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Many people dream of being self-employed. Choosing your own hours, working from anywhere in the world, taking days off whenever you like. What’s not to love, right?

Sadly, like most things in life, self-employment isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Yes it certainly has some huge advantages, but there’s also the real risk of burnout and other mental health problems. In fact, self-employed people often work longer hours than their salaried counterparts.

After all, growing your business and keeping your customers happy is the name of the game. But at what cost to your health?

Taking time off when you’re self-employed, whether that’s for a day or for a holiday, is often far from easy, even for essential stuff like jury duty. When work comes in it’s seriously tempting to grab it with both hands to help cover any lean months. And we all know the cost of living is spiralling.

It’s all about getting the right balance, so we’ve put together this article to help.

Why is it so important to take time off when you’re self-employed?

Setting time aside to chill out when you work for yourself is extremely beneficial. The trouble is, it can be difficult to remind yourself just why it’s so essential to take a break when you’re self-employed and juggling everything. Trust us, you need to rest.

It helps prevent burnout

When you own and run a business, its very survival is down to you. And to be honest, it’s not just you that you need to think about either. Employing staff and promising projects to clients is a massive financial and mental responsibility.

There often aren’t enough hours in the day, what with finding clients, building your brand, running your marketing campaigns and simply paying the bills. The stress is real.

When there’s a lot on your mind it’s easy to become mentally exhausted or suffer a lack of sleep. If you’re also potentially not eating or exercising enough, you probably aren’t functioning at your best.

This can make you grumpy and sleepy, perhaps taking it out on those around you. Eventually you may well have a meltdown, damaging relationships with employees, clients and loved ones. Book that holiday first.
 

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It makes way for creativity

Do you often find your best ideas hit you out of the blue when you’re soaking in the bath or lying in bed? That’s because your blood pressure is lower, and your mind isn’t working at a million miles an hour.

Whether it’s a staycation or heading off to a tropical island somewhere, the best way to get your creative juices flowing for your business again, is by taking time away from it. You’ll likely come back refreshed and brimming with new ideas.

It encourages important team development

If taking time off doesn’t sit that well with you, think of it as an altruistic way of benefitting both your business and the people around you.

As a business owner it’s easy to try and do everything yourself and hold back on delegation. But if you employ staff or work with other people in the business, having a holiday actually gives them the opportunity to prove themselves. It’s a chance to boost their own professional development, whilst helping you feel more confident about time away in future.

Peace of mind tends to breed peace of mind, so when you’ve trusted your team once, you should want to trust them again. Because let’s face it, trust is important – and nobody likes a micro manager.

Organising down time when you’re self-employed

When it comes to the practicalities of organising some down time, it’s first important to actually give yourself permission for a break! Don’t submit to an attack of guilt.

You work hard, you deserve (and need) a rest, whether that’s kicking back at home or jetting off somewhere sunny. Taking a week or two off work shouldn’t bring your business to a shuddering halt, although you might need a little preparation.

When’s the best time to take time off when you’re self-employed?

When you run your own business, getting the timing right when booking your holiday matters. Although it’s you that needs the break, for your own peace of mind it’s also important to balance this against what’s happening in the business.

Heaving busy in the summer but quiet in the winter? Pick a time that means you don’t miss out on too much work.

 
Bear in mind too that employees with young children might want to have time off in the summer holidays or at Christmas. So, you might want to consider any clashes and avoid too many staff off at once while you’re away.

Depending on the sort of business you run, you might find it useful to manage the work you take on in the run up to a break, or to let potential clients and customers know when you’ll be back.

That way you won’t have to turn away work or refuse sales if they’re happy to wait for your return, when normal service or shipping can resume.

How do I tell clients I’m taking time off?

Switching off your phone for a week or two might seem a tad unrealistic if you’re self-employed, but constantly taking calls and answering emails rather defeats the object of a break at all.

A good way to get some kind of a balance here is to let suppliers, staff, and clients know as far in advance as possible – and doubly so if you work with a business partner!

A straightforward email usually does the job, but if you’re in the middle of a particular project it might be worth a quick phone call too.

 
Even if you do plan to dip in and out to keep an eye on things, giving your clients a heads-up will help to manage expectations, so they know what’s happening if you’re slower than usual to respond to messages. This is particularly useful if you’re heading off to a far-flung paradise in a different time zone.

Before heading off, set up an automatic out-of-office email reply to direct queries to anyone else that may be able to help in your absence, or to let them know when to expect a response

Clients might need a few reminders that you have a holiday planned – especially if it’s a longer one – so remind them in the run up too.

Call in back-up

When your business is your baby, it’s tempting to take on all the work and letting go of the reins may not be something that comes naturally. In the days leading up to your break, you may feel even more inclined to rush and get everything done yourself, but actually this only adds to your stress about leaving.

Get additional business support from wherever you can, not just while you’re away but in the run up to it as well. This may in the form of extra temporary staff for example, or outsourcing some work to freelancers. Not only can this lighten the load, but also helps you build useful contacts for next time you need a break.

Automate your social media and online presence

Modern technology is a wonderful thing and has provided us with some brilliant inventions such as WordPress and Hootsuite that enable us to schedule our workloads ahead of time.

Just because you’re taking some time out doesn’t mean your blog posts or online visibility should suffer! Take a couple of hours to schedule some posts to keep up with your marketing plan and ensure everything carries on ticking over while you’re sipping on sangria.

Get ahead of deadlines

If there’s one thing that’s sure to take the shine off a day in the sun, it’s realising you’ve forgotten a deadline. So, if you know there are deadlines looming during your holiday, get one step ahead by meeting them – or moving them – before you go.

If you have any accounts that need submitting or any payments that need processing for example, get them done before you even start packing and it’ll be a weight off your mind. Check any accounts or other deadlines, such as for Self Assessment, too – especially if you tend to submit returns a little last minute. You don’t have to wait for the deadline to submit your tax return!

Do a test run

This may seem a pretty daft idea or a waste of time even, but conducting a trial run can go a long way to ensuring you have peace of mind and confidence if you’re planning a longer break.

Even just testing your out-of-office automated email response, or switching your online store on and off, is useful. This will highlight any issues or obstacles that might rear their ugly heads in your absence and enable you to rectify them before the real deal.

Prepare for the worst

Planning ahead is always useful in a business, helping to identify possible pain points before they’re an issue, and opportunities for growth which might otherwise be missed.

In terms of taking a break from your self-employed work, preparing for the worst-case scenario can help to minimise any business disasters that will need clearing up when you return!

And relax…

Having nightmares about your business crashing and burning while you’re away? The chances are it won’t.

Taking a break or a holiday when you’re self-employed does mean a little more planning and prep than it perhaps would otherwise. But your mind and body need it, because burnout is brutal.

So, take some deep breaths, get a few (or all!) of these tips put in place and start planning your time off. There’ll be plenty to do when you get back.

 
While you’re busy relaxing (and when you’re not) our online accounting services can make managing your business much easier. Call us on 020 3355 4047 or get an instant online quote.

About The Author

Rachael Anderson

A creative content writer specialising across business, finance and software topics. I have a love for all things writing, and creating engaging, easy to understand content that helps everyday people! Learn more about Rachael.

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Joseph Oliveira
Joseph Oliveira
9th May 2023 10:10 am

Love this! Super important!

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