spend an hour or two every day handling shipping and email replies.
The duration and structure of your vacation are entirely yours to decide, and based on those two choices, you’ll know how much you need to prepare.
To prepare for your time off, you will need to try and find a balance between the two main ways to carve out time away from your business. Hiring short term help and automating as much as you can.
Streamline your processes to create time off
Maybe help just isn’t an option, either hired or bartered. That doesn’t mean every day has to be a twelve hour work day or that you can’t work some downtime into your routine, especially around the holidays.
Automate your routine tasks
Automation can take care of routine tasks for you or take them off your plate entirely for a set amount of time.
Each task you automate is one less thing you have to do while you’re trying to carve out downtime and while there are some tasks that will still need your attention. You’ll be able to scale down your work hours if you need a break.
Update your customer-facing information
Your customers are reasonable people and they will understand that everyone needs a vacation. Telling them in advance that you’ll be taking a break goes a long way when it comes to creating time off for yourself.
Once you’ve decided what your vacation or time off is going to look like and how it will impact your customers, you can set the right expectations before you leave for your much needed break.
Make sure any communications include:
How it’ll affect their orders and interactions with you
What they should do now
How long you’ll be away
If your away for two weeks and all orders are scheduled to ship out the day after you get back. Your communication plan to customers might look like:
An email to your newsletter or customer list filling them in on the details
A fixed banner on your store announcing that all shipments will go out on the day you get back
A short sentence on the cart
Updates to your social media profiles
You won’t need to put all the info in every update, but it might make sense to set up a blog post or frequently asked questions. That way, you can easily link to one place for complete information.
Offer incentives for vacation or time off orders
Not being able to pack up and ship out orders as soon as possible is one of the most nerve wracking things about stepping away from your business even for one day. After all Buy now, ship later! isn’t the most costumer friendly call to action.
That said, it is possible to keep the orders coming in, even if they won’t ship out for a week or two while you’re away that’s what promotions, discounts, and bonus offers are there for.
As you’re informing your customers to let them know you’ll be off for a few days or weeks, explain that while orders won’t ship out until you’re back, they’ll receive a discount or a free gift by ordering while you’re out of the office.
Make sure you’re clear on when orders are eligible for the offer and what specifically they’ll receive. If it’s a discount, you can make it even easier on them by setting up a shareable discount link ahead of time to apply the discount to their cart automatically.
Hire short term help
Whether this is your first time hiring help or you already have trusted employees on call, there are a few steps that can make introducing someone to your business much easier.
Outline and document your processes
Depending on what you want handled by your new employee, you’ll need to get your knowledge about those tasks on their to do lists.
Consider each task you’re going to hand off, and map out what needs to be documented ahead of time. That might include:
Customer service. Do you have any policies that live in your head, like always offering a hassle-free return for new customers, no matter what?
Shipping. What gets included in every order? How quickly do orders make it out the door? Are there any tricky issues they should watch out for?
Social media. Do you have any standard guidelines for figuring out whether something is on brand for you to share? Do you swear on social media? Do you handle customer issues there, or direct them to email?
Save time for training
Documenting all your processes is excellent, but if you’re bringing in someone new to hold down to run your tasks, nothing replaces one on one time walking through each task with the expert.
Take a few hours with your new employee to walk through everything before you take off.
You don’t need to take a crash course in teaching to get them caught up. Instead, you can a quick run through.
For each key task, show your trainee how you’d do it, have them do one themselves, and then have them “teach” it back to you to explain the process. Multiple studies have shown that people learn best when they’re actively involved, and this framework helps you get them involved in the tasks they need to know.
It might be the difference between panicked calls about how to handle customer service issues and uninterrupted time off.
Get major tasks off your list ahead of time
There’s only so much you can expect someone to manage when they’re new to your business. You should aim to finish up anything major ahead of time and do everything you can to make sure your time off will be business as usual.
Restock popular items, make sure your shipping supplies are fully prepared and don’t plan any major announcements, campaigns, or events right before you leave.
Can’t afford to hire? Try a swap instead.
Not enough funds to hire help? That doesn’t mean you can’t find help to handle things while you’re away.
Turn to your community and other business owners and see if anyone would be willing to do a swap. If they can handle your shipments and customer service while you’re off, you’ll do the same when they need a break later in the month.
Plan for the financial implications
Whether you’re hiring new help, planning for a slow down in orders or offering discounts to keep the orders coming in while you’re away, there’s one constant. All of these things will impact your business finances.
Which isn’t a reason to skip your vacation! But just like you’d plan for the financial implications of a vacation in your personal budget, you should think about how it’ll impact your business's budget too.
If you’re spending money to hire short term help, ask them for a quote ahead of time. They may request payment by the hour or quote a price upfront for full service during the time you’re away, both of which can work, but if it's hourly, make sure to plan for contingencies in case they extend the time of work past what was normally expected.
And if you’re offering a discount, bonus or a free gift to encourage orders during a shipping shut down, make sure you understand the margins before making any decisions. You’ll still need those orders to be profitable when they’re placed.
You deserve a vacation
Whether you’re preparing for a few days off over the holidays or even planning for a two week travel getaway. With a bit of planning your business will still be standing when you get back.
Beyond everything, you’ll feel refreshed, rested and ready take your business to the next level. You’ll also be on your way toward creating a sustainable company that can allow you the possibility to take regular vacation breaks in the future.