Small business owners are some of the most passionate and driven people I’ve ever met. It’s an entire niche of builders and makers who are totally and completely dedicated to their work. They believe in it. And they have big, crazy dreams.
But sometimes life asks us to take a break; to step away and care for those around us; to recharge.
Sometimes you’ll have enough lead time to plan ahead. (Like, if you’re getting married or taking that big, European trip of a lifetime.)
But sometimes you won’t have that luxury and an extended leave could happen suddenly. (Maybe a family member becomes ill, your baby arrives early, or your own medical issue springs up.)
Here are a few ideas for how to prep your clients, your biz and yourself for an extended leave:
1) Give yourself the gift of planning ahead
If your break isn’t hitting suddenly and without warning, you’ll most likely want to consider some pre-planning. Since, for a lot of us, consistent blogging is what brings a lot of our site traffic, this is a good place to start.
In addition to writing and scheduling blog posts you’ve personally written, you could work with other solopreneurs and freelancers to book some guest bloggers for this period.
Leah Kalamakis did this recently with the Freelance to Freedom Project. When she took some time off for her wedding & honeymoon, she had Featured Writers whose posts published even while she was away. (Our very own One Woman Shop has already contributed this post and this one!)
If you’re not sure where to begin networking with potential guest posters, start by checking out: Freelance to Freedom Project Community, Freelancers Union Hive Groups, the monthly One Woman Shop Twitter Chat or The Careful Cents Club.
Another place you can plan ahead, should you have the luxury, is with finances. If you have the benefit of time, you may want to consider setting a portion of your money aside for a few months prior. That will give you a nice financial cushion when it’s finally time for your leave.
To help with finances while you’re away, evergreen sales are key. You could schedule blog posts or social media posts ahead of time that share your digital products or affiliate links with your audience. With this, you have the potential of generating income -- but, of course, this is a little riskier because how much you’ll earn isn’t guaranteed.
With planning ahead for a break, creativity is key. You can customize this by considering those parts of your biz that are prep friendly. When you’ve identified them, use your imagination to intentionally craft a strategy that will help your shop run while you’re gone.
2) Automate it, girl!
This one also depends on how much time and notice you have before your leave. If you do have some time, you may want to work on getting some automation pieces in place -- or better yet, set yourself up now, even without a long-term hiatus in the plans, so that when it does come up, you’re ready.
This could include things like: setting up recurring invoices; scheduling social media (editor’s note: we love Edgar!); installing and utilizing Gmail apps like Boomerang; setting up an email autoresponder that states your approximate return; scheduling newsletter campaigns; delegating a small budget for Facebook Ads for passive marketing of e-courses or products.
The benefit to automation is that the administrative pieces of your biz are still functioning -- even while you’re attending to life.
(My fellow One Woman Shop member Brittany provides a great tutorial on automation with IFTTT and Zapier here.)
3) Don’t be afraid to be human
Your clients are real people. Don’t be afraid to be super clear and honest with them. They’ll respect you for it! If you have the benefit of knowing about your leave in advance, tell your clients as early as possible.
If not, be sure to send over a quick email that has some clear details on your leave and your plan. That plan could include info on:
- Why you’re taking the break
- How you’ll handle meeting their deadlines
- If there will be any interruptions to their invoicing
Another way to ensure your clients are well cared for is to put a referral system in place. I use the Canned Response feature in Gmail to get this done.
I have pre-drafted emails with referrals for other biz owners, like copywriters and developers, who may have an opening to help the client. When a client asks for a service, I just click and send! (Most of my suggestions in my canned emails come from the One Woman Shop directory because I really trust my fellow shops there.)
It may also help to put a waiting list notification on your hire form on your website. That will ensure that you don’t burn any bridges if it takes you a few days to send a reply email to a potential client.
4) Look forward to creative bursts
When Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, took an extended paternity leave, he said that he found a ton of clarity around where to take his biz next.
To me, this feels akin to the idea of increasing your productivity with ambient background noise. (Like the philosophy behind Coffivity.) When we take some time to step away from the activity trap and the hustle and grind, we’re able to see things in a new way and experience biz breakthroughs that were impossible before.
5) Be kind to yourself
Make sure you’re gracious with yourself when you return. When you can, build in a few days or weeks to get back in the groove. If you have time before you step away, I suggest taking some time to get a clear productivity plan in place that you’ll follow once you’re back.
When you have jumped back in, try deciding on three MITs for each day -- Most Important Tasks. You’ll focus on completing those three things before anything else. Apps like 30/30 (which uses the Pomodoro technique) and Swipes (an easy-to-use to do list) can help you if productivity is a struggle at the start.
Easing back into your biz will make it possible for you to feel a sense of accomplishment every day -- even if you don’t accomplish those 100 things you had on your dream to-do list.
Now, I want to hear to from you! What are some other ways you’ve prepared for an extended leave from your biz?
Want more tips + tactics for maintaining your solopreneur sanity? We've got you covered. Just released: The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, inspiration and action for finding the intersection of productive and sane to maximize your time working so you can maximize your time living. Ready, set, sanity!
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