• Teri Sutherland

How to have a holiday when you're a small business owner


Freelancers and small business owners all share the same challenge when it comes to the festive season: how to take a break without upsetting your clients. If you take some time to plan now (or at other times of the year when you might need a break) it could help to avoid a headache later. Relax, sit down for 10 minutes with a cuppa and think about these ideas.


  1. Ask your regular clients if they are likely to be busy at the time you'll be away. And is there is a project you could do some work on in advance?

  2. Can they build in a lengthier timeframe upfront so they don't over-promise and under-deliver? Alternatively, if your dates are flexible, find out if there's a block of time that would be more convenient for you to be out of action.

  3. Small business owners — you might be able to avoid bottlenecks by offering your customers discounts on products purchased before (or after) your holiday period.

  4. Can a colleague help to cover for you while you're away? If you are a sole trader and don't have someone in mind now, find a small project throughout the year where you can start to work with someone to assess whether they are the right person to stand in for you. If you have a small team, reward your best person with some more senior work and a bonus to match. Start planning for it now. A freelance job share or delegation rehearsal should be on your New Year's resolution list.

  5. Is there something simple you can do while on holidays that will keep things moving? If so, take a laptop or travel tablet to knock that task on the head. You never know, it might only be a 10-minute job that keeps things ticking over.

  6. If you love your work, but just need a change of scenery, take your laptop and work files with you, but tell your clients you are only available for 2 days a week or half days for a couple of weeks, whatever suits your project and holiday plans.

  7. Give your clients or customers plenty of notice. Send out a newsletter to your loyal regulars with a recap on your project successes for the year. Remind them of how much you've achieved for them, and then add that you'll be taking a short break. Outline the dates you'll be available prior to and after your break. Be clear about what to do if they have any work while you're away.

  8. Don't stress! Remember that your clients and their teams will most likely be in holiday mode from December through to January, so it might suit them if you are away too.

  9. Set an out-of-office message with clear dates and suggest that you'll fit in with urgent timeframes as soon as you're back at your desk. Sometimes people just change their project timetables if they know you are not available.

  10. Don't return to an overfull email in-box — it's much neater to just set aside a half an hour a day on your holidays to check your emails and messages and delete, delete, delete.


If you need a branded email message, newsletter or a graphic to lighten the tone of your out-of-office alert, give me a buzz — let's see how I might be able to help.