OK, Solo PR Pros, I've got a question for you: When was the last time you took a vacation?
No, I mean like a *real* fully unplugged-from-work vacation — none of this, “Oh, I'll check in on my email real quick before I hit the beach.”
When you run a business, it's not always easy to disconnect and take time off. I get it, and I'm right there with you as a fellow solo business owner.
But truly, time off from your business is so important! It allows you the chance to step away from real life, relax and recharge. Oftentimes, you'll even come back to your work in a much better and more inspired place. It's really a win-win all around.
How to take a vacation as a business owner
Taking a vacation as a solo PR professional comes down to excellent planning and strong communication with your clients and extended team. Bonus: given the field you're in, you've already got these two skills!
Here are some tips and best practices for actually booking that vacation and shutting down your computer.
Step No. 1 here is figuring out when you'll be off the grid and determining what work needs to be done before you leave.
Once your vacation is booked, block your calendar for those dates immediately and grab a piece of paper to start planning.
Back in 2019, I took my first “real” vacation since starting my business in 2016 — a three week trip to Australia where I fully unplugged. For me, the planning began about three months ahead of my time off.
Here's what that looked like: I made a list of all of my clients and noted the tasks that could be completed ahead of time before my trip and tasks that couldn't be completed ahead of time and would need to be delegated.
That list eventually came in handy when I communicated the plan to my clients and it helped me to feel in control of my workload in the weeks leading up to my trip.
Communicate with your clients
The next step is communicating (and then communicating again!) with your clients to keep them up-to-date on your vacation plans.
“I have one rule: be honest with clients. Be transparent, whether you’re taking off two days or two weeks,” advises Daria Steigman of Steigman Communications, llc.
I approached this step by emailing my clients to let them know the dates I'd be away, plus the plan for completing work ahead of time. But here's the thing: this was only the first of a few emails I sent to remind them of the dates I'd be away and the plan. Overcommunication is OK here.
Susan M. Stoga of Carson Stoga Communications agrees that multiple touch points ahead of a trip is a best practice.
“I've found that my clients are generally respectful of time off when I communicate in advance — sending a general email out a month before, stating this on the weekly agenda and sending out info on the team that is covering for me a few days before my departure,” she says.
Delegate work to your team or a fellow solo PR professional
Maybe your work can't be completed ahead of time. Perhaps you need someone on the ground during the time you're away to manage pitching or check in on social media.
That's where your extended team — or relying on a fellow subcontracted solo PR friend can come in handy.
“It’s critical to build a team of trusted colleagues to handle emergencies in your absence, including a virtual assistant who can monitor email so that nothing slips through the cracks,” says Janine Krasicky Sadaj of J9 Media Solutions.
Spectrum Public Relations‘ Kristine Gobbo has a subcontractor she relies on when she heads out on vacation. They have a reciprocal agreement where they take care of each other's clients when they need to step away from work.
“For those clients who may have ongoing needs while I head out on vacation, I introduce this high-level contractor as their contact while I’m out of the office. Before I leave, she and I have a debrief on possible needs. If there is a crisis, I ask her to text me; otherwise, I trust her to handle all business when I’m out of the office,” explains Kristine.
Set boundaries for your time away
You get to decide how to structure your time off.
“Once you’re out of the office, set boundaries for yourself concerning what you will and won’t allow yourself to handle when on vacation,” recommends Maren Minchew from MMPR.
Maybe you don't want to fully unplug. It might make you feel more in control to check in a couple of times during your trip. But maybe you do want to be fully offline. Decide ahead of time, so you're not tempted to check in unnecessarily.
“My boundaries are only one email check a day and if I can’t handle it via my phone it will have to wait,” Maren says.
Unplug and relax
The hard work is done. You've communicated with your clients, your work plan is in place and you've finally logged off of email and Slack.
Now it's time to enjoy!
“Working through COVID with a 24/7 client engagement and connectivity cycle, it was necessary to disengage and manage my own sanity. After being vaccinated, I planned a much-needed family vacation to Florida and totally disconnected,” says Chris Kuban from Chemistry PR and Multimedia.
Chris says he benefited from fully disengaging during his vacation, including from his personal social media.
“It felt good to NOT post anything on social media while I was on vacation. We posted our photos one-week after we returned,” he explains. “I found not having the pressure of posting the perfect
photo or writing the perfect caption allowed me to truly enjoy the trip.”
Taking time off work is good business
No need to feel guilty when you take time off. Remember, that stepping away from your work is actually a valuable investment in yourself.
“Over the past 18 years, I’ve also found that going on vacation is one of my best business development strategies. I’ve had at least two or three new clients come on board after I took time off to decompress,” says Janine.
Enjoy your next vacation!
Jessica Lawlor is the managing editor for Solo PR Pro, where she manages the Solo PR Pro blog and newsletter. She's also the founder and CEO of Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co), the go-to agency for content management and creation.