Taking a Claytons Break

Most freelancers, sole traders and small business owner/operators rarely take a total break from their work because they are worried about losing potential clients and jobs while they’re not looking after their business. Instead, they usually take a kind of half-work/half-holiday break which I call, ‘a Claytons Break’.

What’s a Claytons Break?

If you were raised in Australia and are over 40, you probably know what the phrase ‘a Claytons’ means. If not, go to: Evolution of the word ‘Claytons’

A ‘Claytons Break’ is the break a freelancer or sole trader has when they need a rest but are not in a position to have a total break from work because taking a real holiday at that time is likely to lose clients or important jobs and have a really negative impact on their business.

What does taking a Claytons Break mean for me? Taking a total break from doing paid work but continuing to run my scribing and editing business so it doesn’t go down the drain.

During my Claytons Break, I ‘check in’ to work once a day to answer and respond to emails and calls, send out quotes to potential clients, accept bookings (for scribing, editing etc.) for after my return to work, and update or edit my website and social media platforms. Sometimes, I have to transfer large files from clients to subcontractors so my transcriptionists and/or editors can continue to work on jobs while I’m taking my break. When I return to work, I’m not as refreshed as I would have been had I taken a total break from everything work-related. But I’m always reasonably refreshed from my Claytons week off.

Some people would rather not take any time off until they can afford to take a real break from their work so they can fully relax, so they do that. Some people have lower overheads or lower income needs and can afford to take several real breaks from their work every year, and have no need to take a Claytons Break. But a lot of freelancers and sole traders, like me, depend on taking these Claytons Breaks, as well as the occasional real holiday, to give them the R&R they need.

Don’t forget to take a real break as well

Managing the risks of poor work-life balance and burning out is part and parcel of running your own business. A Claytons Break is a compromise: it’s better than no break at all but doesn’t allow you to totally switch off your work brain, or give your body and soul a proper rest. To avoid burnout, it’s important to take at least one real break every year.

For example, I’m usually able to take two weeks’ real break from my scribing and editing business between Christmas and early January. During this ‘real break’, I don’t use any screens apart from my iPhone, I don’t check any emails and I don’t glance at any social media or the internet. By the end of that two weeks, my eyes and brain are totally refreshed. I also take a one-week Claytons Break every school holidays which gives me the rest I need between the busy-ness of full time work/managing the household during school terms.

How to take a real break without losing business

Freelancers or small business owner/operators who want to take not just a Claytons Break but a total break from work, for a couple of weeks, are often too worried to do so because of the potential to lose jobs or clients during their time off. Here are some ideas for how to take a real break without losing too much business:

  • Hire a subcontractor to answer your work calls and emails, take bookings and send out quotes, during your period of leave. While you are on leave, you would divert all calls and emails to them. You’d have to trust them to present your business at its usual standard. After you return to work, you’d  need to  follow up on queries your subcontractor handled to make sure they did a good job and let your clients and potential clients know you’re back on board. (Note: I haven’t ever hired a subcontractor to do this but am thinking of doing it in future.)
  • Take your real break during a time of year when many businesses close down for several weeks. I always my leave in January and July because those are my quietest months.
  • You can use auto-reply emails as your ‘virtual secretary’ to let clients know you’ll deal with their emails upon your return to work. (However, I don’t do this due to the large number of spam emails that usually arrive in my inbox.)
  • Always respond to client phone calls during your period of leave. Advise them you’re on leave and won’t be able to fully respond to their query until your return. If you need a break from listening to your voicemail or answering calls for a few days, record a message on your voicemail advising callers you won’t respond to their message until your return on a given date.
  • Stop worrying. Everyone needs to take a break every now and then. If that means losing a client or two, you’ll have to live with that.

Work-life balance

Taking enough breaks from work and maintaining a healthy work-life balance go hand in hand. Here are a few more articles related to work-life balance:

Taking a complete break from your business for a couple of weeks enables you to return to work with a clear mind, objectively review how your business is going and decide what to do for the next period. Read this article: Conducting a six-month review of your business

This article is based on my own experiences as owner/operator of On Time Typing, scribing, editing, transcription and self-publishing business.

Check out this blog for articles about work-life balance and other aspects of managing freelance or sole trader businesses.

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