My Experience with Taking One Month Away from My Business + Tips to Help You Press Pause Too
Let me just start this post by saying this: after 4+ years of working in and on my business constantly, stepping back completely to take a month off work felt totally unnatural (and, you know, just a little scary and uncomfortable).
But on the flipside, the 4+ of working hard in and on my business allowed me to press pause without any real fear of things falling apart.
The whole reason why I started my business was to give freedom—in my time, in my schedule, in my creativity. Earlier in the year I had actually written down what that freedom would look like: taking a month off each summer.
And this year, I actually did it!
In case you’ve been wanting to take a step back from your business (whether it’s for a sabbatical, to travel to that place that’s been on your bucket list forever, or maybe for health or family reasons) but aren’t sure where to get started or you’re worried about what things will look like when you come back, I wanted to share my experience.
How I knew I needed the time off…
My main motivation for taking the month of July off was that life was very, very full with big events and changes all happening in a small window of time. I was getting married, traveling out of the country for almost two weeks for my honeymoon, and my husband and I were both getting our places packed up to move into our new home.
With all the changes happening and all the sweet moments I wanted to be fully present in paired with the confidence I had in my business, I knew that taking time off was the best option. Juggling clients with all those big events (not to mention all the time I wouldn’t be with my laptop) would’ve left either my clients or myself feeling frustrated.
So, I made up my mind and figured out how to make it work.
Prepping for the break…
Thankfully I knew several months in advance that I wanted to take July off. That allowed me adequate time to block off a specific window so no new clients would be booked and so I could communicate early on with current clients about the time off.
Once you’ve decided on the timeframe, communicating about a big break like this is the next (and very important!) step. Email your clients to let them know you’re going to be out of the office + when they can expect to hear from you again (my clients loved hearing about why I was taking time off and celebrated with me!), send a notice out to your email list, share in a post with your followers, put an announcement somewhere on your website (like your contact page).
Setting expectations and healthy boundaries avoids making things messy. By letting people know about your break beforehand, they won’t be unpleasantly surprised to learn via autoresponder that they won’t be able to chat with you for another three weeks.
While prepping for the month off I also thought about how I wanted it to be once I started back up again. I knew I wanted a project that would be waiting for me when I got back, but specifically one that would simultaneously ease me back into routine without being too much of a shock.
It turned out that a client wanted their branding done earlier in the summer and their website later in the summer, so the two parts were split up with my wedding in between. As a 9 on the enneagram, I can struggle with getting momentum, so this was a best case scenario for me! Having a client I already had a relationship with + a brand I was already familiar with was the perfect way to get back into the work flow. Think about what works for your personality, energy levels, and how you want work to consistently look like after your break.
Tips for Prepping:
Give yourself plenty of time to plan. This helps you block off time, figure out finances, etc.
Hold firm to your plan (like, actually take a break and leave your laptop at home) and set very clear boundaries with yourself and others.
Find help if you need it and don’t be afraid to outsource (contract out work to cover projects that absolutely must happen while you’re gone).
Communicate early, clearly, and regularly to remind your people leading up to your time out of the office.
Think of how you want your transition back into working to be like (slow easing in vs. sudden rush) and plan accordingly.
What it’s been like after the break…
At the time of writing this post, I’ve been back in the office for about two months.
The transition back into a steady work rhythm has certainly had its share of challenges! But they’re mostly ones I was anticipating.
Has getting back momentum been hard? Yep. Did moving and not having a tidy office to work in right away a challenge? Totally.
But, I’m thankful I took the time to plan and communicate with my clients up front because there were no bad surprises waiting to greet me when I got back to my inbox. I’m thankful I had an existing project to come back to because it gave me a firm time of when work needed to start again. And I’m thankful for knowing myself enough to see the need for a slow easing back into work because a lot of changes all at once can be tiring!
I also really liked the timing of my break! Taking time off mid-year feels like a natural time to reset and re-evaluate certain things, then make changes accordingly. It allowed me some space to see how I wanted the rest of my year to be and what shifts needed to happen as a result.
And now I can see how a break like this something I can plan for each year and not just because of crazy life events that make work too much to handle. I fully anticipate the next long break I take to be even better than this first one (mainly because the time off would be spent in a more relaxing, reflective way than a wedding and moving!).
My advice to you:
1 | Don’t be afraid to take the time off because you think your business won’t survive.
It may seem like something that you don’t have the luxury of doing, but given time and proper planning, you can. If you’re anything like me, my guess is that you didn’t build a business to be chained down by it…you started it for the freedom it could offer. So be bold! Write down what you want out of your business and plan your time, financial goals, etc. accordingly.
2 | Don’t be afraid to take time off because you might upset someone.
Your clients are going to be supportive, especially when you’re giving them plenty of notice to prepare and are transparent about why you’re taking the time off. When I told my clients I wouldn’t be available during July because of my wedding, they were excited for me and completely supportive. I even set up my autoresponder to say why I was out of the office and that’s something you can do too. Whether you’re taking time off to travel the world or you’re taking time off to rest and get inspired again, go ahead and tell people about the purpose behind your pause.
3 | Don’t be afraid to leave your laptop at home.
Are you guilty of bringing your laptop on vacation *just in case* a client has an emergency? Well, leave that laptop at home, turn on the autoresponder, turn off the notifications, and don’t feel bad about it! Because you’ve planned for this, prepped your people, and worked consistently on building a strong business, you can afford to take the time away. Things will not crash and burn.
4 | Don’t be afraid of how things will feel after your break.
I was worried about not feeling inspired once I got back in the office, but by putting things in place that made it easy for me to return I was able to successfully ease back in. This part is very individual, so it’s important to know yourself and embrace your strengths + struggles! We all have personal challenges, so the sooner you’re honest about them the sooner you can remove the obstacles you (probably) put in your own way.
I hope you feel inspired and equipped to take a break from your business, even it’s just for a week! It’s totally possible—if I can do it, you can too! Leave the laptop at home. Turn off your email notifications. Get inspired to make changes and feel refreshed in your business, and then come back stronger than ever.
Want to follow along with more behind-the-scenes happenings here at Gillian Tracey Design? Follow along with me on Instagram!