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Making the Holidays Happy for the Self-Employed Business Owner

The season leading up to the winter holidays—Christmas, New Year’s, and whatever else you might celebrate—can be stressful, both personally and for your small business. If you work in any field that sells goods or services for the holidays, from haircuts to gift-able goods to parties, you probably depend on this time of year for a good chunk of your income. Plus, you may have your own family obligations, shopping, and parties to attend. Add it all together, and most of us would really like to take a long holiday break during the holidays.

When starting a business, your own health and sanity often take a back seat. You can exhaust yourself and start to burn out. For your health and the health of your company, you need to replenish your energy so you can continue building your business with clarity and purpose. A vacation, whether before, during, or after the holidays, is a fabulous way to regain your vision and concentration. It may seem counterintuitive, but there is nothing like a break from everyday struggles to give perspective and renewed energy.

When can I take a vacation?
For small business owners and entrepreneurs, it can seem impossible to take some time off while continuing to grow your business. How can the business go on without you? How could you close and leave your customers hanging? What if you miss an opportunity while you are away?

First, let’s consider when you can take a holiday for yourself. If you are in a service or retail goods profession, holiday shoppers and partiers are big business. If you are busy right up until Christmas, but dead between Christmas and New Year’s, then you know you could get away or even close up shop during that week. If you are still busy through New Year’s, think about planning a vacation for January or February.

Tips for enjoying the vacation you do take

  • Warn your customers well in advance that you will be out of the office
  • Have a virtual assistant, employee, or colleague cover you while you are away 
  • Set aside a little time each day to check in with your designated lieutenant
  • Check in, then forget about it
  • Get a change of scenery
  • Leave your electronics off for at least a few hours each day
  • Schedule activities that are fun and engaging
  • Plan some down-time, where you can do anything you want or nothing!
  • Relax, knowing that your productivity will soar when you get back from your break


Before you go
Warn your customers well in advance of your planned vacation so that you can take care of their needs. Prepare your staff to fill in for you, but customer relationships are often strongest with the micro business owner. Make sure that your clients know you care and that your company is there for them, even when you are taking a well-deserved break.

If you can’t close the business for a week or more to get some time away from the office, figure out who can best fill in for you. If you have a senior employee who knows the business, they can take on most of the tasks and even some of the decisions that need to happen. For a family business, stagger your vacations so that one of the principles is always there, though this is not always possible.

If you are a solo practitioner and you have friends in the business you can trust, you could ask them to cover emergencies for you on vacation, and you could return the favor later for them. Consider joining a membership organization like the National Association for the Self Employed, as you can network with like-minded professionals and perhaps find someone in your field who you can pair up with for vacation coverage. If not, but you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, you can hire a virtual assistant to answer your business phone and emails, and check in with you on urgent matters.

Here’s an article on how to work with a virtual assistant and what they can do for you:

Three Questions to Ask When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Business on vacation

It would be ideal if you could forget about business entirely on vacation, but this is not realistic for most micro businesses. You don’t want to lose any money while you are away, but you also want to limit the amount of time you spend on work so that you can get a real break to refresh yourself.

Set some guidelines for yourself to make sure you can relax. Put your electronics away for at least a few hours a day. Let the person covering for you know what hours you will be available to chat. Let them know where you are staying so they can have you paged in case of a business emergency. Then you can relax, knowing that you would hear about any problems. Everything must be fine because no one is calling you!

Planning the perfect escape
Plan your vacation so that you can get out of town. A change of scenery can really help you clear your head. Even if you can’t afford a beach vacation on a far-away island, just being in new surroundings can shift your perspective and change your routine.

Plan activities for your vacation: new experiences, a fun class to take, a favorite pastime to engage in. Actively engaging in pleasurable experiences during your time off is more beneficial to health and wellbeing than just lounging around, according to a study in the Journal of Travel Medicine. Planning ahead ensures that you have something fun to look forward to and that you will be too busy enjoying yourself to worry about your business the whole vacation.

The upshot
Balancing work life and personal life needs to be a priority for micro business owners. Planning a vacation is a great way to take care of the most important asset for your success: you! Here is a great NASE blog post to get you thinking about work/life balance: 3 Tips for Balancing Your Professional and Personal Life.

The holiday period can be full of stress, but if you have planned to take some time off, soon or in a few weeks, you can make it through. Just imagining yourself relaxing will give you the strength to carry on, knowing that the reward of time for you is coming soon!

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