How I took 4 weeks annual leave

Imagine taking 4 weeks of annual leave… Yes please! I remember when I first took a holiday as a self employed business owner. People I knew would comment and say “oh it’s alright for some.”

Sigh.

I would think to myself, but nobody is paying me to take annual leave. My friends in employed positions had that luxury of guaranteed time off every year … paid. My own annual leave would be whenever I could afford to pay myself to take time off.

As is the most case if you are a freelancer. They say “if I don’t work then I don’t get paid.” Don’t even get me started on all the “sick days” my employed friends take at their leisure! After working for myself for the last three (yes three!) I decided that I was going to take the whole summer as annual leave.

If I wanted to take that much time off – well I was going to need a plan.

SO I MADE AN “ANNUAL LEAVE PLAN”

Based on a quick look at data, clients coming and going and my social analytics, I knew that August was generally a quiet month. Many of my clients are parents – so they are either juggling the summer themselves or on holiday / out and about. 

Being a mum, I also have to either sort holiday clubs and childcare…and I like going on holiday myself too. 

Therefore, it made sense to take some downtime in August if I was ever going to take any annual leave at all. I knew that I needed a certain income to survive on and wanted to up that amount so I could thrive comfortably too (days out with the kids can be expensive!) 

I decided to put away some money in a separate account each month to cover the amount I thought would be enough. Then I had to think about how to manage my clients for the period of time I wanted to take as annual leave. 

MANAGING CLIENTS WHILE ON ANNUAL LEAVE

This part of the plan will of course will be subjective to the services you provide and how flexible they are. 

For me, I use a booking system. Any existing and potential clients can book a “slot” in my diary for their graphics or content.

My booking system is cased in Tidycal.com which I really rate, check it out if you are looking for an alternative to Calendly. I have this hooked up to my Google Calendar so it makes it really easy to book out any of the days I want to take as annual leave. 

The hardest part was probably reminding my clients to book their slot in time over the summer so that they didn’t miss out – some decided to also take annual leave so didn’t need content and some got 2x months in beforehand so that they were ahead. Any new contracts were also started after my annual leave dates. 

Lastly, I designed a shiny new out of office graphic, set that up and reminded everyone (at pretty much every opportunity!) that I was on annual leave from xxxx date until xxxx.

HOW WAS MY ANNUAL LEAVE?

Pretty much as you would expect – I loved it! I want to mention quite passionately that this is what I felt was right for me and my own business. It isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer to knuckle down in the summer and launch something wonderful in September instead. Both are valid. Whatever truly lights you up and brings you peace is what you should always focus on. 

What I did really like about taking annual leave is that I had spare days to be able to create content for my own business… if I wanted to. There was no pressure. I found some days that I was writing emails because my brain was buzzing with inspiration and I just had to get them out of my head and down on paper. 

Some days I went to hot yoga, a walk or a run. Other days I supervised play dates and attended children’s activities. As a family, we then took a 10 day trip to Corfu which was bliss – although we did almost get stuck there due to a cancelled flight and a failure with the good old British Air Control!. All throughout – I managed to switch off when I needed to and jot ideas down / make to do lists when I wanted to. 

Because I took a whole 4 weeks annual leave from ANY client work, I found that I had some mental space to get really clear on what I wanted for my own business coming back into the autumn / winter and the last few months of 2023. 

SAME AGAIN NEXT YEAR?

Absolutely yes. The things I was able to learn about myself, my business and the motivation I found have been really eye-opening. I felt a new founded focus and really ready to get stuck back in upon return. 

I know that good planning, and GREAT systems are really what enabled me to have so much peace while off. It’s also worth noting that previous to being off on annual leave, I batched 61 pieces of content, one post for every single day to go out on my Instagram throughout August & September. 

Now I know that to some, this is HUGE. But to me, it was a priority, a non negotiable. Because my entire business is content, creating content and setting that example. So it was the first things on my plan to get done. I batched, created, wrote and scheduled content for the month of August as I was “officially out of office.” I did the same for September so that I was ahead and not having to catch up when I came back from annual leave. 

It was worth it!

I still had enquiries that were lined up for new business calls when I came back in September. My content performed really well – much better than the summer before when I barely posted a single thing. 

If you are thinking of doing something similar, I would highly recommend it – whenever that might be during the year. It is imperative that you do what is best for you and always plan plan plan! 

TO RE-CAP, HERE’S WHAT I DID:

  • Planned a year in advance for the downtime.
  • Saved 1.5x my monthly income throughout the year so that I could comfortably pay bills and have extra spends for activities. 
  •  Booked everyone in via a system that sent auto reminders & notifications
  • Gave my clients plenty of notice that I would be unavailable. 
  • Strategised, batched and scheduled in 8x weeks worth of content to run smoothly while I was away. 
  • Created an out of office and notified people when I would be back to work.
  • Logged off, checked out and only used my “business Instagram” when I want to (ensuring that I was mainly having social conversations with work friends and not responding to any client / potential clients queries)

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