Early Exit #23: How To Take Time Off
I never felt guilty for taking time off until I started working for myself.
You’re reading Early Exit Club — a newsletter about leaving the 9-5 workforce to build a $20k/month solo business by Nick Lafferty.
Last time: Growing your (freelancing) sales pipeline
Next week : November finances 👀 📈
The Memorial Day holiday landed two weeks after I quit my job.
And it was the first time in my professional life where I felt guilty for taking time off.
My solo journey had only begun and here I was thinking about taking a day off to relax.
I had some passive income but I was not going to make enough to cover my expenses that month.
And I was constantly thinking about it:
“You haven’t earned this vacation yet”
“You’re not profitable yet”
“What are you doing???”
So for the first time in my career I worked over a major holiday to help quiet those thoughts and to also commit myself to do whatever it took to hit profitability.
I still believe I made the right decision by working that weekend, but I’m going to avoid doing that as much as possible from now on.
How to take time off
I asked this question in a very small Slack group I’m in with other marketing freelancers because the Early Exit Club community doesn’t yet exist 😏
As much as I love writing this newsletter based on my own experience, sometimes my experience falls short.
This is truly my first Q4 holiday as a full time solopreneur so I leaned on my network and I got some great advice (also a great lesson in that we’re never truly alone in this solopreneur thing).
I’ve collected everyone’s advice below and I’ll add my own takes:
Communicate your plans ahead of time (but don’t ask for permission)
Don’t feel like you need to reduce your rates
Holidays as a forcing function for succession planning
Communicate ahead of time
Give your client a heads up that you’ll be unavailable a few weeks ahead of time. Provide the dates and set expectations on communication, for example:
I’ll be completely out of office and won’t see anything until X date
I’ll still check in but responses will be delayed
I prefer doing these things in writing instead of casually mentioning them in a meeting where there’s no written record of it (for your client’s sake, they have enough going on and genuinely might forget to write it down).
A gentle reminder never hurts too:
"Hey just a reminder I’ll be out next Weds-Friday…”
I also like setting a Slack status with the same info:
I’ve chosen to give my clients my phone number in case of emergencies but this is entirely up to you. I also don’t have Slack on my phone to keep my work life separate from my personal life (highly recommend this).
But what if you bill your clients on a retainer model each month, should you preemptively reduce your November and December rates to account for it?
Don’t reduce your rates
Retainer-based pricing models come out on top when it comes to taking time off (I’m overdue to write my retainer model manifesto and the many advantages it has).
You can take that vacation and it doesn’t affect your income that month.
Here’s the important thing: you are a business.
And businesses have holiday hours.
This is a brilliant way to look at holiday scheduling.
You are a business whether you view yourself that way or not.
And there’s an expectation for businesses to close and have reduced hours over the holidays.
So don’t feel bad about taking time off and don’t reduce your rates.
It’s also a great time to pressure test your systems.
Holidays as succession planning
Sorry I don’t have a fancy screenshot for this one.
Holiday’s are the perfect time to pressure test the strength of your systems.
As the December holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah approach, pay attention to the type of work you do ahead of time.
What tasks do you find yourself working on to prepare for a holiday break? What questions are your clients asking you?
Use these to build a vacation to-do list for next year.
Then after you come back, do a quick vacation post-mortem.
Did things fall apart while you’re gone or did your client have enough information and documentation to handle things while you’re gone?
Did something new come up that you can better prepare for? Add it to the list.
One of my freelancer friends takes part of every Friday to work on their business.
It’s so easy to get caught up in serving our clients that we forget to build the foundation of our own house.
Take some time over the holidays to see if your current systems are really working for you.
Is there a better way to organize your tasks? Is it time to finally implement a new system? Or better yet, refresh your current systems?
Look, the only way to take time off is to actually do it.
Your clients will still be there when you get back.
And the act of taking time off will force you to think more critically about the systems and billing models you have in place today.
Maybe next year is the time you move everyone to a retainer model.
And I hope this was a friendly push in the right direction :)
Come back next week for my monthly finance update with a surprising increase in a non-consulting related income stream :)
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