Weird but true: as a start up owner I didn’t feel comfortable telling my clients I was going on holidays…

Believe it or not, the world won’t stop turning if you take a break!

I don’t know about you, but most of the [good] start up owners and freelancers I know don’t really take holidays. Living in the belief that the world might stop turning if they fail to check emails for more than 48 hours, they often ‘sneak’ time off the scene but don’t let on to anyone that they’re doing it.

Does this sound like you? Do you yearn for time away, but fear that your clients will go elsewhere if you’re not contactable 24/7?

Although I don’t have many freelancers as clients, I have a fair number as suppliers for various projects I work on. I also work with a huge number of start up owners. I pride myself on the close relationships I have with both my suppliers and clients and my work often goes well beyond supplying them with great sales and marketing comms. Not surprisingly, with certain clients I share some [reasonably] personal stuff — and discussions about holidays is one of those things.

I’ve been freelancing and working on establishing my business for the last 10 years. During that time, I fell into exactly the same trap as most start up owners. I failed to admit to my clients that I EVER went on holiday. On reflection I’m not sure why I did it, but I did. When I did take some time off, I managed to schedule certain work to take slightly longer at periods when I wasn’t planning to spend 10 hours a day at my desk. My clients were fine with that, but I always felt as if I wasn’t being 100% straight with them.

I juggled with varying degrees of internet connections wherever me and my girls went so everything could seem like it was ‘business as usual’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being a dishonest person, but I just didn’t feel comfortable ‘being on holiday’ from my own business.

What was I afraid of? I’m not sure really. I guess I thought my clients might adopt an ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude and find a replacement for me? Or, maybe dishonesty wasn’t what I was suffering from; maybe it was arrogance? As in — how could my clients live without me [LOL]. No, seriously, I see now that I had some sort of shame in admitting that as a relatively new small business owner I thought I had the right to take holidays.

Maybe it comes from my upbringing, I don’t know, but I’m pleased to say that 3 years ago things changed. At that point, I started saying to my clients well ahead of time that I’d be away for X number of days to spend time with my kids.

To my astonishment, they all, without exception, asked the normal questions you’d ask when someone announces they’re going on holidays: “Where you off to?” “That sounds great!” “This job or that job, can wait until you come back if you want...” I even got messages outside of my normal chain of communication with several clients to wish me “Happy Holidays”. How crazy I had been before to hide the fact that I was taking a well-earned break.

I need to qualify all of this well-earned break stuff a little bit. Of course when I’m away, I check and respond to emails on a regular basis. And I’d never leave a client in the lurch — holiday or no holiday, but I DO take time off without any feeling of guilt now. It’s magical.

If you’re a start up owner or freelancer and can relate to what I’m saying, I’d love to hear your story. I’d also encourage you to re-think your strategy. Going off on hols and not telling your clients might sit comfortably with you and if it does, that’s cool. But if it doesn’t, I’d encourage you to re-think your strategy and start to tell your clients you’re heading off for a few days and when you’ll be back. Like me, I suspect you’ll be surprised at the response.

The other great thing about time away is that it opens up your mind to new ideas and fills you with a creativity that you simply can’t have if you don’t get off the hamster wheel. Time away [in my view] definitely makes creatives more creative and it lets you experience new things and come back full of enthusiasm and motivation to deliver above and beyond for your loyal clients.

Why am I banging on about this today? I’m banging on about this today because I’m going on holiday on Monday and I have everything neatly ‘parked’ for when I’m away. I also have everything neatly lined up for when I come back. And yesterday evening I was quite touched by the number of clients who, out of the blue, sent me a message saying that they hope I have a great time. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Thank you clients :)

So start up owners and freelancers, listen up — take time off if you feel as if you deserve it and do it WITHOUT guilt ;) And in the meantime, please share anything you’ve done to make your small business or start up awesome — including taking time off!