Taking Vacation as an Independent Consultant

blog article Jul 06, 2022

Are You Too Worried About Your Consulting Invoices To Take a Real Vacation?

When you think about vacation as a consulting business owner:

  • Are you worried about leaving money on the table?
  • Do you feel nervous about taking time off?
  • Does it seem like you have to choose between taking time off or making money in your consulting business?

I can relate.

I used to maximize my billings when I had a client contract, at the expense of taking time off.

Not only did I continuously defer vacations, but I also skipped planning them altogether.

I was constantly trying to figure out how to slip in another 1-2 hours a day, to keep my invoices flowing. And, so I didn't let down the client by doing less work than I was capable of.

But, then it all came crashing down.

I hit a wall.

It had been 18 months since our family had a real vacation without me trying to slip in a few hours here and there.


A Rock Bottom In My Consulting Business Was Sneaking In Work On Vacation...

It reminds me of that movie with Robin Williams - RV.

Have you seen that?

He goes on an RV trip with his family, without telling his company that he was taking time off.

He would wait for his family to go to bed, and then work from the stall in the RV Park bathroom.

Needless to say, that didn't work out for him.

It's hilarious.

But, is also a situation that too many consulting business owners can relate to.

Well.....maybe not the RV, but definitely the sneaking work onto a vacation part.


Taking Vacation as an Independent Consulting Business Owner

Vacation as a consulting business owner can be challenging, especially when you're shifting from being an employee who has paid vacation into being an independent consultant without paid vacation.

There is a way to take a vacation as an IC without feeling like you're leaving money on the table and ways to set yourself up for success to follow through with taking that vacation.

As an independent consultant, it’s actually important to take a vacation so you can set yourself up to successfully run a business that you love without burning out.


In this blog, we’ll cover 3 areas relate to taking vacation as a consulting business owner. These key areas are:

  • Planning ahead
  • Vacation enablers
  • Mental vacation enablers

Why Take Vacation When You Could Be Generating Consulting Revenue?

It’s easy to say that you'll take time off, but I find that consulting business owners all too often defer taking vacation. 

Even I'm guilty of this.

At one point, several years ago, I started feeling really drained and exhausted. It was becoming more and more challenging to work every day.

Even though I've been doing this for 10 years, I couldn't quite figure out what was so different this time.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me that it had been 18 months since I had taken a full week off.

  • I had taken days here and there.
  • I had taken partial days.
  • But it had been 18 months since I had taken off an entire week without even looking at my work emails or tending to any of my business responsibilities.

If you're in the same boat, I will tell you for sure from a personal perspective this leads to burnout.

Not taking time off or taking off only partial days means you're not able to rejuvenate. It all starts to add up and you end up burning out. 

This leads to not being as fulfilled in your independent consulting business as you were early on.


1. How to Plan Ahead for Vacation as an Independent Consulting Business Owner

To ensure you build vacations into your independent consulting business plan, you first want to map out your business calendar for the next 12 months.

One of my clients was just telling me she scheduled herself a retreat to do this. I love the idea of booking yourself a corporate retreat of sorts. You can go stay at a hotel for a weekend or even better yet in the middle of the week, and plan out the next 12 months.

Do whatever works for you. Here are a few examples:

  • You can take your own personal corporate retreat, as a great way to take a step back and plan out the next 12 months in your consulting business.
  • Or, you can set aside a few hours in a day to define your business calendar for the next 12 months.

Then, you can begin planning your life and business around the calendar.


You're Both The Business Owner AND The Employee. Create a Vacation Plan That Your Employee (You) Appreciates.

It's important to recognize as you're planning ahead, that you're creating the vacation policy for your company and its employees. You happen to be the only employee.  Create a vacation calendar that the employee (aka YOU), will to agree to. 

You get to decide as the business owner.


Here are some things to consider when creating your consulting business calendar, including the vacation policy:

  • What are your vacation days?
  • What holidays does your company celebrate?
  • What are holiday policies?
  • What are the vacation policies?
  • What is your fiscal year?

The 1st Way To Make It Easy For You To Take Vacation as an Independent Consulting Business Owner - Implement Financial Enablers

As a business owner, you'll be most successful if you make it as easy as possible to follow your own processes and policies.

Taking vacation is no different.

The first way to make it easier to take vacation as a consulting business owner is to mitigate your concerns about money.

Money because that's really the biggest obstacle most of the time. One of the biggest reasons I find that consultants either don't take time off or defer time off is because of fears they have about money.

So I want to give you some very tangible tips that you can implement, so that money isn't an obstacle to you taking vacation as an IC:

  • Create a money reserve fund by saving up several months of business expenses by asking yourself what you pay out every single month (including your salary/owner's draw), and then multiply that by 3-6 months.
  • Include the vacation time off in your business plan. If you need more detail re: how to create a business plan, go back to Episode 67 - The Bottom Up Business Plan for Independent Consultants. You'll want to build out your business plan in a way that supports you taking time off.
  • If you need to, build in a short mini-project of some sort to ramp up your cash flow or billings as a stopgap.
  • Think about your independent consulting business as a business versus as a paycheck that comes in every couple of weeks.


The 2nd Way To Make It Easy For You To Take Vacation as an Independent Consulting Business Owner - Implement Mental Vacation Enablers

The mental side of scheduling a vacation as an independent consulting business owner is where I see so many independent consultants getting stuck. I want to make sure you're avoiding this.

You might be thinking things like it isn't a good time, so you'll take time off later or something of that sort. Whatever it is that you might be thinking, really notice that this is status quo thinking.

If you allow this thought these thought processes to continue, you end up

  • not planning time off,
  • canceling your time off, and/or
  • justifying not taking time off because all of these types of thoughts seem really logical.

Then, you end up burning out. You don't want to run an independent consulting business this way.

When you're able to have vacation enablers, create a cushion for yourself, create a plan that incorporates vacation, and then shift your mindset from that status quo into CEO quality thinking it makes all the difference. 

In short, the mental enabler for you to take vacation as an IC is to think like a CEO.

What does that look like?

  • CEO quality thinking is being committed to hitting your numbers AND committed to taking time off.
  • It looks being an independent consulting business owner who honors the commitments that you make to yourself.
  • It's knowing that this time off will benefit both you and your independent consulting business.


When you approach thinking about your vacation as a business owner, it helps you to figure out how to hit your numbers AND take the time off.

If you allow yourself to continue delaying and deferring vacation, you

  • never become the CEO or the independent consulting business owner who figures out how to hit your revenue numbers and take time off.
  • You never build that muscle.
  • But if you can shift into thinking about this and asking yourself really high-quality questions about how you can hit your numbers and take time off, it will make a huge difference in your ability to lead your business as a CEO.


The CEO-level questions to ask yourself, to move past the mental obstacles to taking a vacation as an independent consulting business owner

Ask yourself

  • How you can I hit my numbers AND take a vacation?
  • How can I generate the revenue and the profitability I need to hit my annual or quarterly goals?

Asking yourself these types of questions will help you build up your independent consulting business owner mentality.

Become the business owner you want to work for. Figure out how to hit those numbers while you're taking off the time that you truly want to take off to create your version of balance in your business and in your life.


The Summary - 3 Steps to Taking Vacation as an Independent Consultant

  1. Plan out your business for the next 12 months and then book the vacations. Don't just put it in the calendar because that's not a true commitment. I'm challenging you to decide now and commit to it. Don't just go through the motions.
  2. Commit to the vacation schedule that you decided and figure out how to be the business owner who takes the time off even when something unexpected happens in your business. Being the business owner who figures out how to take the time off and to generate the revenue is going to be a skill that lasts you for the duration of your independent consulting business.
  3. Listen to episode 69 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast, where I go into more detail about taking a vacation as an independent consultant.


And For More Resources To Scale An Independent Consulting Business

Take the IC Business Scalability Assessment. You'll answer 26 questions (in less than 5 minutes), to get a personalized report on how you can scale your business effectively. The report will help you pinpoint the top 1-2 next step you can take to scale your business so that you make more money, and make more impact.

You'd be surprised that it's possible to increase your impact and income AND work less (not more).



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