One of the reasons I started my own business nine years ago was because I wanted greater flexibility with life. I had (and still have) many interests that aren’t necessarily work related, and I wanted the time to be able to fit them all in.
Probably my biggest non-work interest at the time was travel. I wanted far more than the measly four weeks a year I was receiving as an employee.
These days I have a business goal of having twelve weeks “holiday” a year. And I say “holiday”, because, as any solopreneur or other business owner knows, you’re never really on holiday when you work for yourself!
I like to call it a holiday-with-laptop. Phone optional.
Over the last year I have managed that magical twelve weeks. For the first time in nine years I might add! Two weeks at our family holiday house, three weeks over December/January, and seven truly amazing weeks in Europe and the US earlier this year. And then there were all the assorted work trips, conferences and weekends where a day or two was tacked on to the work component to spend time with friends and family.
The year ahead is rapidly filling with travel plans. Many are work related, but a few weeks of holiday-with-laptop will be incorporated, particularly tied in to when I go to the US for Social Media Marketing World and then to Africa for Gourmet Trails Signature Safari (a food tour I’m leading in South Africa). I also want to spend a lot more time at our family holiday house than I have managed recently. It’s my happy place.
So, how can I do this too I hear you ask. And keep current clients happy. And get repeat business. And gain new clients.
One way is to hand your business over to someone else to manage. However I have a few control issues, so that won’t be happening!
For me, the key is flexibility. And setting a few boundaries. Having fantastic clients who share my values definitely helps. Not to mention running a business that really only needs a laptop, an internet connection and a mobile phone to make it work.
So, how do I manage my clients and their expectations? This depends a lot on where I’m going and for how long.
If I’m just going to our family holiday house on the NSW Central Coast, or away for a few days, I generally don’t even tell clients I’ll be away as it’s just business as usual for me. Any meetings are via phone or Skype and I reply to emails within my standard timeframe that my clients expect.
Trips longer than two-three weeks duration are planned at least a couple of months in advance. When these have been confirmed I let my clients know – usually with two or three months notice. This way we can work together to plan any deadlines or projects around my trip. Obviously I don’t plan a trip to be in the middle of a big project! It’s important to think whether you will be prepared to turn down work or change your travel plans if an opportunity you don’t want to turn down clashes with your holiday plans. And you can’t work on it remotely.
Don’t be my friend who hated saying no to work, so spent 11 of her 14 day holiday in the US working 12 hour days on a project she accepted AFTER booking her flights! Her husband was most unimpressed.
If I’m travelling overseas then I try and schedule major projects and deadlines around my travel dates. I really don’t want to be doing a whole lot of client work when I’m overseas if I can avoid it, but I’m happy to do the equivalent of a day or two every week. It’s a small price to pay if I’m planning more than a few weeks away!
On my recent seven week holiday I told one client that I was prepared to do up to one day of work a week for them while I was away, which we were both happy with. Other clients needed little bits and pieces done, and that was fine too. I had pencilled in dates for this holiday six months earlier, making it easier to manage expectations.
My travel tips for the solopreneur are:
- Block out holiday times at the start of the year. Every January I work out when I want to be away during the year and block it out in my diary – this includes weeks I want to be at our holiday house, and weeks I expect (or hope!) to be away elsewhere. It’s a good starting point, even if the dates do often change.
- Set aside certain hours each day to work while you are away. I generally stick to Monday to Friday (as I would at home) and I aim to spend an hour in the morning before heading out to do touristy stuff, and an hour in the evening, just to check email and reply to any that are urgent. A lot of the time it doesn’t take this long.
- Turn off all the push-notifications to your phone or other devices (I keep these all turned off anyway – so irritating), as you don’t want that incessant sound and light when you’re fighting jetlag, or being a tourist.
- If you know you have a deadline to meet while you’re away and it can’t be avoided, plan your trip around it if you can. I knew there would be three times I needed to work for up to a full day while I was in Europe and the US, and I knew the dates, so I planned around them. This meant I could allocate that time and not feel like I was missing anything more exciting. Yeah, OK, I probably was, but like I said, a few blocks of time allocated to work is a small thing if it means you can have a seven week holiday!
- Sort out all the technical stuff you need before you go. Book accommodation in places where there is easily-accessible and cheap or free wifi, or decide on whether to buy internet access in your destination country.
- Work out how you will use your phone while overseas. Will you buy an international SIM or will you rely on Facetime and Skype? Whenever I am overseas I pop a message on my phone saying I’m overseas and back on xx date, and that I’m not contactable by phone until I return. However I’m happy to arrange a Skype call if it’s arranged by email, and I give my email address.
- I save everything I’m working onto Dropbox while I’m away, and I set up all these files before I leave, so if my laptop is lost or stolen, I still have a record of all the work I’ve done. I also save copies of all travel documents in a Dropbox file and I share that with my travelling companions and at least two family members at home. Just in case.
- Be aware of international time zones – I use the world clock feature on my phone and I plug in all the time zones I’m travelling to. This way I won’t accidentally Skype a client at 2am.
- Have travel insurance. I buy a 12 month policy that covers me for domestic as well as international travel. Don’t leave home without it.
- Pack all your essential work tools (laptop, any hard copy client files or notes, etc) in your carry on luggage. This includes the charging devices. Make sure everything is fully charged up before any long travel days.
- Take the time before you go away to prepare so you don’t have to spend as much time working while you are away. Do as much work as you can before you leave home.
Do you take loads of holidays-with-laptop? What are your tips??
If you want a few tips on how to have holidays without the dreaded weight gain, read my post on that over on The cook’s notebook.
Please note: This post has been submitted to the Virgin Australia competition for the ProBlogger Event, highlighting my Top Travel Tips.
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