When you work for yourself, can you take time off?

If you’re self-employed — whether you’re a freelancer or a small business owner - it can be difficult to justify taking time off. But with Christmas around the corner, you probably need a break as much as the rest of us. So how do you go about taking time off?

There are many upsides to calling yourself boss. But the downside is a big one. Every year, around the holidays, entrepreneurs learn that it’s tough to take even a week or two off, let alone a longer absence, like maternity leave.

But striking a balance is very important. After all, the dangers of overworking are potentially deadly, with those who work a 55-hour work week facing a 33% increased risk of having a stroke.

If that’s you, you should consider taking a break. So how do you do it?

Plan your time off

The thing that puts many self-employed individuals off of taking a break is the loss of earnings. And when you rely on yourself for your income, a week on the beach means no pay.

But if you figure out your 2017 travel plans by the end of 2016, you can plan your finances accordingly to accommodate this.

Knowing your holiday times at least a few months in advance lets you build that lack of availability into your client proposals too and you might find that giving client notice of your absence means they give you more work in the lead up to your break. This will help to boost the coffers to cover your period away.

Working an extra hour or two each day can also help top up your bank account for when your time off comes around. And watching the pennies ahead of your break will ease the pressure too - its all about budgeting!

Pay yourself the equivalent of a salary

Once you have built up a steady roster of existing clients, pay yourself a monthly “salary” that is one twelfth of your annual earnings.

A predictable pay structure allows you to take holidays without having to worry about covering a lost week of income in any given month.

And, if you find yourself with a substantial amount of money above your account threshold at the end of the year, then maybe it’s worth giving yourself a bonus to tie in with your vacation.

Consider shorter, more frequent breaks

A smattering of long weekends throughout the year could be a better alternative to 10 days in the Bahamas. Although I know which one I would prefer...

Alternatively, taking a vacation from, say, Wednesday to Wednesday means you are in the office on both working weeks but you still get a seven night break.

Get help

Learning to delegate tasks to your staff is a good way to protect your business while you are away. Of course, you might not have staff and you might not want to employ anybody but if this is the case, you can still get help.

Perhaps you could also ask a trusted friend or family member to check your email and voice mail and call your hotel if anything disastrous happens?

Down tools

Taking time off means stopping all work-related activities. Yes, even your emails! After all, unless you learn to switch off, you won’t feel recharged.

Learn how to set an Out of Office message on your email system which specifies dates and promises to contact the sender as soon as you are home.

Time it to match your clients

An estimated 900,000 people work on Christmas Day, a jump of 5% over the past three years, according to a report published by the TUC in 2015.

But for the vast majority of us, Christmas is an ideal time of the year to shut up shop because chances are many of your clients will be doing the same.

If you do get a break this December, we wish you a nice, relaxing one. And we look forward to hearing from you, refreshed and revitalised, in the new year!

Merry Christmas!