From the August 2000 issue of Startups

Think back to the last time you took a vacation. OK, now stop laughing. Yes, some homebased entrepreneurs do manage to take off for longer than it takes to collect the mail. For many of you, though, vacation can seem like a far-fetched fantasy. Clients call with "yesterday" deadlines, computers crash without warning . . . and then there's the constant workload. How can you take a vacation when you don't even have time to brush your hair?

Laurie Neal, co-owner of YouMarriedHim.com LLC, a Web site focusing on marriage and relationships, knows how hard it is to get away. "I can handle being gone for a few hours," explains Neal, 23, "but it's tough to explain to advertisers and visitors why they can't reach me for more than a day."

Sound familiar? You're not alone. "[Homebased entrepreneurs] often feel uneasy about taking time off. They're afraid they won't be able to handle problems that arise or that customers will be offended if they take time away," explains Jenette Rotatori-Zubero, owner of DreamWorks Coaching Inc., a Tamarac, Florida, strategy and coaching firm for career women.

Snap out of it and plan your escape! Your first step to freedom is to accept a hard reality-there will never be a "perfect time" to take a vacation. "Clients will always complain, projects will need last-minute touches, and phone calls will always need to be returned," says Rotatori-Zubero, 28. "If time away isn't prioritized, it will never be had."

If you're truly vacation-phobic, start by baby-stepping your way into a full-fledged escape. "Start with miniature goals. For instance, take off each Friday at 3 p.m. and don't return until Monday," advises Rotatori-Zubero. "Once you feel comfortable with that, try taking an entire Friday off."

Mini-vacations have another benefit for homebased workaholics-it's easier to leave all your work (even your laptop) behind when you're only gone for one or two days. "I try to get away for long weekends so it's not as overwhelming when I get back," explains Neal.

If you must be wired on vacation, set clear limits on how long you'll work-if at all. Remember, you need to get away from the office, not bring the office with you. "When we got away last November, it was the first time I actually enjoyed myself!" exclaims Neal. "I think it helped that it was only four days and I knew I could work if I really needed to. I'm proud to say I didn't turn on my computer once." So do what she did-schedule your time, delegate what you can and just go! You'll feel great, and you'll finally get some well-deserved time away. Things will be fine without you. Really.

Relax to the Max

What are you waiting for? Here are some easy ways to turn an "impossible" vacation into a relaxing reality.

  • Vacation during the slowest time of the year.
  • Take three-day weekends as mini-vacations.
  • Discover new, fun activities close to home.
  • Limit work on vacation to one hour a day.
  • Throw caution to the wind. Just go!

Source: Five Ways to Take the Opportunity When Vacation Seems Light Years Away by Jenette Rotatori-Zubero

Shape Up, Ship Out

You want to sneak away for a well-deserved vacation, but all your free time is spent confirming, packing and shipping your products, right? Now there's a new service that takes the pain out of order fulfillment-and the fees won't break your bank.

Once a customer clicks your "buy" button, iFulfill.comjumps in and handles the rest. The "complete" service includes everything an e-merchant needs, including product warehousing, credit card processing and product fulfillment. With costs based on a 7 percent card-processing charge and a sliding-scale fulfillment fee, small businesses have an affordable alternative to "doing it all themselves." Finally you can stop spending all your time at the post office and plan a real getaway! If you don't need the whole ball of wax, iFulfill.com offers other small-business solutions. Many options abound, so you can choose the services you need.


Heather Martin is a freelance writer and owner of SuccessWorks, an online copywriting firm in Bellingham, Washington. She loves sneaking away for vacation, as long she can bring her laptop and check e-mail.