For many of us business owners, the holiday season doesn’t necessarily mean more Christmas music and hot cocoa while we work. Rather, it means fighting overwhelm and incredibly busy schedules as we frantically try to tie up all the loose ends from the entire year while also mapping out our content for the year ahead and buying all the Christmas gifts…it’s exhausting.
And despite all of this, I’m smack dab in the middle of my first business sabbatical. This year, I decided that spending precious time with my friends and family was more important to me than trying to get ahead for the last few weeks of the year. All that being said, I knew taking this time off wouldn’t be easy. It’s arguably the busiest time of the year, and I worried what my clients would think. But taking time off from work is never something that will be easy or convenient- it’s something you must make time for. It requires strategy. Therefore, one of my first calls was to my talented friend Cindy Maka, a business strategist who helps creatives fight overwhelm in their businesses. Below, Cindy is generously sharing insight on how to prepare your business for time off, and let me tell you- her advice is too important to miss!
Taking Time Off: A Guide to Preparing Your Clients and Your Business
Holiday season is upon us! For many, this is a season of overwhelm and frenzy as we try to finish the year strong and wrap up client work and projects. While taking time off for the holidays is something many of us want to do, too often we find ourselves working more than we’d like in the midst of the celebratory season. What would it feel like to be able to take some time off to be fully present with your loved ones, and not tied to your computer or phone? What would it feel like to come into the New Year rested and feeling in control? Let’s talk about a few things you can do to make taking time off possible. I’m sharing tips on setting boundaries with your clients that leave space for taking time off, and how to prepare well to disconnect. While these are organized by ideal timelines, don’t let that hold you back, you can adjust as needed!!
As soon as you know the dates you plan to be out the office:
Clear and block your calendar for vacation dates. If you have calls or appointments already on the calendar for your scheduled vacation time, reschedule them right away. If you keep a calendar scheduling system like Acuity or Calendly – block off your vacation dates so no one can book on those dates.
While you’re at it – block off the week before and after vacation if you can, so that you’re not taking new calls and appointments. The week before leaving for time off can be hectic. You’ll need time to finish up current client projects, wrap up loose ends, and prep any biz content that will still be going out while you’re offline. After your vacay, you will need time to get back in the swing of things, so give yourself more space than you think you’ll need. If possible, try not to jump immediately into client work. Instead, give yourself a buffer of at least several days to catch up on business and administrative things like returning emails.
Set up a few things to streamline and automate where possible in order. A few great things to do are adding a FAQ section on your website, setting up a client management systems with automated workflows for new inquiries such as Dubsado* or Honeybook, and adding out of office dates to your email signature. Please note, this is an affiliate link for Dubado. While I may get a small commission if you purchase using my link, I only share resources I firmly believe in and trust. Dubsado is, by far, my favorite resource for entrepreneurs to manage clients, projects, invoicing, and automated workflows!
About month or more before:
Notify your current clients of out-of-office dates. Let new clients and your ongoing clients know the dates you will be gone on vacation. Together you can come up with a plan to make sure you meet deadlines and are on the same page.
Take a look at all current clients and projects and make a plan for meeting deadlines and wrapping up necessary projects before you leave. Set yourself some to-dos and get them on your calendar.
Outline a plan for your content (social media posts, blog posts, videos, etc) that needs to be published while you’re away.
When taking on new clients, let them know in advance that you’ll be out of the office. Be realistic about your capacity and availability, and communicate up front about your timelines.
Update your website’s contact page to include your current timeline for accepting new clients or projects and your out of office dates.
Two to four weeks out:
It’s time to finish up existing projects, and avoid starting with new clients or big projects. You don’t need client work or projects hanging over your head while you’re away. As needed, schedule in extra time each day or on weekends to work on them, so they can be completed before you leave. Trust me, it’s SO worth it!
If you’re getting new client inquiries, depending on the timeline of your work, you should consider avoiding taking on new client projects before your vacation. It is perfectly okay to kindly let them know that you’ll be happy to begin upon your return.
Write and schedule content to be published while you’re away – if you haven’t already.
One week out:
Shoot a quick email to your clients to remind them of your vacation. Be sure to clearly indicate the days you’ll be unavailable, your limited access to email, your response times, etc., but also let them know how they can reach you (or your team) in the event of urgent matters. Provide any resources that would be useful or helpful to them in your absence.
One or two days before shutting down:
Double check your calendar to make sure no new appointments came up accidentally. (It happens ;)) If so, kindly reschedule for after your return.
Change your voicemail greeting if needed, and schedule a vacation auto-responder for your email with the following information:
- The dates you are out of the office
- That you will have limited access to email or messages
- WHO clients canreach (with their email address) if they need to immediate assistance
- The time-frame in which they can expect a response from you or your team
- Also include links to resources to help them in the short term. Links to your shop, services pages, FAQs, calendar link, etc.
- You may get new client inquiries, so it can be helpful to specifically offer them a link to your inquiry form on your website, or another call to action for getting connected to you upon your return.
Now, stick to it and enjoy your time off!
Limit your computer and phone time. You’ve done the work to prepare, now enjoy your free time to be present with your loved ones (or yourself!) – they will be so thankful The rest and the break you get from disconnecting is invaluable.
Additional note if you have an assistant or a team:
Consider what you can delegate. If your business has clients who will need attention while you’re away, if you have a shop that will stay open, or you have tasks that must go on while you’re away, etc… have your assistant, your team, or someone in place to manage these things.
Things to consider:
- Who has what responsibilities while you’re away?
- Who will respond to new client inquiries or orders?
- Who will complete necessary tasks? What are those deadlines?
As needed, train them on these tasks several weeks before you leave so they are set up for success.
So, friend, I hope you’re going to take some steps to take time off for the holiday season. While these timelines don’t leave much room to prepare for this holiday season, know that you still have time! This guide can be used any time of year to prepare to take a vacation, sabbatical, or simply a few days off. To make it super easy, I’ve created a handy checklist for you to see at a glance what to do and when. Once you download it, you’ll have a simple resource to use for preparing to take time off in your business.
Meet Cindy Maka
I’m a business strategist and mentor for small business owners and online entrepreneurs who are ready to take immediate action to stop spinning their wheels, overcome overwhelm, and rise to the next level in their business.
After 20 years of experience managing businesses and people, and running my own brick and mortar business for 4 years, I’ve seen it all, been through it all, and learned strategies to help business owners grow their businesses with more ease.
You‘ll often find me wearing the hats of productivity and overwhelm coach, strategic problem solver, life+biz balance teacher, and overall calming presence. Maybe it’s the former yoga teacher in me?? 😉