Over the last few years, holidays have been more like hard work – and not just because I now have two kids in tow.

Running my own business was stopping me from taking some serious time out. Blending work and life is all well and good when I need to squeeze in the school run, but not when I want to escape the need to squeeze things in at all.

As a soloist, I usually spend a few sleep-deprived weeks madly finishing projects off pre-holiday, turn the email onto auto-reply, change my voicemail message, cross my fingers and then spend the month after my holiday ramping things up again. That’s if I don’t just take the laptop with me and finish things off while I’m supposed to be spending time with my family.

So this year, when we decided to escape winter for four glorious weeks in Europe, I spent more time working out how to leave work at home then I did booking flights and planning our itinerary.

Turns out I probably should have spent more time on that last issue. But I’m glad I invested some serious thought in the first.

I’m happy to report that when I got home I didn’t have 5,000 emails to trawl through, but I did have a calendar full of scheduled work and new business meetings, plus some well-organised new project briefs.

Want more articles like this? Check out the work-life-balance section.

This was a complete revelation to me, and a turning point for both my business and our family vacations. Here’s what I did differently this time:

1. Outsourced my client management

Since I now run as much of my business as possible through the cloud, my talented virtual assistant (VA) started managing my email and calendar the moment I left for the airport.

Instead of receiving an auto-reply saying that I’d be away for weeks, any clients who contacted me got a quick and personal response from my VA.

2. Set up some new processes

I set up a briefing template and schedule of fees for clients so my VA could get the ball rolling with any new jobs that came in the door.

No more vague verbal briefs with twenty different emails and attachments for me. From now on these new processes will streamline the quoting process whether I’m handling it personally or delegating it to her or someone else.

3. Set expectations with my team

Unlike many soloists, I actually do have some back up. The only thing is, the writers I partner with are on the other side of the world, and my clients shouldn’t have to worry about boring details like time zones. Having my VA in Sydney act as the point of liaison between my writing team and my clients made a big difference and they were able to sort out some new projects in my absence.

4. Set expectations with my clients

I made sure that all my clients knew I was away, but that there was someone here to help them with anything they needed. Actually, in most cases they were happy to wait until I got back. It turns out four weeks isn’t really that long after all.

So now I’m back to reality, and my business hasn’t missed a beat. And of course it was lovely to spend time roaming around vineyards without worrying about iPhone roaming charges. I’m so inspired that I think I’ll go away more often.

How do you keep business humming along when you’re on holidays? Please share your tips and secrets for handling holidays when running your own business.

“ As a soloist, I usually spend a few sleep-deprived weeks madly finishing projects off pre-holiday. ”
 
Sara Howard

Sara Howard runs Writers Australia, a group of experienced copywriters who help businesses of all sizes get their message across clearly, and persuasively.

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