By Emily Coltman

Your business does need a lot of love and care in order to thrive.

But, with the summer holidays upon us, will you be able to take a break from your business?

Or have you been so obsessed with work whilst away that you’ve incurred the wrath of family and friends? I wonder how many BlackBerries and iPhones will be thrown into the sea by exasperated partners this holiday season?

Well, why shouldn’t I work on my business while I’m on holiday?!

Loving your business so much that you’re available 24-7 isn’t necessarily a good thing!

Sometimes it’s when you’re switched off from your business that the best ideas come.

How often have you had a really good idea to sell to a customer, or to improve your business admin, while you’re out walking your dog on a summer evening, having a shower, or playing football with your son in the park?

Even if a good idea doesn’t strike while you’re on holiday, it’s amazing how refreshed and energized you feel when you come back to your business after a break. And by that I mean a real break. No computer, no iPhone, no BlackBerry, nothing.

My husband has to confiscate my iPhone while we’re away (and no, he’s never thrown it in the sea), but I’m always extremely grateful that he does, because much though I love my job, having a real break feels brilliant. And I come back to my work zinging.

I can’t switch off, my clients need me!

There are ways to switch off without making your clients feel abandoned. OK, they won’t spontaneously combust if you don’t answer them for a week, but they might start to feel annoyed if they can’t get hold of you and don’t know why, and in the worst case, they may go to a different supplier.

So how could you switch off?

Tip 1: Plan your workload

Do as much work as you can before you go, so that you don’t have to think about unfinished projects while you’re away. Often there are natural breaks or pauses in pieces of work — see if you can schedule the downtime to coincide with your holiday. But remember you are not Superman - don't burn yourself out by working too hard in the run-up to your holiday!

Don't accept projects with deadlines just before, or just after, your holiday - or re-negotiate the deadline with the customer. Most customers will fully understand your need for a break, and if they don’t, are you sure you really want to be working with them?

Tip 2: E-mail auto-responder

Set up an auto-responder in your e-mail package. These are usually very easy to set up and they’ll let your customers — and potential customers — know that you’re unavailable for a certain length of time.

But do be very careful how you word these, especially if your home address is either written on the e-mails or otherwise available on the public domain (for example, if it’s your company registered office address then it’ll be on the Companies House website). If you put in your auto-response that you’re “away from the office” or “on holiday”, then you’re as good as saying that your house is empty.

And putting a message on Twitter or a note on your website that you’re on holiday could also be equivalent to a “burglars welcome” sign.

Say you’re “unavailable” instead.

Tip 3: Tell your clients in advance

For existing customers, warn them at least a fortnight in advance that you’re going to be away — and when.

That way they can’t be aggrieved if they receive an e-mail auto-responder saying you’re unavailable for that length of time, and they’ll know that if they need you for an urgent project, they’ll need to ask you before you go.

Also if you know when some of your main clients will be away during the year, consider taking your holidays at the same time as them - as your work load will naturally be lighter then and they won’t be looking for you.

Tip 4: Use professional services

If you have a business phone line, consider re-routing calls to a virtual assistant, or a call answering service.

You could also ask a local virtual assistant to come in and check your business mail for you, and respond to any urgent communications to say you’re unavailable.

Tip 5: Clear your paperwork

Before you go, make sure you’ve completed as much paperwork as you can.

For example, pay any bills that will fall due while you’re away, and issue any invoices to your customers. If you’re using a software package like FreeAgent you can prepare your invoices in advance and schedule them to be sent on any date you like, and also get it to issue recurring invoice and chase non-payers whilst you’re away.

Give yourself a real break from your business this summer!

About The Author

Emily Coltman ACA, is Chief Accountant at FreeAgent who provide an online accounting system specifically designed to meet the needs of freelancers and small businesses. You can try it for free at www.freeagentcentral.com.