A sabbatical usually refers to full-time employees taking an extended leave of absence for the purpose of traveling, resting, or simply having more leisure time. However, the first time I heard of the phrase was when I was among business owners at a networking event.
One of the women said she was getting ready to head to Africa in the next few weeks for a sabbatical. Then she went on to explain how she took a sabbatical every few years. I became fascinated with the concept but wondered how it would be possible for business owners in general.
It’s no secret that most entrepreneurs have trouble taking time off or even not working weekends for that matter. So how can you take a sabbatical and still have a business to come back to?
Determine a Realistic Sabbatical Length
When you’re self-employed or running a small to mid-sized business, you have to be realistic about how much time you can take off. If you are the brains behind the operation and have a team of people depending on you, you probably can’t just unplug take 12 months off to travel around the world.
Determine a realistic sabbatical length that would allow you to get the rest you need but still avoid taking too much time away from your business so it doesn’t prevent growth from happening. Even taking a month completely off can probably do wonders.
Automate As Much As Possible
Think about what you can automate in your business so things still run smoothly while you’re gone. Can you schedule marketing promotions, emails, and follow-ups? If you’re running a Facebook ad campaign to bring in leads and sales, you can put it on autopilot so you can still get results while you’re gone.
Also, be sure to put a thorough auto-responder up so people know what’s going on and how they can reach someone on your team and still do business with you (or start the process) while you’re gone.
Communicate With Clients and Team Members
Be sure to let team members and clients know you’re going on a sabbatical and how long it will be. Your customers don’t have to know, but anyone who you work with directly should be told so expectations are set.
Clients will know you’re not around should they have extra assignments to send or request. Your team can help fill in some of the gaps by checking your email and solving any issues that may pop up while you’re gone.
Of course, you’ll want to allow a way for team members to reach you on your sabbatical, but this can be on your own terms. Decide which issues they should contact you about while you’re away. If you’re going to take an extended sabbatical, be sure to schedule monthly check-ins with your team so you can track progress.
Work Ahead and Schedule
If you have client work you can do, start working ahead now so you can still maintain a relationship with your clients after you return from your sabbatical. It may be challenging to get one month ahead with work but it’s not impossible.
You can also talk to clients if you must stop working for them temporarily and see if they would consider you again for assignments when you get back. This isn’t a guarantee, but it’s worth a try seeing as how I had a friend who took several months off and was still able to come back and work with some of her freelance clients.
Avoid any major product or service launches and put your business in maintenance mode while you’re gone.
If you’re wondering how to take a sabbatical when you run a business, realize it can be done and you don’t have to feel guilty. There is a time and season for everything and the key lies in your ability to plan, prepare and maintain the systems you already have in place.