Summer will be here before we know it.  It's time to start planning that summer vacation.  Yes, I'm talking to you.  Yes, I am aware that you are a small business owner and that if you are not there to take the pictures and run the studio no one else will.  Yes, believe me, I know.  But did you know that taking some time off for rest and relaxation is not only good for your body and soul, it's also one of the very best things you can do for your business?  Working all the time increases the chance of illness and fatigue and diminishes your productivity and creativity.  So how do you do it?  How do you leave for a week or even two without putting your business at risk?

It's easier than you think.  Here are four tips for a successful "small business owner vacay":

1.  Close up shop.  We are fortunate to be in the business of photography.  It is possible to just lock the door and walk away for a short time.  We have the freedom to book appointments around a schedule that works for us.  Plan in advance when your vacation time will be and block it off on your calendar and/or scheduling software.  Inform anyone who might be making appointments for you that you will not be taking any clients during that period of time.  You don't have to inform your clients that you are going on a cruise or to the beach, just let them know when you have openings and book them.

 2.  Choose a slow time.  Think about your busiest seasons.  For me, a newborn and child photographer, it's busiest around holidays.  October through December is crazy.  January is typically pretty dead.  January also happens to be the best month to go to Disney World.  Shortest lines and cheaper accommodations.  Easter is also very busy for me but then I have another period of time wherein I could take a break.  For every specialty there will be different slow periods.  Pay attention to when your down times are and take advantage of those times for much needed breaks. 

3.  Hire temporary help.  If you employ another photographer then what are you still doing here?!?  Go on vacation already!  I'm sure most of us are not in that position.  And I'm not really talking about hiring someone to photograph your clients for you.  Maybe all you need to relax is to send out some of your editing.  Maybe you need someone to answer the phone for you to answer new client inquiries and book sessions for when you get back.  It's hard to unplug under normal circumstances.  Worrying about what you might be missing, or work that you could be getting done, will quickly take the R&R out of your R&R. 

4.  Make use of mobile technology.  If you insist on keeping in the loop while on your vacation just be cautious.  Give yourself 30 minutes each day to check and respond to emails and phone messages.  Check in on your Facebook page and website or blog, if you must.  Just keep in mind that a working vacation is not really what you need.  You will benefit from truly unplugging.  

So, to summarize, you need to take care of you.  Your family will appreciate having you all to themselves.  You will be healthier and happier if you plan some downtime and a trip to the beach, or the city, or a whole other country!  Your business will thank you for it.