Can a solopreneur ever take a vacation?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenWhen summer time arrives, all your clients and customers start going on vacation. But what about you, the solopreneur? Do you ever get to take a vacation?

Of course you can, but it takes some careful planning. First of all, you need to find the time. There are many approaches to creating more time in your life and your business. You can defer projects until later in the year, hire helpers in your business or home, or delegate responsibilities to professional colleagues or family members. Any steps that reduce your business or personal workload can help you to begin carving out some vacation time.

If you do business primarily by appointment or by project, send your regular clients a note telling them you plan to be gone for a period of time. They can then arrange their schedules to work with you before or after your vacation. If your clients might need service while you are gone, consider referring them to a colleague whose work you respect.

You can return the favor when your colleague takes a vacation, or ask your colleague to pay you a fee for these referrals (unless your profession prohibits this practice). Leave a message on your voice mail or email autoresponse with the same information, so any new prospective clients will also know their options.

When your business is only you, you really need a back-up plan for more than just vacations. What would happen if you got sick or had a family emergency? Consider hiring a virtual assistant or contract employee, and training them to run your business when you are absent. There are many talented workers who don’t want or need a full-time job, such as students, homemakers, retirees, artists, writers, and musicians.

The key to worry-free vacationing can be to provide your helpers with advance training and written procedures. You could also ask a colleague to act as a temporary boss if your helper gets stuck.

Taking time off can also cost you money, of course. The financial impact may be lessened if you take your vacation at a traditionally slow time of year. For many businesses, this would be during the month of August, or between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

You should plan for the cost of vacation when you determine your billing rates, prices, or owner’s draw. To budget for three weeks vacation every year in a one-person business with no passive income, estimate your business income based on a 49-week year, and your business expenses based on 52 weeks.

The difference in your income will be about 6%, so consider increasing your rates or prices by a similar amount. Then put the extra money aside every month in a savings account until it’s vacation time.

You can reduce the cost of the vacation itself if you combine it with a business trip. According to the IRS, travel expenses within North America are fully tax-deductible when more than half your trip is spent conducting business, and a business day is considered to be any day when some business takes place. If you plan to meet with clients or colleagues for lunch or coffee while you’re traveling, you may be able to write off your whole vacation.

Sometimes the only thing that keeps business owners from taking a vacation is their belief that the business can’t function without them. If this sounds like you, try an experiment. Take a planned day off in the middle of the week, and see what happens. Then try taking two days in a row.

If everything goes well, you can then schedule a vacation with confidence. If something goes wrong, you will know what you need to take care of in advance.

Everyone needs time to relax and recharge, so choose a time for your vacation and just do it! Your business will benefit from having a rested and restored owner.

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