Life can be a beach ... even for the self-employed

Being a sole trader has plenty of perks. For starters, there is no boss to answer to and no unpredictable employees to manage.
By · 2 Dec 2013
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By ·
2 Dec 2013
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Being a sole trader has plenty of perks. For starters, there is no boss to answer to and no unpredictable employees to manage.

But despite the freedom that working as a lone ranger seems to offer, there is also one major problem: how do you take a holiday if you are the person responsible for every facet of the business?

We asked more than 25 solo operators across a variety of sectors how they manage to take a break - if at all.

Jill Chivers has been in business since 2000 and runs an online membership program for "women who shop too much", She is also a corporate facilitator, trainer and coach, and travels often.

She chooses to switch her phone to global roaming, rather than using a virtual assistant or personal assistant while away.

"The most a PA or VA can do is communicate your unavailability and perhaps manage your diary when you return - they can't actually run the business for you," Ms Chivers said.

Her shopping business is entirely online, so it is easy to manage from almost anywhere.

In her corporate business, Ms Chivers gives her number to clients while she is away, believing the cost of global roaming is cheaper than using a virtual assistant. But she strongly encourages them to use email.

"I don't end up taking calls at 3am because I inform clients of my holiday plans in advance and let them know that email is the best way to reach me if anything is urgent," she said. "If you love what you do, and I do, then checking your emails once or twice a week while you're away isn't a big problem."

Joe Hughes runs his own public relations company, NOW! Communications. He has taken two holidays in the past three years and said he has found a simple formula that always seems to work. He employs freelancers to take on specific clients, so they have a person to contact in Australia during working hours.

"I always ensure media releases are written beforehand, so my freelancer just has to send it out and they are completely across any tactical material which needs to be executed," he said. "I have found that my phone can never be off though, when abroad, because the client is ultimately my responsibility and when they have an issue with something, they want to talk to me."

Mr Hughes said if you can find a freelancer you trust, it is possible to have a proper break.

For others, taking a much-needed holiday is virtually impossible, or an uphill battle at best.

One respondent had this to say: "If you want a genuine break, you need to join a company and be on wages or salary."

Another, Mark Robinson, who owns coastal accommodation business Annesley House, said: "The only way I get a break is to rope my kids into looking after it."

Retailer Janelle Frohloff, who runs the shop Somethings Country and also sells online, is about to take her first-ever "no work at all holiday".

"I have been operating for 8½ years and I normally take a break over Christmas/New Year's by closing my shop. But I still answer emails and send out invoices and do ordering on my holidays," she said.

By Christmas Day, after working 40 days in a row, she is usually exhausted.

She recently hired a casual for the first time, who will manage the business while Ms Frohloff enjoys a seven-day cruise to celebrate her 40th birthday.

"I have decided that I am not taking a phone or laptop or any devices which will enable me to be contacted, making my new staff member work it out for herself," she said.

But as the casual staff member needs a lunch break, Ms Frohloff has organised her best friend to come in daily for a short period.
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