At some point in your business, it’s going to happen: You’re going to want to take extended time off.
Maybe it’s to have a baby (like I did). Maybe it’s to travel. Maybe it’s to take care of a sick loved one or to recover from illness yourself.
Whatever the reason, you need to still have income, even if you’re away from your business.
The question is, how do you do that?
Short answer: With a lot of planning.
(So you don’t end up losing $100K, like I did. More on that later.)
The long answer depends on where you are in your business. Are you a one-person biz doing everything yourself? Or do you have a more mature business with a team of people supporting you?
Here’s an example: I knew I wanted to take at least four months off if and when I had a baby. My strategy for doing that looked very different in 2012 than the one I executed when I had a five-month maternity leave in 2020.
You see, I’ve been thinking about how I’d be able to take maternity leave for a long time. Something you may not know about me is that my husband and I tried for a looong time to have a baby. That’s why I started thinking about my leave way back when JennyShih.com was only me and a part-time assistant.
Back then, I was doing almost everything, from writing blog posts to posting on social media to coaching clients.
Fast forward to 2020 and my business has changed a lot. I have a coaching team to serve our clients and a backend team who keeps everything humming along without me.
Either way, I could give myself a maternity leave; they just look very different from each other, as you’ll see when we talk about logistics later.
A lot of folks say to me, “I’d love to take a maternity leave, but my business is just me, so I can’t.”
This is why I’m going to share with you my entire thought process for formulating my leave plan—from way back when my business was just mostly me, all the way through 2020 when I had a full team in play—so you can come up with your own extended leave plan, whether or not you have a team.
You’ll also see how the possibility of extended time off opens up for you in a big way. I think you’ll be really excited about it—even if you hadn’t been planning to take extended time off!
Play the Math Game
One thing you’ll hear me talk a lot about is “the math game.” It’s just my lighthearted way of saying that you need to look at your finances—both business and personal.Click to Tweet”To take extended time off from your biz, you need to take a long, hard look at your finances—both business and personal.”
When I was doing nearly everything in my business, including generating the revenue and serving clients, taking time off meant my business income would drop to zero. Sure, I had some digital products that sold here and there, but it wasn’t enough to live on.
This meant I needed to do the math on what it would take to stop working for four months. And honestly, it’s easy math!
First, get clear on how much money you need to bring home to keep your life moving forward. Maybe you’re willing to make some concessions or tighten your budget to take time off. Or maybe you want to keep your salary the same. That’s up to you!
Second, look at your business expenses every month. Know what it will cost you to keep the business running while you’re not working.
Third, look at the revenue that needs to be generated to cover your salary and business expenses while you’re not working. Make a plan to save this money.
Did that last line surprise you?
Most people think they need to “generate passive income” or “create multiple streams” so they can go on leave. Sure, you could do that … but that can feel like starting a second business!
I found it easier to set aside a small amount of money every month to build this savings buffer.
Now you might be thinking, “I want to take a few months off every year or two. This seems impossible!”
To which I’d say, “Just build it into your business plan.” It can be that simple. Make a plan to generate a certain amount of money more than you currently need, and save it. Make your current “bottom line” higher to accommodate this desire.
But what if you have a team?
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about having a team that can run the business while you’re away is that “it’s easier for you to take time off.”
Yes. And no.
Yes, while I was on maternity leave, my business ran without me. Our coaching team served clients exceptionally well in our Make It Work Online (MIWO) program. Our high-value emails continued to go out to our email list, and social media posts were regularly published, along with everything else that keeps the ship running at JennyShih.com.
BUT … it cost me around $100,000 in lost revenue (considerably more than what I paid myself for those five months off)!
Because my business wasn’t set up to run completely without me, there was a cost to me taking extended time off. My absence resulted in a significant loss of revenue, and I confess, I didn’t account for this properly.
Fortunately, I’m a huge saver (in life and in business), so there was some buffer that allowed everything to keep running. (This is a great example of why it’s important to keep both business and personal savings … but that’s a topic for another time.)
Now that you know how to plan the financials for your time off—and how straightforward it is—the next step is to plan for the logistics. You’re going to have to make a lot of decisions around all the moving pieces of running your business.
For that, we’ve come up with an easy way for you to remember your options….Click to DownloadGet the 7 Steps to Make It Work Online
The 4 D’s of Managing Your Business While You’re Away
What are you going to keep doing while you’re away from your business?
Will you be completely, 100% hands-off? Or will you be checking in for one hour per week? And if so, what do you want to be doing during that time?
In my case, during my maternity leave, I didn’t want to work at all. But, as I mentioned before, my business isn’t set up to run completely without me. This means I knew I’d have to do a few things here and there.
Here’s what that looked like:
- A month after the baby was born, the police killed George Floyd. We needed to make it clear that at our company, Black Lives Matter. I worked with the team to craft an email to our list and corresponding social media posts.
- Around six weeks after the baby was born was our scheduled live event, Make It Work Online LIVE. Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel it. (If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would have been there in person.) In its place, we held a virtual event that was mostly run by the team. I presented twice during the event, but I was grateful that my team carried so much of the weight.
- I received weekly reports from our project manager, and she’d often ask me a question or two. She and I also agreed ahead of time that if I wasn’t able to answer in time for her to make a necessary decision, that I’d back her choice 100%. This kind of agreement was key to things running without me.
And that’s about it. I did nothing else (I ignored every single email)—knowing the cost—and deliberately chose to prioritize time with my son over everything else. My goal was simply to ensure there was a functioning business to return to.
What happened to all the other tasks? That’s where the other D’s come in.
Some things need to get done, but not necessarily by me. Those are the tasks to delegate.
As I mentioned earlier, delegating is how I was able to take five months of maternity leave and still run Make It Work Online in 2020.
I’ve had coaches since 2016 and I’ve been completely out of coaching the program since 2018. My coaching team who knows how to deliver coaching to the standard that we uncompromisingly deliver every year.
But to make it even better, I hired one of our coaches to be the head coach and make sure every coach in the program was supported as I’ve always done. This particular coach really gets how I think and has done a lot of work to improve her own coaching skills. In the past, when I couldn’t figure out what I would say about something, I would ask her and she would tell me!
Did hiring for these positions cost me more money? Of course. Did it mean we bring home less profit in the business? Most definitely.
But it also allowed me to deliver the program with the same integrity we’re known for—something I’m not willing to compromise.Click to TweetTaking a break from your business? Remember the 4 Ds of running your biz while you’re away.
Other things can get done, just not right now. Those are the things you can delay.
You may have good ideas or things you want to try. If you’re taking time off, then you just have to put them on a waiting list or a “someday” list.
Here’s an example. What if I wanted to go on a four-month maternity leave back in 2016? Remember, at the time, I didn’t have a coaching team to delegate to. I was doing all the coaching.
Well, I would NOT have opened Make It Work Online that year. I would’ve put it off until after my maternity leave. Essentially, the business would’ve had to stop (other than the blog and social media, which I could’ve delegated).
I would’ve saved up enough to cover my household bills and business expenses while no income was coming in (doing the math, as I mentioned earlier). And I would’ve saved enough to pay a part-time assistant just to keep the business running in the background. She could recycle blog posts, answer emails—just do the minimum so that when I came back, I could pick things up.
Would I have lost some of my momentum? Would we have lost subscribers? Absolutely. But that was a compromise I was ready to make to safeguard my top priorities.
Finally, there are some things that you’re just going to be okay with not doing at all. Which brings us to the fourth D…
Some things you’re simply going to have to drop. You can’t do them within your time constraints, and they’re not worthwhile to delegate.
They’re either not important enough to delay until you get back. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get around to these things. You may consider doing them in the future, just not immediately after your time off ends.
You’ll also have to drop things that are time-sensitive and will take place while you’re on extended leave.
For me, this would have been most relevant if I had taken a maternity leave when I just had a part-time assistant. I would have not written new blog posts, passed on affiliate promotions, and not responded to social media. When things are of a time-based nature and you can’t delay, dropping them is the clear option.
Be clear on your top priorities and realistic about your time and energy constraints. That will help you decide which items to drop.
Want Extended Time Off? Go for It!
I hope this post has helped you see that, if you want or need to step away from your business for an extended amount of time, you absolutely can do it.
If taking time off means a reduced or no income, save ahead to make sure you can cover personal bills and business expenses. And, set up the logistics for how your business will keep running without you.
Yes, it takes planning. Yes, it requires taking a good look at your finances. And yes, it means making sacrifices and compromises and concessions. And that’s okay, because you’re doing it in the service of what’s most important to you.My Personal Recommendation for YouCreate a thriving business on your own terms! Check out Make It Work Online.