I’d give myself a B-. I tried to prepare as much as possible by working ahead on client work, letting my clients know I was going to be gone and setting an out of office message on my email.
But it wasn’t until the end of the week that I truly was able to unplug and relax. Part of this is that I still needed to work in some capacity by checking email for my two virtual assistant clients while away. And part was that I wanted to know what I was missing while I was gone.
Silly, silly me! As I mentioned, towards the end I was able to relax and enjoy myself a bit more. And I learned a lot about myself and my business in the process. Here are my four best tips to help you take a more successful vacation from your freelance business next time around.
1. If You Have to Work, Plan When You Will
If like me you can’t or don’t want to pass up a paycheck completely while away, you need to be clear about when you’ll work and when you’ll play. Otherwise, it’s too easy for it to get out of hand and keep working all of the time.
I’ve done a good job at conditioning myself for productivity over this last year while I launched my freelance writing business beside my full-time job. As a mom to two toddlers and someone that wanted to stay (happily) married, I needed to maximize my time as much as I could.
It worked and I was able to put in my notice and start freelancing full-time at the end of 2014.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t working any less than I was all of last year. I still kept similar hours to my previous day job AND my side hustle.
There is always more to do as you’re trying to grow your freelance business. From social media, to prospecting, blogging and managing your own email, your to do list will never be 100% checked off.
And that’s okay – so long as you accept it, are cognizant of it and know how to manage it so it doesn’t get out of control.
Lesson learned: The next time I go on vacation, I’m going to be very specific about when I’ll work if I can’t step away from my business 100%. That way I won’t encounter “scope creep” with my work and have it take over my vacation!
2. Force Yourself to Unplug
Our vacation took place in northern Minnesota at my parent’s cabin. They don’t have internet access up there and in the past I would have to drive ~10 miles each way to get online. This time, I pirated (with permission) internet from one of their neighbors that live there year round.
I had to sit in a very specific spot on the deck or in the back bedroom to make it work, but I was able to get access. This was both good and bad.
It was good as I didn’t need to waste the time and gas to drive into town. It was bad in that I could work whenever the mood hit.
The best way to prevent this if you do have internet access available, is to schedule activities that aren’t compatible with being online. For us, this was going for hikes in the woods, taking four-wheeler rides and playing outside with our kids.
For you this could be something completely different. Maybe it’d mean scheduling a wine tasting, touring a state or national park or something else.
Lesson learned: As an internet junkie, I need to make myself unplug by doing things incompatible with the internet!
(P.S.: This is why I still don’t own a smartphone. It’s way too easy to be on it whenever, wherever.)
3. Pre-schedule Social Media Posts
Keeping up an active social media presence is important for a web-based business. Making online connections with fellow webpreneurs, clients and prospects is a great way to grow your business and authority in a certain niche or authority.
So it’s a little scary to go dark for an entire week. Just like email, social media interactions can pile up and get lost in the shuffle.
One of the things I’m going to try and do different next time is to pre-schedule social media posts by using Hootsuite or another technology platform. I have a free Hootsuite account, but haven’t really done much with it. Honestly, the thought of logging in/learning another site is a bit overwhelming at the moment (this could also be laziness talking).
But if you’ve done a great job of working ahead and producing content for your own blog or for clients, you want it to be seen.
Lesson learned: Use technology to my advantage and pre-schedule updates via my social media channels to ensure both my and client’s content is getting seen while I’m away.
Then I won’t have to worry about it! And it’ll also prevent me from jumping on Facebook “real quick”.
4. Ask Others to Hold You Accountable
One of my good online friends, Allan, told me that he better not see me on social media while I was on vacation. He did, but it was less than it would have been, if he hadn’t made that threat!
Your spouse, children or other travel companions will probably do this naturally. Have a conversation ahead of time if you do need to do some work (see tip #1) and be specific about when you’ll be working and when they can expect your full attention.
Mastermind members, online peers like Allan or your coach can also help keep you accountable to staying unplugged. I know that my coach, Carrie, wanted this for me more than anything. In addition to Allan’s voice, I thought of her too when I was tempted to log on and a lot of the time decided work wasn’t necessary.
Lesson learned: Ask others to hold me accountable to not working when I shouldn’t be!
I know I probably sound like a real internet addict and that’s debatable. Growing my online business took a ton of work and I’m a bit protective about it.
I’m still learning to strike that whole work/life balance thing, but as the sole breadwinner of our family of four, the pressure to succeed is strong. So there’s a real reason behind my obsession!
In the future though, I do want to do a better job at taking vacation. I might need to become okay not getting paid (so I don’t have to work), and hire my own VA to help me with my email or something else.
In the meantime, I’ll plan on being specific about when I’ll work while away, force myself to unplug by scheduling non-internet friendly activities, pre-schedule my social media updates and ask those close to me to hold me accountable to staying offline. You should try it too!
Any other self-proclaimed internet addicts out there? What do you do to truly unplug while on vacation? Let us know in the comments!