How to take a sabbatical: the self-employed individual
Entrepreneurs and those working for themselves often find themselves on a never-ending treadmill. Taking time off, full-stop, even for just a 2 week family holiday, can be immensely challenging. Is it therefore possible to take an extended leave of absence, with a sabbatical, and still have a business to come back to?
In this third part of my series on sabbaticals, I look at why they can benefit the self-employed and how you can make them a reality.
Taking a sabbatical when self-employed
1. What’s in it for you?
Consider the benefits of taking some extended leave. Do you need to dedicate some time to your young family? Are you reaching burn out? Have you felt that you’ve lost your direction? Maybe you want to acquire additional skills? Or perhaps you want to achieve a lifelong dream whilst you’re still able to in terms of a personal challenge, travel, experience or volunteering?
A sabbatical, as a break, will definitely help to bring insight and energy back to your personal and business life, but it helps to be clear on why you want to take one.
2. Budgets under scrutiny
When taking a sabbatical there are some different aspects of budgeting you need to consider.
Firstly, there are your sabbatical costs themselves. Consider things such as travel and accommodation costs, course fees, and the like.
Secondly, consider your living costs which will continue whilst you are away. Think about your mortgage, council tax, bills and more.
Next, consider the ongoing business costs for whilst you are away versus whether any income can still be generated in your absence. Which overheads will still need to be paid and what will these total?
Then consider additional business costs which may be necessary for while you are away. Perhaps you’ll need to pay for a virtual assistant to carry out some communications, or pay a freelancer, or other business to carry out work.
Lastly, as harsh as it is, consider the cost of potentially losing clients for good. How easy are new clients to acquire and does the business have a comfort zone whereby losing some clients is manageable?
Once you have a clear idea of the costs involved, you can then work out a sabbatical budget and then plan and save accordingly.
3. Consider the admin
In order to ensure that your business ticks over and you don’t lose your position whilst you are away, you need to give critical consideration to the administrative tasks involved in your business.
This can be an excellent opportunity to give some thought to the streamlining and even automation of admin tasks which often get overlooked in favour of the ‘real’ work.
Depending on the anticipated length of your sabbatical, you may consider hiring someone to cover the admin tasks for you. Don’t forget to consider any seasonal nature of your business. For example, retailers need to avoid Christmas.
4. Think of the future
What can you do to absence-proof your business? Again, this is a good exercise to undergo, even if you don’t take a sabbatical now.
A good way to approach this is to think about your return. What do you want your return to look like? It may be possible to frontload work before you go and then also book in work for when you return. This will depend on the nature of your industry. For example, you may be able to eliminate disruption by booking things such as services early or making appointments for your return.
Also consider what will happen if an excellent business opportunity arises whilst you are away. Will you be able to rely on your admin systems to manage this, or will you be ok to let that particular opportunity go?
5. Let your clients know
In some cases it may not be necessary to let your clients know. With clever automation, admin planning and cover, as well as careful use of your calendar, you may be able to take your leave without your clients being aware.
However, if you need to notify your clients then do it in a positive way. Explain how your absence will affect them and what steps have been put in place to ensure disruption to them is minimised. Show a commitment to them in the future by finding out what work they need doing now to cover until you get back.
Taking a sabbatical when you are self-employed is not impossible. Be aware of the challenges you face and weigh these against the opportunities a sabbatical brings – personally and for your business.