The complete guide to surviving the summer holidays

If you’re an entrepreneur or are self-employed, how will you cope with six weeks off work? Read the complete guide to surviving the summer holidays and keeping your business intact!

Your kids may be longing for the sound of the school bell signalling home time on the last day of term, but if you run your own business or work for yourself, there’s a good chance you’re feeling a slight sense of panic about it.

After all, no school means you lose those precious hours every day when you work on your business or freelance career. And as lovely as it is to plan sunny days out with your children, if you don’t work then no work gets done – and that means no income, and unhappy customers or clients!

So what can you do? To help you plan a summer holiday that’s healthily balanced between keeping your business ticking over and spending time with your children (and enjoying it guilt-free!) Rebecca Robertson has put together the complete guide to surviving the summer holidays.

How to organise childcare

So what can you do with your children over the summer holidays? How can you be there for them while maintaining your business? Here are some ideas:

  • Plan to work two or three days a week and take the rest off to spend with your children. This gives you continuity and makes it easier to find childcare.
  • If you have a good friend with kids the same age, suggest you share care of them between you. You could take it in turns to have all the children one day and work the next. Or even just do mornings or afternoons.
  • Research holiday clubs or childminders near you. Your local sports centre, for example might run activity days organised around work hours, or a local school might organise holiday craft clubs.
  • Agree with your partner set working times to tide you over the holiday. For example, you could look after the children in the day and pass over the tea/bedtime routine when they get home so you can work. Or they could agree to take them out for an afternoon over the weekend to give you chance to catch up.

How to keep your business ticking over

With the best will (and organisation) in the world, you’re not going to have as much time to work over the summer as normal. So what savvy decisions can you make to help keep your business ticking over? Here are some suggestions:

  • Prioritise important and urgent work. This is crucial, so plan what work needs to be done now, and what can wait until September. It also means you don’t waste precious hours on something that’s not urgent, while overlooking a big opportunity.
  • Speak to clients and see if you can extend the delivery date on projects. Explain your situation and establish what needs to be done by when (rather than would be good to have done) and agree mutually achievable deadlines.
  • Focus on the work that will help you grow. It’s all well and good keeping a tiny client happy with favours, or spending your time on jobs you enjoy, but if you have limited time to work, you need to be realistic about which projects are likely to lead to greater things and focus on them.

How to automate your business

So you can’t be at your laptop all day during summer, but it doesn’t mean to say that your business can’t keep going to some degree without you. By embracing the automation options available to you, you can ensure your business is working even when you’re not. Here’s how:

  • Plan and write your summer newsletters and weekly blogs before the holidays and schedule them to go out automatically by using software such as Mailchimp, Aweber or Constant Contact.
  • Write your social media updates for your blogs (and other links you want to share with your networks) before the holidays and schedule using free tools like Hootsuite or Buffer.
  • Set up an ‘Out of office’ automatic response on your email so clients know you’re not there and aren’t waiting for a reply. If you wish, you can add something like ‘Thank you for your email, I will get back to you within 24 hours’.
  • Use autoresponders to reply to social media questions and sales requests too. This can give you a good 24 hours to respond allowing you to plan your time accordingly.

How to keep your customers happy

Your customers and clients may not be over the moon that you’re not going to be as available over the next few weeks, but if you’re honest with them, give them notice and don’t over-promsise they’ll be more understanding.

So tell them in advance that you will be working part time over the summer break, and that your business will slow down during this time. Ask them what priorities they have over the summer, and what deadlines they need you to meet so you can plan for them.

Think about your current lead times and work out what you can deliver realistically. Then send this out to all your customers and also put it on all your online sites to make sure that any prospect will be able to see it too. This way you will be able to satisfy customer requests sensibly so you don’t have to drag the kids to work with you!

How to get the help you need

In order to survive the holidays with your sanity and business intact, you’ll need support from your extended network. Here are some ideas of who might help:

  • Ask family and friends if they can pitch in. If your husband or partner can take some time off work, then do it – your business is just as important as their job and it’s an opportunity for them to spend precious quality time with their kids too.
  • If your parents can have them for a few hours or a day per week, then don’t be afraid to ask them! They will enjoy their time with their grandchildren and it will give you some hours or days to work.
  • Talk to other parents you know at school and find out what they are doing. Maybe you can do some play dates so you have their kids for a day and then they have yours. This could give you a day per week over the course of the break.
  • Also ask other parents what summer holiday clubs and childcare they’re organising for their children. It’s always better to have personal recommendations, and they may have heard of clubs and activities you haven’t come across yet.
  • Another idea is to talk to your child’s friends’ parents and book a holiday club together. This way you can share the drop off and pick-ups to give both of you more time and it will be more fun for your child if they have friends there. Sometimes the schemes do discount for multiple bookings, so check this out too and you could save some money as well as time!

How to survive if you’re a single mum

It’s hard enough juggling kids and a business if you have a partner to fall back on, but if you’re a single mum it can be even more tough. Here are some tips that you may find helpful:

  • Remember to take care of yourself. You need some time off too, so take advantage of offers to babysit or playdates when you can – and don’t squeeze work into every available minute. Make sure you take time out to do something you enjoy… or just nothing!
  • Ask family to help out. You may not have parents around to help, but what about other members of your family? Do you have brothers and sisters or cousins or aunts and uncles around that can help out now and again to free up your time to work?
  • Build a community of parents. Talk to other parents in the playground and build up a group who are happy to all help each other out. Make sure everyone is committed to doing their bit and plan a schedule over the holidays for each of you to take a turn with childminding, so you all get a few days off.
  • Remember also, some partners work away for long periods of time, effectively leaving their other half as a single parent, so sharing the trials and tribulations of raising children makes life a lot easier. It’s good to talk.

How to budget during the summer break

The summer holidays can be an expensive time. You have less time to work, so less income, but at the same time are shelling out for childcare and activities, days out, and ice creams etc. So how can you ensure you give your children a holiday to remember without bankrupting yourself? Here are some ideas:

  • Get your kids together with their friends for playdates, and let them have fun running around your garden, or the local park or beach. Throw in a picnic and you have the perfect free summer day out!
  • Fill your freezer with delicious shop bought ice creams and lollies like Claudi & Fin (or make your own!) to enjoy at home rather than paying more for them while you’re out.
  • Look for free or low cost places to visit near you. Are there any free museums you can visit? Interesting local walks or woods you can explore? Summer fairs or open days planned?
  • Plan bigger days out and spread them across the six weeks so you have something to look forward to and can budget for them. And if you go out for the day, pack a picnic rather than buy meals out.
  • Look for and collect vouchers and coupons for discounted or free entry to places.

You can also use the summer break as the ideal time to take stock of your finances and plan for the months ahead:

  • It may seem far away now, but consider putting money aside every week for Christmas when the kids go back to school in September. If you put aside just £20 a week, you’ll have over £200 to spend by the beginning of December.
  • Think about how your family situation may have changed over the year, especially if you have decided to go back to work now the kids have started school, or you have set yourself up in business. Both of these will have an effect on your insurances, insurance protection and pension.
  • Is everything up to date? Do you have enough cover for the house and the kids should anything happen to you? It’s highly unlikely, but now you have children, it’s worth making sure.