How to take time off without killing your business

Warning: this post contains swears. If you are easily offended, this article is not for you.

Have you been wondering when the hell you’ll be able to take some time off from this exhausting business you decided to start? Possibly wondering what demon possessed you when you decided to quit your job, your lovely lovely job where you could book time off?

You can’t just book a week off with your boss, knowing someone else will pick up the slack while you’re gone. Because without you, there is no-one to pick up the slack. You’re it. You are the picker up of slack.

But fuck, sometimes you just need a break, you know? But you feel like you can’t take one, because you’ll be letting your clients down, or what if somebody emails you and needs an IMMEDIATE RESPONSE OR ELSE. Or perhaps you just have too much work to do to ever consider being able to take a week off. Or maybe you feel like you can’t afford to take time off right now, because you’re barely scraping enough money together as it is.

Well, surprise surprise, I call bullshit! It’s totally possible. Here’s how:

Choose a good time to go

Are there times in the year that tend to be less busy for you, work-wise? Because, you know — those would be good times to go. Obvious choices are August and over Christmas, because that’s when your clients are likely to be taking time off too, but on the other hand, ugh, peak season. One of the great things about working for yourself is that you don’t have to go on holiday when everyone else does, amirite? Personally, I find January is an excellent time, because everyone’s being pretty sluggish about getting back to work and, at least where I live, it’s fucking cold outside. Perfect time to head to warmer climes. Unless you like the cold. Weirdo.

Honestly, the time of year you choose doesn’t matter a whole bunch – I mean, come on, what’s the point of working for yourself if you can’t decide when to go on holiday? – but if you’re a perpetual worrier, this could help alleviate your anxiety. There are other far more important factors to consider though.

Plan ahead

Sure, you probably shouldn’t just wake up one Monday morning and think, ‘Fuck it! I’ma take this week off.’ That would not go over well with your clients. Instead, you should actually plan when you’re going to go in advance. Giving your clients at least a month’s notice is a good call, because that will give them time to figure out how to work around you.


Am I starting to sound like a boy scout leader? Yes, you need to plan, and then you need to prepare for those plans. Just telling your clients you’re going to be away for a couple of weeks is not helpful. Well, it is, but there’s more to it than that. Once your clients know you won’t be available for those couple of weeks, they may want you to do extra work in advance.

But it’s also not a huge deal if you don’t want to take on the extra work. Just tell your clients you won’t be able to do any work for them over that period, and they’ll figure it out. Maybe you can recommend someone to take over for you during that period, or you can outsource the work. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you communicate everything with your clients so they know what to expect.

Also – and this may be obvious – you shouldn’t book any projects for the time you’ll be away. DUH, RIGHT? But seriously. Don’t do that. That would be silly.

Get help if necessary

Is there anything you can outsource while you’re away? Do you have a VA who can handle stuff for you? Your business doesn’t necessarily need to stop just because you do. Writing up some decent SOPs (standard operating procedures) may be a good idea. Could be a brilliant idea, in fact. (This is something you may want to consider doing regardless of whether you’re going away.)

Set up an out-of-office email before you leave

Setting up an out-of-office auto response email before you disappear for a week or two will help set your mind and rest and eliminate the need to check your email while you’re gone. Don’t forget to mention your away dates – how long you’re gone for, when you’ll be back, all that schtuff. Better than just saying, ‘SEE YOU LATER, FUCKERS! I’M IN BORA BORA.’ It’s also a good idea to test that it’s actually working before you ditch the office.

Set aside catch-up time for when you get back

You won’t just be able to dive into business as usual your first Monday back. You’ll have extra stuff to catch up on, like clearing out the influx of emails that built up while you were away. Also, you will probably be slow to get going again, because you’ve just had an awesome holiday and damn it, you don’t wanna do any work yet! Ease yourself in, amigo. Factor in breathing space when scheduling your first week back.

Remember you’re human

This is the most important one of all: remember you’re human. More to the point, remember that your clients know you’re human. Wow, wouldn’t that be weird if they thought you were like, some kind of cyborg? WHY THE HELL DID THEY HIRE YOU IF THEY THOUGHT YOU WERE A CYBORG HOLY SHIT THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

Ahem. So, unless you’re working with a deranged supervillain who thinks you’re a key player in their plans for world domination, you should be okay. Your clients know you’re human, and they expect you to take time off occasionally.

If all else fails, take a shorter break or a staycation

If you’re at a point in your freelancing career when you really can’t afford time away from your business, all is not lost. Take a long weekend and go somewhere. Your unanswered emails will survive for a couple of days. If even that’s a step too far, just go for a regular weekend somewhere. The first couple of years of doing this are undoubtedly the hardest financially, which can make getting away tricky. But hey, you know what? You don’t even HAVE to go away if you decide to take time off.

If you start feeling weary at the thought of doing your work day in, day out – which is completely frickin’ understandable, because starting a business is hard, god damn it – consider booking yourself a week off and just treating it as you-time. Delete the email app off your phone, remove the bookmark from your browser. Close the laptop altogether and spend a few days doing things just for you. Read some books, watch some movies, go for some walks. Go to the cinema in the middle of the day, go to a gallery or a museum. Just wander around. Take time to reflect, and to breathe and to relax. When you get back to work, you’ll be excited to dive back into things.

Enjoy the fuck out of your time off

Whether you stay home or go away somewhere, there is one thing you absolutely MUST NOT DO, and that is fret about your business. There is zero point taking time off if you’re going to wind up feeling more stressed than you were before. Don’t you even think about checking your email to make sure your business hasn’t exploded. BECAUSE IT WON’T HAVE. Especially not if you’ve followed the guidelines above. But even if it has exploded, well, I say fuck it. It’s exploded – and when I say ‘your business has exploded’, I obviously mean in the bad way – so there’s nothing you can do anyway, right?

You didn’t start a copywriting business so you could spend all your time slaving away at your laptop. Didn’t you start it so you could live life the way you want to? Doing things you want to do, when you want to do them?

First published on Untamed Writing.

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