How to Prep Your Small Business for Your Next Vacation!
I’ve been out of the office for three weeks now, and although that time is coming to an end (headed back home tomorrow!) it is always slightly nerve racking getting back from vacation and opening my inbox. Without properly preparing for the time away, who knows what you would find in those imminent emails from upset clients who might not have known you were gone. Uhh, insert that sinking-pit-in-your-stomach feeling. That’s exactly what I want to help you avoid! Reviewing my list, pretty much what a lot of these tips come down to is communication. I think it is key to over communicate before you leave so you don’t have to communicate during!
These tips will not only help you prep and enjoy your vacay, but also hopefully help you ease back into work when the time comes.
1. Put It In To Your Email Signature
A couple weeks before you’re leaving (or even months, if you know in advance when you’ll be away) put a little line in your email signature that says “Upcoming Out of Office Dates”. Although there will still be a lot of other communication that needs to happen with clients, this simple little line in your email signature can serve as a remember when you’ll be away.
2. Set Up An Out Of Office Message
The day before you leave, set up that automatic “Out of Office” message that will be sent to anyone who emails you while you’re away. If you have a Gmail account, just go to your settings and scroll to the bottom - the vacation responder box should be right there! Also, don’t be afraid to make this message a little fun. It should still be professional and convey all the necessary info it needs to (i.e. dates you’ll be away, when they can expect to hear back, etc.), but go ahead and add some personality. I’m a fan of gifs, so you bet my last out of office responder had one it!
3. Plan For Your Time Away
If you know you’re going to be away for several weeks, plan accordingly when booking new clients. I knew that I was going to be away for three weeks in February/March and purposefully didn’t book as many clients as I normally would for those months because it just wouldn’t have been possible to keep up with my normal schedule/client volume and also be away for three weeks. That may mean saying no to certain projects or putting them off until after your back, but trust me that is going to feel a whole lot better then trying to cram it all in a week before you leave. Hellllloooo, stress inducer!
4. Let Potential Clients Know Before Booking
Again, this comes down to that communication thing! Let potential clients know you’ll be away before they go and follow through with booking you. Be upfront and honest, even if their project isn’t due until after you return.
I had a bride who contacted me in November looking to get custom invitations done, and although her wedding isn’t till May and I had plenty of time to complete the design process and get it all assembled, I made sure she knew the dates I was going to be away before she even booked with me. I wanted to be very conscious that it didn’t come across as a sneaky surprise after the fact. I let her know that I wasn’t taking on as many clients during that time, to communicate that her project would be a priority (like all my client projects) and not just be something that I try to cram into my schedule, and reassured her that the timeline on their project would not be affected by my time away - it would get done on schedule!
Being open and upfront about all of that will create trust between you and potential clients, and will also help them to have better expectations of the timeline. As you can see when it comes to being gone, over communicate y’all!
5. Send Reminder Email to Clients
Email clients a couple days before heading out to check in with them and remind them of your time away. Ask if they have any final questions before you leave and let them know what the next steps will be when you return! Something along the lines of, “I can’t wait to get started on your logo design project when I return. You can expect some initial proofs on such and such date.”
6. Set Rules of Communication While Away
I always try to set some level of rules for myself when I am on vacation, and this helps me be in the moment and enjoy my time away. If clients email you while you’re away, will you be answering those emails or calls? Let clients know if you’re stepping away and not checking emails. Just a simple line in that email you send them a couple days before heading out explaining that you won’t have access to your emails will help manage expectations.
7. Schedule things!
Are you still going to be posting to social media, or putting up blog posts? If so, schedule them out before you leave so you can truly step away and enjoy your vacation! This post right here is a scheduled post that I wrote the week before we left. And if getting all the things scheduled just doesn’t work, don’t worry about it, and realize that your social media or blog posting schedule will just be a little different while you’re away, and that’s okay! Go easy on yourself and give yourself some grace.
8. Clean Your Office Before You Leave
I don’t know about you, but I feel so much less stressed if I return from a trip and my space is clean. Get your office organized and clean before leaving so that you can return and enjoy getting back to work without being distracted by any messes. It’s one of those little things that can help set you up for success when you return. Ian knows that I go into deep cleaning mode around the house when we are prepping for a trip, so at this point I’ve got him trained enough that he starts to pull out the vacuum himself a couple days before we leave ;)
9. Give Yourself a Grace Period (especially with trips abroad!)
Returning from a trip on Thursday and thinking about promising a client some samples the very next day? Probably not a good idea. It will take some time to get over jet lag and to get settled back into your routine. Allow for that in your schedule so you don’t end up having to rush through work right when you get back.
10. Enjoy your time away!
Your business is taken care of, and you’ve done everything you can to set yourself up for success before, during and after your trip - so enjoy it!
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