How to have a summer holiday when you run your own business

Taking time off when you’re self-employed and run your own business is often tricky.

There’s no such thing as holiday pay, for one thing, and your clients may expect you to be at their beck and call, regardless of whether you are in London or Lisbon. Here are our tips for summer holiday survival.

Get your request in early

Sharon Pocock, principal accountant at Kinder Pocock accountancy firm, says you should plan as far in advance as possible and make sure you get your request in early. “I once had a difficult situation once where an employee in a managerial role had booked and paid for holiday before requesting it. It was the week I always have off for my son’s birthday, and one of us needed to be in. She would not back down either!”

Plan your workload and targets

“Sometime you’ve just got to accept that you won’t get as much work done in August when everyone is away, especially if you have children and limited childcare but you should try and plan your workload around this,” Pocock advises. “I flex my firm’s monthly targets around holidays too so they are generally a bit lower over the summer holiday season.”

Take your kids to work

Pocock, who has two sons, aged 15 and 11, says if you are stuck for childcare, you could even take your children to the office. “I sometimes take the boys to work for short spells,” she notes. “They love it as they have their own desk all though they are getting a bit older now and the novelty has worn off a bit. It means I can get them to actually help out a bit more now though!”

Manage your client’s expectations

Paula Hutchings, director at Marketing Vision Consultancy, says managing people’s expectations is crucial when it comes to taking time off. “Advise your current clients well in advance of the dates that you will be away (at least two months) – so that they can schedule their projects in accordingly.” Explain that you will have access to email while you’re away, Hutchings says, but try and schedule in as much as you can before and after.

Block out some extra time in your diary before you go

“Last-minute projects always seem to crop up just before the summer holidays. Every single year!” says Hutchings. “Try and make a few allowances for that, by arranging extra childcare or rescheduling social events.”

Hire a virtual assistant

Zoe Whitman, founder of But The Books accountancy & bookkeeping firm, says: “Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) who can keep an eye on things for you and give you an update when you need it will give you peace of mind that everything’s in hand while you’re away.” If you’re not sure where to look for a good VA, ask your contacts to suggest someone. “I got a couple of recommendations through a networking group I belong to,” Whitman says.

Switch your phone off

Rest, as they say, is as important as hard work and nothing ruins a holiday more than taking a business call on the beach. “If you’re feeling brave, turn off your phone,” says Whitman. “It’s hard to do, but in my recent week away it helped to keep reminding myself that nobody ever died from having an accounting query. If you record a voicemail message which about when you’ll be able to return a call, your clients will hopefully forgive you. In fact, at this time of year, they’re probably thinking of taking a holiday themselves.”

Make sure everything is up to date

“I always try and ensure my invoicing is fully up to date before going away,” says Hutchings, “and plan out and write my content marketing materials (blog, social media etc.) ahead of time and schedule what I need to.”

Be honest with yourself

If you have your children at home for six weeks, be honest about the amount you can actually get done in that time, says Claire Owen-Jones, founder of Loud and Clear Accounting. “Accept that it will probably be less than normal, due to the additional distractions of having the children at home. If you give yourself too big a list, you’ll only make yourself stressed and feel as though you are underachieving.”

Go somewhere within a UK timezone

Caroline Pegden, co-founder of TempaGoGo recruitment agency, says she always tries to go somewhere with a UK timezone (such as Morocco.) “We always use a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) provider too so that we can receive and make calls using our 0207 number no matter where we are (even if it’s on the seaside and not in London,)” she notes.

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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