Guest Post By: Dannie Fountain, LE Consulting
If you know me well (or even a little), you know that travel is my lifeblood, it’s what feeds my heart and nourishes my soul. When you’re an entrepreneur though, travel can be tricky. You have clients who expect you to meet deadlines, business partners who need information from you, and a business that has to be regularly maintained through social posts, blog posts, bookkeeping, and all those other tasks that are on your to-do list.
What’s the best way to travel when you have a business to run? Give these five tips a try - they’re my tried and true methods for traveling for a week without anything burning down or catching fire.
Set a Detailed Out of Office Message
My out of office message tells any people that email me a few key facts about my travels and helps to set expectations for when they can count on a response from me. What do I include?
- Where I’m going (if I’m going to Phoenix, well, it’s likely I’ll be able to check my email. If I’m in Beijing, that might be a different story);
- What the time difference is to what they’re used to (that is, my business is in Central Time and my clients have become pretty good at calculating the difference to them. If I’m traveling to Phoenix, I let them know it’s two hours different to Central Time, which saves them the trouble of doing the conversion themselves);
- When I might be checking messages (i.e. “Throughout the duration of my trip, I will likely be checking email between 6-8pm local time.” This lets them know when they might expect a response from me while I’m gone);
- What to do if it’s an emergency (if their message absolutely needs to be attended to, I ask them to email my assistant directly and Allie will either forward the email or otherwise get in touch with me to let me know something critical or emergent is happening);
- Whether or not the trip is personal or business (if I explicitly state that I am on a personal trip, clients and email senders will have a lower expectation of response vs. if it’s a business trip, which helps cut down on those follow up emails), and
- How long after I return it will take me to catch up (if I’m gone to China for two weeks, I’m probably going to have a lot of messages to catch up on. However, if I’m going to Atlanta for three days, there’s a higher likelihood that I’ll be able to check in and will have less follow up to do upon my return).
I’m sure that seems like a lot of information to put in an out of office message, but it increases your level of transparency with clients and email senders and it actually helps manage your inbox better. If they know they’re going to have to wait two weeks for a reply, they’ll be less likely to send a follow up than if they have no idea when you’ll be home. Multiply that across the hundreds of emails you get in a week and that’s dozens of follow up emails you won’t have to weed through!
Wrap Projects in Advance
The last thing you want to do is schedule a launch during a week while you’re traveling (trust me, I’ve done it). If you know your travel schedule even a couple weeks in advance, take the time to make sure your major projects will wrap before you leave or will be at a place where they won’t need tending to while you’re gone. Your clients will appreciate the foresight and you will be grateful for not having to pull all nighters while traveling (I’d much rather work late before leaving for a trip vs. during the trip, wouldn’t you?).
Hire a Vacation Assistant
If you don’t already have a VA, there are many virtual assistants out there that offer “vacation management” services (I used to use Julienne Des Jardins, if you need a reference!). Vacation assistants will be able to manage your inbox, cut down on the clutter, and help you focus more on traveling. Many vacation assistants will even handle blog posts and social media while you’re gone! You may not need these services every time you travel, but I highly recommend them for any personal trips you take. If you’re going to hire a vacation assistant, you’ll need to prepare a few things in advance:
- Prep a Google Doc (if you don’t have one already) with answers to your most common FAQs;
- Collect a list of passwords and links your VA might need (i.e. your services page link, booking link, passwords to Facebook/Instagram/etc., and so on), and
- Pre-schedule any social media and have them download your posting app for Instagram (Later, Buffer, etc.). If they’re going to handle your social media for you, make sure they have access to images and caption ideas or themes.
Do a Money Check
If you’re traveling for business, you’re probably going to charge most of your expenses to your business debit card. Make sure you’ve done a money check to ensure that all the invoices / payments you expected to clear have cleared and review what expenses you can and cannot charge to your business. The last thing you want to do is to end up in a place you’re not familiar with and not have any money! I also set a budget for myself - it can be tempting to charge all of those mimosas to my business card but if the IRS audits me, would they consider them “reasonable and necessary in the course of ordinary business?” Probably not.
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling for business or pleasure, being out of town is the perfect reason to power down and step away from your business, even if only for a couple hours. Setting a few travel protections (like the tips above) in place will really help you feel more comfortable with stepping away and then it’s just a matter of doing it. As entrepreneurs, we tend to eat, sleep, and breathe our business, but those moments that we step away are the times we become truly inspired. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!
About the Author
Dannie Fountain is the founder of LE Consulting. She has worked in marketing for brands such as Whirlpool, H&R Block, and Mr. Kate. Her greatest passion is traveling the world - she’s been to 21 countries and half the US so far, always with another trip on the horizon! She's a certified scuba diver as well as having her student pilot certification. Her passion and unique skills are evident in her well-rounded approach to marketing.