Today I want to talk about the importance of taking a holiday when you run your own creative business, and how you can do that without worrying.
But first, a story.
I had lunch with my friend Nick the other day. He’s self-employed as a copywriter, excellent at marketing and happens to co-run one of the UK’s most impressive cheese clubs. Nick was giving me some very good advice for the next stage of my business.
“Of course, I never actually take this advice myself,” Nick explained, after he’d gone into great detail about business plans and cost-per-sales.
I looked at him.
“So you’ve never done the things you’re telling me to do for your own business?”
“No, don’t be silly,” he said, “who ever takes their own advice?”
And despite giving good advice to clients, helping my students, supporting my partner and even occasionally giving Nick something to think about – neither do I.
I am so bad at taking my own advice, especially when it comes to running my creative business.
For example, in this article I’m going to tell you how important it is to take a holiday when you run your own creative business. I’ll give you facts, and stats, and loads of stuff to convince you it’s the best thing to do. Then I’ll tell you just how you can have a holiday and actually relax when you’re there.
The last real holiday I had was in 2014. That’s two crazy years of not taking a real break.
I have two weeks booked off work at the end of August and I still haven’t sorted out a holiday. At all.
There’s too much pressure to make this holiday brilliant, to manage my business around it, to make sure I come back feeling refreshed, that I’ve become paralysed with indecision. I am not taking my own advice.
If there is one thing you do after reading this article, please make sure it’s to take my advice and get yourself on holiday.
Then email me and tell me to do the same.
Why holidays are essential for creative business owners.
I’m not sure if I even need to explain to you why holidays are so important, but just in case there’s someone out there who isn’t quite convinced, here are just a few reasons.
It’s unsustainable to work all the time
Human beings are living, breathing animals. We’re not designed for constant activity; we need regular breaks – hence sleeping – to help our bodies repair themselves. The same goes for our minds; constant thinking work depletes our energy, and leaves us with no space to repair or rejuvenate ourselves.
If you run a creative business, it’s likely your working hours will be longer, or at least more erratic, than other people’s. You might end up checking emails at 7am, or working on a new marketing idea until 11pm at night. You might risk falling into an ‘always on’ mentality, where you never really step away from your creative business to replenish yourself. Research and campaigning body, the Future Work Centre, has even found that ’email pressure’ – the stress felt from immediate email notifications – is an actual thing and pretty damaging.
As if you needed more to convince you about why working all the time is a bad idea:
No matter how much of a go-getter you are, it seems working constantly without a real break from your business will make you physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
A holiday will improve your business
You might think “But if I take a holiday, my business will suffer. I won’t be there, sales will drop, and we’re all buggered.” Not so. While it can be tricky to manage your business while you are on holiday, there are significant benefits to your business once you return that will ‘make up’ for anything you’ve felt you’ve lost.
When Project Time Off asked HR professionals within companies about the effectiveness of people who took their entitled holiday days, 75% of them reported that people who took the whole or majority of their allocated time off performed better overall than people who took minimum vacation time. I’d suggest that’s because Group A – the Jolly Holiday Makers – weren’t completely burnt out or overwhelmed, unlike poor old Group B.
So having time away from your business can improve how you perform – how you tackle and get on with your work – when you get back. It can also encourage better ideas. Participants in a 2012 study from the University of California were more likely to come up with a creative solution to a problem when they were allowed to let their mind wander after being given the brief – rather than push on straight away to think of an answer.
Better, more creative ideas come from a fresh brain – and a fresh brain is exactly what your holiday is meant to encourage.
You’ll find inspiration everywhere
Without a holiday you’ll end up being physically and mentally worn out. With a holiday, you’ll be more productive and hopefully more creative when you return. Most excitingly for creative business owners, though, is what a holiday can inspire.
Visiting a new place, experiencing a new culture, and seeing the world from a new perspective will inspire you to do new things. Maybe it’ll help you create an interesting product range, or develop a particular service for a brand-new target customer. Maybe it’ll give you beautiful photographs to use in your marketing material. Or maybe just a tacky souvenir that makes you smile every time you glance it on your desk.
There is inspiration everywhere, and a holiday away from your creative business allows you to access that inspiration. It takes you away from the monotony of receipts, invoices, scheduling and suppliers so you can revisit that passion which sparked your business in the first place.
You’re convinced you need a holiday. Now what?
The biggest myth for creative business owners when it comes to taking a holiday is that their business will collapse without them being there.
The truth is it won’t.
It might be tricky to manage. You might have to set up some things in advance. But you are not going to lose all your customers, piss off all your suppliers, and your business will not go up in flames if you are not there.
Your creative business does need you to function effectively and brilliantly, in its 10 out of 10 perfect experience. But if you go away, it might come down to a nine out of 10. Eight, at a minimum. Because you have a good business, with great customer service and good processes in place.
It doesn’t matter if your creative business is not perfect all the time.
(I really need to take this bit of advice to heart, pronto.)
You will go, you will drink sangria/long island iced tea/martinis [delete as appropriate], you will return and your business will still be brilliant. In fact, it’ll be more brilliant for the break you’ve had.
Here’s how to make that break work.
How to take a holiday as a creative business owner (and relax while you’re there)
1. Let customers know you’re going on holiday
Yes, that’s right, tell people you’re going away! Admit you need a holiday, and you’re taking one, and you’re going to bloody enjoy it. You are a human and so are your customers, and they will respect your honesty.
Be clear on how long you’ll be away for and what changes they should expect to your normal service. This information will alleviate any issues that might arise because you’re not there; people know you’re away so are likely to cut you a little bit of slack. How many times have you visited an Etsy shop to find that the owner is ‘on holiday’? No-one gets pissed off; you just favourite the shop, sign up for email notifications and forget about it.
On that point; remember the appearance of exclusivity I mentioned in my article about saying ‘no’? A holiday does the same sort of thing. You aren’t always available – customers will have to wait. And if you have the right processes set up – like an email wait list – then you can actually encourage that exclusivity and gain an eager customer base at the same time.
2. Schedule marketing content
You can let your existing customers know you’re going to be away while at the same time making sure you’re still drawing new customers towards you by scheduling marketing content.
I’d recommend you do this for digital marketing content only; responding to print amends are too stressful to try and do while you’re sunning yourself on a beach somewhere. You can schedule social media content using the channels’ in-built tools (for example, scheduling Facebook posts for your business page) or do it all in one place using a third-party scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.
You can also schedule blog posts for when you’re away, as well as other digital marketing like email newsletters. All of this, of course, does require extra time before you go away to set it all up. But to keep things ‘ticking over’, and especially if your holiday coincides with a useful marketing season for your creative business, scheduling marketing content is incredibly useful.
3. Avoid marketing clashes
This seems like an obvious one, but make sure you don’t accidentally schedule any marketing promotions – like a sale or a discount voucher – while you’re away on holiday. Ongoing content which keeps customers engaged is fine, but anything designed to draw in big crowds is difficult to manage from afar and there’s more chance of things going wrong.
Depending on the type of creative business you own, you might find your potential busiest periods are also during traditional holiday times; for example, around Christmas boutique retailers might not get much of a break as they put in the hours for gift-buying customers.
If you can take holidays at the quietest times of your business year, it can be useful for managing your business and making the most of that productivity kick when you get back and jump onto the next busy period.
4. Be clear about whether you’re available or not
If you’ve been used to running your creative business single-handedly, the idea of not being in regular contact with customers and potential customers probably makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s also totally natural to end up checking work-related emails or messages on holiday – especially if you love your work.
However, before you go on holiday be clear on whether or not you want to be contacted by customers, suppliers or staff. Once you’ve chosen what you want, stick to it. You might feel like the constant communication – like the ’email pressure’ I mentioned – is actually what you need to escape from. If so, let your customers and other contacts know, and do not look at work messages while you’re away.
If you do, you’ll slide back into it very quickly. If you’re worried things will slip without you to field the communications, you could hire a virtual assistant (VA) for the duration of your holiday, who’ll be able to manage any issues that come up.
Alternatively, if business communication isn’t the thing you need to escape from, then let people know you’ll be available but set yourself specific times when you’ll check and respond to work-related communication. It’s a good idea to do this all the time, but especially on holiday, so you have clear boundaries of when you can switch off from work.
Time to enjoy your time off.
Taking a holiday when you run your own creative business is essential for your health and the continuing health of your business. It’ll mean you come back refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
Managing your business while you’re away is possible: let customers know you’re going away, schedule your marketing content and avoid any big clashes, and be clear on whether you’re available for business chat – or not.
And make sure you enjoy your holiday.
P.S. Have you seen the free workshop I’m doing in September (back to school time, natch)? Take a look and sign up here.