How to Take a Holiday from Your Handmade Business
Nick and I are about to go over to the UK and Europe for 3 whole months – in fact, this time next week we’ll be on a plane somewhere between Brisbane and London!
It’s the longest we’ve gone overseas since I started Epheriell (and the longest time EVER for me!).
While I’ll still be running all things Create & Thrive as-usual, we made the decision to close up our online shops for Epheriell while we are away, rather than trying to set ourselves up in England to continue working.
Realistically, since we’re going to be based at Nick’s parent’s place, we COULD have chosen to keep working – but we really just wanted to have a nice long, proper break from jewellery making for a few months – a true sabbatical. Funnily enough, as of October this year, it will be 7 years since I started Epheriell as a hobby, so the timing is pretty much bang-on with the traditional timeframe of sabbaticals (or long service leave, as we have here in Australia).
Of course, closing up your handmade business for any period of time – especially such a long stretch of time (over 3 months!) – can be a slightly terrifying prospect, for a number of reasons.
First, you aren’t going to be making any money from the business in that time.
Second, you have to do a lot of extra work before you go away to ensure you’ve given everyone notice, and that you have enough time to complete all your outstanding orders before you leave.
Third, there is always that fear in the back of your mind that people will ‘forget’ you, and when you re-open your shop, there will be nothing but crickets. When you rely on this income for your livelihood, that can be a worrying prospect.
Thankfully, this isn’t my first closing-up-shop-for-ages rodeo.
Nope. I’ve done it before, a few times. The longest time previously was for over 2 months, back in 2013, when we went to Canada and the USA. I also closed up for a month last year while we went on a roadtrip.
Because I know these fears first-hand – and how to deal with them – I wanted to share some lessons I’ve learnt from doing this a few times now, in case you, too, are facing a similar situation.
So – how do you actually go about having a proper vacation/holiday from your business, while ensuring the before, during, and after runs smoothly?
1. Save Enough Money
If you’re going to have zero income while you’re on holiday, making sure to save plenty of money ahead of time is crucial.
You need to not only have enough money to pay for your holiday (as well as any bills that pop up back home while you’re away), you also need to make sure you have a nice buffer for when you get home, and get business up and running again.
How far out you need to start saving depends on oodles of factors, so you’re the only one who is going to be able to work this out. The key is making sure you have MORE than what you think you’ll need in the worst-case scenario (e.g. you break your arm while rock-climbing in Yosemite National Park and can’t work for 4 weeks when you get home. You get a bigger tax bill than you anticipated. You REALLY want to buy that expensive momento of your travels.).
This is the most important step, in my book. Why? Because if you’re worried about money, you are NOT going to enjoy your vacation – so what’s the point? Plan that epic holiday far enough out that you have this financial buffer, so you can really relax and enjoy your break.
2. Plan Ahead
Obviously I’ve mentioned this with the finances, but there are a stack of things you need to plan for in order to ensure you’ll be organised before you go.
Think about all the moving parts of your business. Are there retailers you need to contact a few months out so they have time to get orders in before you go? Is there a market you usually do that you’re going to miss? How far before you actually leave do you need to close your orders to make sure they all get out the door before you do?
Write down anything you can think of that might need to be dealt with before you can go, and put those elements into a ‘vacation action plan’ – with dates!
3. Announce Clearly and Early, & Explain
Give your customers plenty of notice that you’re going to be shut for a while! This way, you’re not going to get those ‘but I really NEED this thing you make, and I didn’t know you were closing!’ messages.
Well, you might, but if you do, you can reply sincerely and apologetically that you had announced the closure on such-and-such a date, and you’re simply unable to fulfil their urgent request because you’re about to go diving with the Whale Sharks. They might be a bit upset, but you’ve done all you can to make it clear you’ll be closed for a while.
Ideally, start mentioning it at least a month out. Put a plan together for your closure – it’s almost like a launch. It gives your customers a chance to get their orders in before you shut, and tells them everything they need to know about your closure.
If you have a blog, blog it. And if you have a mailing list (you DO, right?) send out a few notices. You can see the notice I put up for our current sabbatical on the Epheriell blog here. I also sent that out to my mailing list. I ALSO sent my mailing list a follow-up email to that about 3 days before I closed, as a final reminder.
I also plastered the notice all over my social media. Make sure to create and upload vacation notices to your social channels – you can easily create images in Canva to do this. Have a look at our Epheriell FB page – the banner tells people what’s going on.
4. Set Up Vacation Notices
If you look at our Epheriell website, and our Etsy shop, you’ll see our vacation notice. In case you’re reading this post in 3 years time, long after we’ve gotten home from our trip, here is what I wrote:
Hello! Epheriell is currently closed while we take a 3-month sabbatical overseas.
To find out what that means for you and your order, please visit this post on our blog: http://epheriell.com/were-going-on-sabbatical-epheriell-will-be-closed-june-5-september-12-2015 (If you placed an order before we closed, we will have it shipped by June 12 at the latest.)
I will still be checking my messages, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you need to chat, though I apologise in advance if it takes me a few days to get back to you – I might be offline having an adventure.
To see what we create, just have a peek in our ‘sold items’ – https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/Epheriell/sold
See you when we re-open in September!
Jess (+ Nick)
P.S. If you’d like to follow along with our adventure, follow us on Instagram! Just search for @Epheriell.
If you’re going to be offline, obviously set up email auto-responders as well. I’m still going to be checking my email while we’re away, so I haven’t done this (but I have set up a vacation message in my Etsy convos).
Make sure to let your customers know exactly what’s going to be happening with their orders if they place one before you close. Also make sure to let them know what they need to do if they have any issues with their order while you’re away. If you’re going away for a long time, I recommend either keeping an eye on your messages so you can deal with them, OR hire/delegate this task to someone you can trust to take care of your customers and act in your best interests.
5. Keep Visible
If you’re worried about the whole ‘people will forget me’ issue – stay visible on your break! This might be as simple as blogging a few times during your trip, and sending those posts out to your mailing list. My preferred method is to share parts my trip on my business instagram – fun and fast, and I’d be doing that anyway.
This is a way to stay in contact with your community, even though your shops aren’t actually open. And bonus – it’s fun!
6. Have a Set Date to Re-Open
This is for your benefit as much as your customer. Hopefully it will cut down on the ‘when are you open again’ messages, and it gives you a concrete date to tell folks when they do ask. If you can, consider re-opening a little bit before you get home. We’re actually opening up shop again a few days before we leave the UK, which means (hopefully) that we’ll already have some orders waiting for us when we get home. If that’s not your thing, no worries – just pick a date that will work for you and publicise it clearly.
7. Have Faith!
You WILL sell again 🙂 Especially if your business is already well established, you should find that orders pick up again pretty swiftly after you re-open and get back to business.
If you’re really worried about this, plan some sort of ‘hooray, we’re back!’ launch or special to get the ball rolling. Maybe have a small collection of new items ready to roll when you re-open. Or, have a time-bound discount or giveaway to get the buzz going again.
It won’t be the death-knell of your business – I promise. Every time I’ve closed shop, sales have picked up almost immediately upon reopening, and I’ve heard the same thing from other established businesses, too.
There you have it! A fail-safe plan to get yourself sorted for a proper holiday that you’ll be able to enjoy, because you’ll know you’ve got all things business-related planned and sorted.
So – when’s your next holiday going to be?