We’ve just been on our first ever two week holiday and we closed the business during that time!Â I know, it sounds crazy yes?
Don’t get me wrong, we have come back to overflowing in-boxes and more than one telephone message, but the to do list makes it all manageable but what I am really blogging about is that how just a little bit of communication really has made all the difference to our state of mind and our customer’s expectations.
Everyone needs a holiday, if you are to work effectively with renewed vigor it really is worth recharging those batteries, but as I have blogged before, being self employed doesn’t lend itself to holidays, especially not when you work with your other half!
So what did we do differently this time that enabled us to get away for such a long time?Â We let our customers know when we would be away and what to do in an emergency – not that Internet marketing or SEO is ever life or death you understand!Â How did we do this…. well I used Mailchimp to set up an above board, fully legal mail out to our address list.Â I then added in subsections to our database and emailed out specific information to specific groups of customers informing them of what to do and who to contact if their website went down or their email stopped working.
And do you know what – no one had an emergency after all and by letting everyone know that we were out of the country and that we weren’t turning our mobiles on they didn’t get in touch even though they knew we were away.Â Having had time off in the past when people still thought it acceptable to ring at 10pm on a Sunday night, these two weeks have been a revelation.
Having taken the time to work with Mailchimp and find out all the wonderful things it can do, we are going to be offering newsletter set up and management out to customers so do let us know if you are interested and when we are ready to offer a package we will be in touch.
So, now we are back from our travels (NYC and a wee cruise on the QM2) we are raring to go, fully recharged and extremely happy with our self serving customers
Over the last couple of weeks I seem to have had a succession of meetings with prospective customers who’s only question is ‘how much is that going to cost me’.Â I give a ball park figure and the sharp intake of breath and the roll of the eyes is now getting me to the point of asking them back ‘would you like me to work for free’?
Don’t worry, I am not going to go off on a rant again, its just that I am getting so disheartened with people thinking that we should be cheaper for the work we carry out… actually that’s unfair, the majority of people are aware that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, or in our case if you pay proper fees then you get professional service.
In our ever evolving company, we often discuss well into the night the direction we want to take our business and many moons ago we made the decision not to ‘sell our soul to the devil’ or to be more precise – sell ourselves short.Â No more would we try and fit in with a customer who says things like ‘what could you do for Â£20 a month’… the answer now is ‘nothing’!
So why the blog post?Â Well as ever I just wanted to share with you the thought process behind our small business, and to hopefully give down to earth honest advice to other start up and small businesses.Â If you know you are worth the money and you work hard for that money (cue Donna Summer!) then don’t undervalue yourself or your product.Â By all means negotiate and even barter if it is appropriate, but in our experience the customers that paid the smallest amount usually demanded the highest quantity of our time and therefore we ultimately lost money.
As ever, your thoughts, suggestions or just comments are always welcome.
We have recently been getting more involved with local / regional business networks and it is amazing the amount of home workers there are in the area.Â Is this because we are in the Highlands and it is more convenient and more accepted or is it UK wide, not sure, but either way whilst it is great working from home there is a very fine work/life balance and sometimes we can get to the point where the clock is ticking and the stress is rising.
No matter how professional you are, there will be times in your life that you are also faced with external pressures, family issues, health issues, they all combine and whilst most of us can appear as calm business people 99.9% of the time this can sometimes prove just a wee bit much of a struggle.
So, my tips to help beat the stress of the work/life balance, following on from a great article I read on Jobs2U are as follows, and yes many of them will seem like common sense, but sometimes you need to be reminded!
- Make a list – what needs doing, what can you do, what can be left for a day or two, what is priority – sometimes just writing or typing things down can make you realise that there isnt quite as much to do as you thought there was.
- Take breather breaks – make an excuse to go for a walk or the shops, even half an hour away from you desk can put things into perspective.
- Delegate where possible – you are not invincible, accept the help of others if it is available.
- Don’t skip meals, don’t survive soley on strong coffee and don’t sit up working through the night when actually you should be in bed!
- And last but most definitely not least – yes your business is important, but so are your family and friends, they need you too sometimes, so re-schedule, give realistic time estimates to customers and schedule in some days off – we all need them!
One thing that has confirmed that we are not alone in our self-employment crusade, was the amount of people we have spoken to over the last couple of months who never take the statutory 20 days holiday a year.Â The old adage that ‘if you don’t work you don’t get paid’ is a real worry to many self employed people, however, with clever planning and some extra hours prior to your holiday, it is possible to take a proper holiday.Â Saying all this, I have to confess that this year will be the first year we have ever taken 2 weeks off in the whole of the 8 years we have been self employed, so it may be a case of ‘do what I say, not do as I do’!
Interested to hear other techniques that you use to keep the balance right and work effectively.Â I think we have finally got to the point where we know our limitations and plan properly, something we definitely did not do in the early years.
We have all heard the term ‘holiday blues’ but is it really real or should we just kick ourselves up the bum and get on with it?Â Well, ok my opinion is it is a bit of both…
Being self employed the thought of taking a holiday means a lot of planning in advance, pennies to save, email responders to remember to put on, telephone messages to be changed and the realisation that actually if you are not here it is not the end of the world.Â People are not going to die a hideous death because we were not here to sort their email queries out.Â Don’t get me wrong, customer service is the highest priority in our business, but honestly, we can go on holiday can’t we?!
For the first time ever in our self employed lives, we went away for just over a week WITHOUT a lap top and have come back to work this morning and amazingingly enough our customers are still here and there were no major traumas whilst we were away.Â Yes we did have our Blackberries with us, but were very disciplined not to use them to respond to emails (ok just a couple of times!).Â But you know what, a holiday was what we needed.
Yes it is a bit of a struggle this morning but now inboxes have been cleared and to do lists made, life is good and we are raring to go.Â By giving ourselves a holiday we found that batteries have been recharged, time to think things through was used to good advantage and to top it off we have just booked our holiday of a lifetime for next November – that gives us loads of self employment time to organise our bad asses and go away without feeling guilty!
Do you struggle to switch off and go on hols?Â Answers on a postcard please …