How to take time off if you’re self-employed


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Taking time off when you’re self-employed is a challenge. Whether you’re jetting off on a tropical vacation for a week or enjoying a break for the holiday season for only a few days, stepping away from your business inspires guilt and stress.

How will things run smoothly without you? What if an emergency happens? Nobody is equipped to keep things functioning the way you do.

Time off is necessary for your physical and mental health, and there are several strategies you can put in place to enjoy a well-deserved break.

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1. Start Planning Your Time Off Early

The earlier you can start planning, the better. You need time to get organized before you disconnect.

If you’re a one-person show, give your clients and customers advanced notice about your upcoming absence and wrap up any pending work well ahead of time.

If you have employees, let them know you’ll be taking time off early so they can get familiar with and ask questions about the processes and tasks you’ll need to be covered.

Putting yourself in a time crunch ahead of your break will lead to a stressful vacation.

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2. Set Clear Expectations of Employees and Loved Ones

When communicating with your staff members about your vacation, give them the necessary details about your plans:

  • How long will you be gone?
  • Will you be checking in occasionally or totally unplugged?
  • Is there a protocol in place for emergencies?
  • Who’s their best point of contact in your absence?

Getting on the same page about these things will ease a lot of your concerns and anxiety.

In regards to your family members and loved ones, it’s equally important to set shared expectations about what your time off looks like, so that nobody feels blindsided. Are you planning to occasionally check emails or field calls even though you’re away? Let them know upfront to avoid irritation or hurt feelings.

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3. Carefully Consider the Timing of Your Vacation

Seriously thinking about when is the best time for you to step away from your business will save you a lot of unnecessary stress.

It’s unlikely you’d plan your Caribbean cruise for the busiest time of year, but you should make sure your vacation doesn’t coincide with other important dates for your staff or clientele.

Major holidays are trickier. You know your business better than we do, but it’s always worth asking, “is it necessary to stay open today?” If you’re in retail, it’s likely “yes” during the holiday season, but if you’re a contractor, it’s probably a hard “maybe.”

This is one good reason to stay on top of your overall financial data. If it costs more to keep the lights on than you will make in the day – take the time off. You’ll save yourself stress and money in the long run.

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4. Check in With Your Employees if You Have to

If you feel like you need to check in occasionally, there’s no shame in doing so. Even just taking a half an hour in the morning or evening to respond to emails can go a long way in calming your time off anxiety. That’s why over 58% of self-employed individuals between the ages of 18 to 54 state that they do some work while vacationing.

You don’t want to go overboard and work through your whole break. But, a few minutes here and there won’t hurt.

Again, the important thing is to make sure that the people with you are aware of your plans to stay connected, so they don’t feel ignored or deceived.

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5. Temporarily Close Up Shop

Did your chest get tight just reading those four words?

Temporarily shutting down seems counterintuitive, but it’s a realistic option for a worry-free vacation. You don’t need to obsess about your business running smoothly if it’s not running at all.

If you do plan to close up for a brief period, communicate about that early and often.

Let your current clients know that you’ll be out and for how long. Post signage if you have a brick and mortar shop. Publish reminders on your social media accounts. Even include a reminder in your email signature.

These frequent nudges ensure that you don’t take anyone by surprise and leave customers in a lurch. They have time to plan around your time away.

Of course, there are some risks involved. You won’t be earning any income and your existing customers might look for someplace new. But, it’s worth weighing those potential drawbacks if you really want some stress-free time off. (Check out our guide to working as a freelancer.)

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Take the Time You Deserve

Most business owners are convinced that their businesses will crumble in their absence, but that’s hardly ever the case.

Taking a vacation when you’re self-employed does require some thought and prior planning. However, you deserve your hard-earned time off—plus, your mind and your body need it. The stress resulting from being overworked can take its toll in the form of insomnia, depression, and reduced cognitive function.

So, take a few deep breaths, put some of these tips into action, and then enjoy some time away from your business. Relax—it’ll be there waiting for you when you return.

This article originally appeared on the Quickbooks Resource Center and was syndicated by

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