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Bonus: How to Prepare Your Business for Vacation

Are you prioritizing taking time off from your business to focus on you? I just returned from my summer sabbatical in Greece and one of the biggest questions that kept showing up in my DMs were about how I prepared my business for an extended period of time off. In this special bonus episode, I’m sharing just that— how I prepare my business for my annual sabbatical and winter break!

The Branded by Bernel Podcast is brought to you by Bernel Westbrook, lead designer and founder of Branded by Bernel, a design studio dedicated to building strong brands and Showit websites for creative entrepreneurs.

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How to Prepare Your Business for Vacation

Each and every year, I try to take a summer sabbatical for two weeks and a winter break for two weeks. During this time, I completely close down my business. Taking a vacation and a break from work gets me out of the tunnel vision that can take over an entrepreneur’s life. You can follow along on my travel experiences over on my Be Back By Monday Instagram account that I created with my friends.

Now, it’s not rare for me to travel throughout the year for business and speaking engagements, but this particular episode is all about travel for leisure and closing your business during this time. Let’s dive into what this looks like for business owners using the three C’s: Clarity, Creation & Automation, and Communication.

Clarity

In any business, clarity is essential for having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it. Once I have my travel dates in mind, I sit down and review my calendar. This means looking at how many projects I can handle prior to leaving and how many I can handle when I return.

Since inquiries come through weekly and have different timelines, I put big time blocks on my calendar to accommodate my travel—especially in the days leading up to the trip. Additionally, I have to plan financially for it, which means that have to figure up how much I want to pay myself out of my business each week of that vacation as CEO PTO.

Creation & Automation

The next thing you need to look at is creation and automation for when you’re away. For me, this included creating the content that would go live and the autoresponders for people who may reach out. Even though our work life stops when we’re on vacation, the rest of the business world does not.

Creation and automation helps you stay consistent and showing up for your clients.

Now that I’ve grown my team, I was also able to delegate tasks to team members to handle while I was away as well. I recommend scheduling a meeting with your team prior to vacation so that you can explain any tasks that you’re assigning.

When it comes to the automation tools I use in my business, Flodesk and Dubsado have been game-changers for me. I was able to schedule my email marketing newsletters through Flodesk to keep in touch with my email lists. Then for my clients who had projects starting when I returned, Dubsado automatically sent them reminders to complete their homework so I didn’t have to worry about it while I was away. For client applications, Dubsado took care of collecting the information for us to review upon our return.

Communication

The final key to preparing your business for vacation is communication. Let your clients and team members know that you’ll be out of office so they can prepare for it as well. You can include this in your email signature, your contact form & page, and your social media accounts. When you communicate with people, they show grace in delays in responses.

Those are my three C’s for prepping your business for vacation! If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them, so come connect with me over on Instagram and send me a DM!

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Review the Transcript:

Hey, hi. Welcome to the Branded by Bernel podcast. I’m your host Bernel. You may know me as the branding and web designer who obsesses over the details. So you don’t have to, we all desire to be great at what we do. Although once we get there, no one seems to talk about the messy middle. This motivated me to set the table and invite industry peers over to share stories about living and working in the creative world. So grab the OJ and champagne, pull up a chair, join the creative community and be prepared to build a brand you fall in love with. This is the Branded by Bernel podcast.

Hey, guys, oh my goodness, I am so excited to be back back from Greece ready to jump back into business super refreshed. It was the trip of a lifetime. So many of you follow along on Instagram, since so many encouraging messages, tips on traveling in Europe and things of that nature. But one of the questions that I received, like several times, in my direct messages was how did I prep my business to close to travel like that? Like how do I do that as a business owner? So today’s mini podcast episode is for you guys, those of you who are wondering how I prep my business for vacation, how you can prep your business for vacation.

So I have put together some of my tried and true tips for that. I closed for two weeks in total transparency. If you follow me on Instagram, and you wondered like how long was she actually gone? I didn’t close my business for 14 days. And this is not the first time that I’ve done that. So every year I try to take a summer sabbatical. And on winter break, sometimes they’re two weeks, sometimes they’re a little bit more. But I do think that taking a vacation really helps me to get out of the tunnel vision of being an entrepreneur, sometimes we are very, very, very task oriented.

We have these tunnel visions, as I like to call them where we fixate on one part of our business and it really can take over our lives. So traveling for me is my hobby, it’s my escape. It’s the thing that allows me to kind of reposition what’s important in my life, get some fresh perspective and then bring that creativity back to my business. So when I say I travel obviously I do a lot of speaking engagements. As you business travel, I meet with clients and other states. But this podcast specifically is going to be about traveling for leisure. So how I prep my business for my vacation travel. I definitely love international travel. I feel like that is something that I try to do on a yearly basis. But international travel can be specifically hard because working while you’re away just has a totally different set of challenges time zones. Not enough outlets in the hotels are in the Airbnb is the desire to sightsee during the day jetlag and the list goes on. So international travel and typically close my business. Like totally shut down. no emails, no design work when I’m internationally traveling.

And I love traveling so much that me and my friends actually created a Instagram page dedicated just to our travels. It is named to be back by Monday have loved the BBB alliteration, but really be back on Monday is a way for people on social media to see the world through the eyes of 320 somethings just trying to make the most of every adventure in hopes of being backed by Monday. Um, all three of us do own our own businesses. Um, one of my friends actually has a day job as well. But all three of us are entrepreneurs, all three of us are creatives. And we just really love adventures and loving seeing the world and how much you really can broaden your scope. And just bring creativity to your life. Okay, so with all that being said, go follow me back by Monday, if you really want to see all of our travels, some of them are domestic, some are international, a lot of weekend trips on there. So good ideas if you live on the east coast, fun things to do on the West Coast, and so on and so forth. But what I’m here to talk to you about today is how I prep to do these things. So really, it’s the three C’s. Okay, so I have three C’s that I use to prep my business for vacation. Those items are clarity, creation and automation and communication. I did not plan for that to rhyme when I was writing up the notes for this show. But those are really the three C’s that I live by as I plan so the first one is clarity.

And so what is clarity He really mean I feel like we use that word a lot in business. But it really is just having a focal point having a clear vision for what you’re trying to accomplish, and having a clear vision of how you’re going to accomplish it. So how do I use clarity in my prep? Well, once I have my travel dates in mind, it’s time to sit down with my business calendar and really make a plan. So how I do that is by establishing how many projects that I can handle prior to leaving, and then which projects will be best suited to schedule upon my return. So what does that really look like? Well, inquiries come through on a weekly basis for branding projects for web design projects, and some of them take four weeks, some of them take six weeks, and so on, and so forth.

So once I have that date in mind, I really do a lot of time blocking on my calendar of like, okay, if this project is going to take four weeks, the next one is going to take six weeks, then that pushes me right up to the point of getting ready to leave for vacation, and I want to leave some flexibility on those last few days, then I need to start booking for start dates prior to my trip and start booking for when I return. So start booking people out at that like four to six week mark. So that’s kind of how that looks as far as my planning is concerned. And then something to know is planning financially. That’s another question that I get a lot like how do you travel? How do you plan financially for that, if you’re not taking projects? How are you getting paid, because you know, whether you’re a photographer or web designer writer, we know that our working equates to us getting paid, there’s usually not like a PTO or a formal PTO set up in your business.

So in order to financially plan for my trips, I really figure out how much I want to pay myself each week while I’m out of the office. So I do have payroll setup for myself and for my team. But if you don’t already have payroll set up in your business, if you just primarily take owner drawers or just take money from your business bank account, which I don’t suggest, but if that’s how you’re currently operating your business, I understand I’ve been there, what you want to do is set that number for what I call CEO PTO. So as the owner of your business, you want to make sure that you get some paid time off that even if your hours equate to dollars, like even if you’re one of those people where the hours that you work is how you get paid, you want to make sure that you have a reservoir of extra money. Now this is not your business saving, but this is literally just your pay time off if you got sick, if you needed to spend some more time with your children, if you had a family emergency if you want to take a vacation. All right.

So what does that look like? No, here’s an example, if you’re gonna give yourself $800 a week for your PTO, and you’re taking two weeks off, you should have at least $1,600 set aside right easy math? Well, if you book your vacation three months in advance, that means that you’re saving about $133 a week. Pretty feasible, right, and just put that money off to the side. And so when your trip comes, you now have that reservoir, that extra money that you’ll be using to pay yourself this is not operational costs for your business. But this is literally just to ensure that you have a paycheck. And so once you’ve worked out this financial plan, now it will be time to move on to executing the content plan. So that brings me to my next C. And that was creation and automation. So I guess it’s a C and an A for my alliteration purposes, we use three C’s. So creation and automation that can include scheduling your blog posts, batching, your social media content, creating out of office responders, and then delegating tasks to team members. So for me personally, what that means is pre recording my podcast episodes that we’re going to air while I was away. I’m also scheduling my monthly email newsletter to go out and and creating social media graphics for events and speaking engagements that I wanted to promote while I was waiting, because even though our work life stops when we’re on vacation, the rest of the business world does not.

Honestly you want to make sure that you are consistently showing up for your clients and for your audience. Whether that’s on social media, blogging, podcasts, however you promote your business, you do want to make sure that you’re staying consistent on there. And another way that creation and automation really came into play with this last trip that I took was I have team members now my team has grown. I was delegating tasks to team members. Some of those tasks were things that I wanted all of us to accomplish prior to leaving the office. And then there were a few tasks that I needed to make sure we’re gonna get done while I was out of the office, a pro tip on that is to schedule a meeting with your team prior to vacation, so that you can explain any tasks that you have delegated. I thought that was really important. I have tried this in the past. And sometimes we think we’re explaining things correctly. And, you know, people have questions, and that’s fine, but it’s really hard to get in contact. If you know, I’m on a boat in the middle of the ocean. And one of my team members has a question about their task. So definitely wanting to schedule a meeting prior to your vacation.

Once again, flexibility is key here, guys. So you know, that meeting can be scheduled a week before you leave that that meeting can be scheduled a few days before you leave, but just really making sure that everybody understands their tasks that have been delegated to them. And then with automation, you know, automation, automation, automation, I’m sure you’ve heard several business owners talk about how they use automation in their business, but it really is a lifesaver. So for me personally, the tools that I use to automate things are FLOTUS and dubsado. And so how I use FLOTUS is email marketing. It’s great, a very creative platform, if you haven’t checked it out, I have a whole blog post about reasons why I love flows for email marketing. But one of the tools that I use in there is the scheduler.

And so I’m able to write my email newsletter out, I’m able to link everything that I want people to be able to download from the emails, I’m able to put in my pictures and my content, everything, get it perfect, send myself a test email and make sure it works. And then from there, I can schedule it to go out. And I don’t have to touch a thing, it literally just sends it out to my whole email list or to the segment that I’m targeting. The second tool that I mentioned was dubsado. It is my client management system. It is the system that we use for invoices, proposals, client intake forms all of that. So making sure that we scheduled that my project manager Gemma is incredible. And so one of the things that we worked on together was everybody who had projects that were starting, when I returned from vacation, we had reminders set in there for them to do their client homework. We had invoice reminders in there, for everybody that we had sent proposals to just reminders that those proposals were going to expire, and so on so forth. Another automation workflow that we created in dubsado, specifically for this was our client application.

On my website. Since we were not currently booking new clients prior to the trip, we went ahead and created a client application it It collects all of the information that I would need to have prior to doing a consultation call with somebody. And so we put that up there on my website prior to leaving so that people could still inquire to work with us. But to be able to know that, you know, we will be getting back to them upon our return. Alright, so the last C is communication. And that’s probably the most important one, when prepping your business for vacation. Let all of your clients know that you’re going to be out of the office. And you really want to let people know those out of the office dates as soon as possible. So personally, I started mentioning, mentioning it a month out. And I mentioned it on Zoom calls and phone calls ever before it was like in print on social media, or anything like that. So just letting people know, hey, I’m going to be out of the office coming up. If you have any questions concerns, if you want to schedule your training meetings, then that would be great to go ahead and do now because we’re going to be out of the office in the month. And so that was really helpful this go around. Additional places that you want to make sure you have your out of office states to communicate is your email signature.

So right down there, besides your pretty profile picture and your social media links and your tagline, you want to have upcoming dates that you’re going to be unavailable. And then you can also add your out of office space to the top of your contact form or on your contact page. So you can add a nice little ribbon banner right above get in touch or work with us. And it could just literally list the dates that you’re going to be out of the office so that people are aware prior to contacting you. And when you communicate with people, they show you some grace. If someone fills out your contact form, and they don’t know the drought of the office, they could easily think like, wow, she never followed up with me. I guess she doesn’t want to work with me on my project. But when you have those dates up there, then people are aware, okay, I can expect to hear from them in five days or 10 days or whatever the timeframe is that you’re going to be gone.

The last place that I suggest having that communication written out is on social media. That’s where a lot of people go to check our portfolios to contact us Send us DMS or what have you. So posting those out of office, they tell them a story graphic, and then maybe making it a highlight that says like upcoming out of office dates or putting it on your feed, if it’s aesthetically pleasing, you can definitely put on your feed that you are away or that you have some upcoming vacation. Also, communication is just as important with your team. I know a lot of you guys listening at home are solopreneurs, which is incredible. But if you’re building a team currently, or if you already have one, let them know in advance. So try to let your team members know that there’s going to be an upcoming vacation for you in the next two or three months.

And that way they can plan accordingly. So this is whether they’re still going to be working while you’re out of the office. And so they’re going to be picking up slack. So they need to know that they may be working a little bit more while you’re gone. Or if the entire office is closing, it’s really nice to let them know that hey, this is a great time for you to take a vacation as well. So communication really is key. And then a pro tip that is not one of my three C’s, it’s just really giving yourself a day on the back end to recover from your vacation. Before going back. I know it’s so easy to want to soak up every single minute of traveling, hanging out until Sunday night and then coming back to work Monday. But you really want to give yourself a little bit of grace to just be able to come back refreshed and renewed and be able to just really jump in where you left off. So giving yourself a day off on the backend, you can use that day to review emails, and really make a plan for your first day back. Everybody knows that the day that you get back from vacation is the day that there’s 100 emails 50 VMs, all these people who have questions that they’ve been saving their questions to your return. So really having that day in between is a lifesaver to catch up. All right, guys.

Well, those are my three C’s for prepping my business for vacation clarity, creation and automation and communication. If you have any other tips for prepping your business for traveling for vacation, or what have you, I would love to hear them. I also thought of while I was prepping for this episode, it would be cool to do a podcast episode on how I prep my business for business travel or how I prep to go to retreat. So I feel like that’s a whole different category. But if you have any other ideas of how you prepare for being out of the office for an extended period of time, whether that’s a week or two weeks or a month, I would love to hear those tips. Also, if you have traveled to any super cool places, as I said, I am a travel nerd I absolutely love seeing the world I love seeing new destinations. I love seeing different cultures and how people live so if you’ve been anywhere cool that you’d want to share that feel free to send me a DM shoot me an email, I love looking at travel pics, and yeah, I am super excited that our summer sabbatical went well my favorite place in Greece because this is a question that a lot of people ask well where was my favorite place I would have to say the island of Paros. It is a little less well known than Santorini of course but you still get this wonderful island vibe. The buildings are beautiful, the water is blue and crystal clear. And the food was incredible like all the Fetta and olive oil that you could imagine so Paros is definitely my favorite Greek island. Athens had a lot as well, a lot of history, a lot of art, just really rich culture in Athens of course, but it was super high because I did do this in August. So if you are planning a trip to grease in the summertime, the islands are definitely where you will get a breeze and be able to sit in the sand and dip your toes in the water.

So I hope you guys enjoyed this episode and I look forward to talking to you soon. Wow, that went by really fast. As always, thank you so much for showing up in my little corner of the internet. I would love to hear your thoughts on the show. So please, please subscribe, leave a review and share what you learned with friends. Some of the best things in life are freebies. So don’t forget to head over to Brandon by brunel.com to check out our free branding goodies, the show notes and more educational resources.

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