When you're operating a home business on your own, don't be like your fellow employed Americans who, on average, take just nine of their 12 vacation days per year. You're in charge of your time, and how much vacation and how often you take it is up to you. Of course, there are practicalities to consider.
First, you have to decide when's the best--or most convenient--time for you to take a break. Many businesses have seasonal rhythms. For example, most wedding planners expect the winter months to be their slowest, while tax professionals are just gearing up. Your business most likely has its own unique seasonal pattern. If you're a medical transcriptionist, for example, and most of your clients vacation in the summer, that's probably a good time for you to do so, too.
Second, you'll need to determine how you'll cover your clients' needs when you're away. Telecommuting consultant Gil Gordon, who wrote a book on the topic of taking a break from your business, Turn It Off: How to Unplug from the Anytime-Anywhere Office Without Disconnecting Your Career, notifies his clients and business contacts well in advance to let them know when he'll be on vacation and completely inaccessible. If you're not as brave or resolute about cutting off your customers while you're away, technology makes it possible for you stay in touch even while you're on vacation. If you do decide to keep the lines of communication open while you're away, it's best to limit the amount of time you devote to work each day, or you'll find you're really not getting the break you need.
Depending on the type of business you own, you can also arrange with colleagues to cover for you, perhaps doing the same for them when they need to take a break. This is a particularly good solution for people who provide professional or personal services, such as computer consulting or massage therapy.
The third thing you'll need to take into account is what type of vacation you want--or need. We tend to lump all vacations together, but there are actually are different kinds that serve different needs:
- Duty vacations are usually family related, such as taking the kids to Disney World or making the annual pilgrimage to visit relatives.
- Adventure vacations stimulate and challenge you, taking you out of your normal environment to help you stretch yourself and forget about the daily grind.
- Low-stress, relaxation vacations, such as a Caribbean cruise or a trip to Hawaii, give you a chance to mellow out, renew and refresh.
While some people try to pack all three types into the same few days, that usually doesn't work. If the type of vacation you choose doesn't meet your needs, you won't feel like you've been on vacation and you may be more exhausted and stressed than when you left. You might want to consider taking several smaller vacations, perhaps occasional long weekends, targeted to the kind of break you need at that particular time.
Finally, think about what you can do if you can't afford or arrange a vacation of any kind this year. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do either alone or with family members:
- Take an hour off in the afternoon to go for a walk, go out for coffee, take a drive in the country, or just sit in the park watching people pass by.
- Join a health club, and go swimming or jogging in the morning or early evening.
- Set aside one night each week for a "private escape" or "family night" where you go to a concert, a movie, ball game or dinner--whatever you'd enjoy to help you relax.
- Take a Saturday night away each month or every few months, and go to a nearby resort or hotel. Many hotels and bed & breakfasts have special Saturday night rates for couples or families to draw in non-business travelers.
Whatever you do, don't neglect your vacation time. To be at your best, taking breaks makes both business and personal sense.
Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards are Entrepreneur.com's "Homebased Business" columnists. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Contact them at www.workingfromhome.com.