It's the holiday season for many of us! Family dinners, New Year's Eve parties and a general slowing-down of work. But what if you're an entrepreneur? And what if your clients don't stop at this time of year?
I speak from first-hand experience: my company is an online media business operating two main sites: BusinessBecause.com for international MBAs and newly launched CareerBecause.asia for professional job networking across Asia.
Our members are accessing the networks around the clock, which means the potential for user queries and website bugs at any time. Additionally, many of the business schools and companies we work with are based in regions where Christmas and New Year aren't celebrated. I remember last year on December 25th, as I sat in a Connemara hotel on the West Coast of Ireland with my boyfriend's family, I had two urgent Skype calls — one with a team member in Delhi and one with a client in Shanghai. So much for switching off with stockings, Santa and a pint of Guinness!
For those of you in a similar position, here are a few tips on managing the work-holiday balance:
- Email out-off-office — very simple but surprising how many entrepreneurs I know (including myself) who are reluctant to put a vacation response on their email, thinking they'll stay on top of messages via blackberry. It doesn't mean you need to stop working, but setting an out-of-office at least means people won't expect an instant response from you.
- Holiday manager — if you're lucky enough to have a reliable team make sure you empower someone to be in charge whilst you're away. They'll know to contact you about anything urgent and you won't feel you need you to monitor what's going on continuously.
- Contract timings — if you can, avoid having client contracts that expire around the holiday season. I've made this mistake and have at least 5 customer contracts that are up for renewal at the end of December/ early January, meaning a flurry of emails and phone calls around this time.
- Stock-up beforehand — with a bit of forward planning you can often stockpile your work in early December. In our case, because we have a commitment to publish fresh daily content on our websites, we try to write some extra stuff in advance and then release it over the Xmas/ New Year period.
- Love your work — if you love what you do you probably won't mind interrupting your mince pies to answer a quick email! But no one can work non-stop so don't forget to put your feet up and spend some time to laugh with your family and friends.
My partner for CareerBecause.asia, Tokyo-based The Asia Career Times, assure me that the Japanese like to 'spring-clean' their homes in early January so not to worry as we should have some respite from Japanese clients. What a shame the world can't coordinate 'spring-cleaning' for everyone at the same time of year!
Kate Jillings is the co-founder of BusinessBecause and EngineeringBecause, specialist news, networking and jobs sites for business and engineering students around the world. Read more about Kate here.