How I take time off as a solopreneur without crying or getting fired by all my clients

Guest Post by Ben Culbreth, Culbreth Copywriting

Flexibility. The Great Entrepreneurial Myth? Maybe

Time off. Flexibility. Work wherever you want. Travel.

These are the things we, the freelancers and solopreneurs, believe we’ll bask in when we embark on this journey. Then it happens. You’re halfway through the summer, scrolling on Instagram and you see all your 9-to-5 friends on a vacation. They’re having a great time. No laptop in sight.

Meanwhile, the last vacation you took caused even more work because your Airbnb’s spotty WiFi constantly disconnected. You lost time on projects you said “wouldn’t take much time,” and we all know how that goes. So, you came back less rested and refreshed than you were before.

My friends, there’s a bit of a problem with taking time off in this country. And maybe no one struggles with the eternal battle of actually enjoying the perks of not having a PTO plan more than those who are in the business of themselves.

5 Strategies To Take Time Off That You Can Do 🔥

Let’s go through some ways that I’ve taken time off without curling up in the fetal position when I return to work. Am I the leading expert on how to take vacations as a solopreneur? Maybe. I’m still waiting for LinkedIn to get back to me. But until then, just know I don’t have this all down to a science.

Some of these things may work great for you. Some won’t. But the only way to find out is by giving this time off thing the old college try. And when you look back, I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t say be upset about taking more time off.

#1: Build your boundaries ⛔

Before I could start taking time off without dragging my laptop around, I had to learn why it’s important to set really solid boundaries with clients.

I used to take on last-minute projects or respond to requests right away. Not only is this not a great way to run a business, but it’s exhausting and sets the expectation with clients that you’re always available.

Then, it’s a shock to them when you suddenly go on vacation and don’t respond. That’s a them problem, but it’s a you (and me) problem, too. If you give them the idea that you’re available even when you’re off or never off, they will treat you as such.

Even when I’m not on vacation or off work, I still focus on these boundaries. So, I:

  • Rarely reply to emails right away, and I push back on last-minute requests (those go away pretty quickly when “No” becomes a regular part of your business buzzwords).
  • Don’t respond to emails at night or after hours.
  • Stopped taking on last-minute requests and plan projects much further in advance.

If you’re like me, you might think about what could happen if stop doing these things. What if you miss an important email at 9:30 PM? (hint: you won’t).

Once you start enforcing boundaries, people, including you, tend to respect them.

#2a: Plan way, way ahead 🗓️

My vacation time is a little easier because I’m married to a teacher. The dates we travel are well defined and planned over a year in advance by the fine folks at the school district.

That’s mostly good because it means we’re often on vacation at the same time as everyone else.

But if you’re like me and have monthly retainer clients with a set list of deliverables every month, you’re probably wondering if you need to pack your laptop to keep everything moving and get paid.

I did that at one point. It wasn’t fun.

Now, I do all the work at the end of the vacation. My clients (and I imagine most of yours) are fine with this. If I’m going to be away for two weeks or more, I let customers know at least two months in advance.

I also bring them a plan for how the work will get done. I think that’s the most important part of effectively taking time off. For one thing, it helps you know exactly what needs to be done. It also communicates to your client that you’re thinking about what they need and taking the planning off their plate.

#2b: Be Really Clear. Clarity is Kindness 📣

When I went to Europe last summer, I contacted my retainer clients and told them what was happening. I let them know the dates that I’d be off from work. I made sure that they all understood what was going on, how it would impact them, what they could/could not expect and had a chance to process. And this next part is very important, so read it very carefully.

I told them I would have no access to email. No matter how hard they tried, they would not be able to reach me (gasp!).

Then, I outlined the deliverables due while I was gone. I provided an updated timeline of when I’d deliver the work and allowed enough time for feedback and edits before I left.

I got zero pushback on this plan. Was it a lot of work before the trip? Yes. But it meant I could relax in my coach seat on the flight and not worry about getting things done or what days I would need to work while we were away.

And I cannot understate how different a mindset this is compared to a working vacation.

#3: Delete your email (or go somewhere it won’t work)

One of my toxic traits is that I’m very tempted to check my email. Gen Z automatically clicks TikTok when they’re on their phone; I click on Outlook.

It’s a habit I’ve slowly broken over the years, but it still has a strong hold on me. It’s like I crave the horror and nightmares that lurk in my inbox.

So, if I really want to unplug, I just delete the app. When it’s gone, the temptation to check it disappears, too. Problem solved. Plus, I’ve never come back to any horror or nightmares after doing this.

If you’re like one co-founder of SOCO and podcast host of Communal and deleting your email app is just not an option, consider going somewhere remote enough that no matter how many times you click refresh, you’ll never get those messages.

And pack bear spray, please.

#4: Plan for coming back to work 😿 vs 😺

This is a more challenging step because there’s enough work to do before you leave, much less planning for when you return.

But planning for what you’ll need to do when you return is just as important, maybe more so, than the pre-planning. I could have done this better on my last big vacation.

The tricky part about being a service-based solopreneur is for the most part, if we’re not working the business isn’t working.

So, when you take time off, the work stops but so does the marketing, business development, administrative work, you get the idea. Reach out to your existing clients before you leave and ask them what they’ll be working on when you return. Find out where they need support.

And tell your network about your time off and that you’ll be available for work when you return.

#5: Pick your Battles 🪖

Just about every entrepreneur has experienced the ebbs and flows of new projects and clients. So, at some point, you’ll probably find yourself in a season when you may need to work a bit while on vacation.

I know, I know; before you start calling me a hypocrite, hear me out.

Working on vacation doesn’t mean working the whole time. And it shouldn’t mean answering emails or doing low-value work.

Pick a time when you can work that still allows you to spend time with your family or whoever you’re with. Be intentional about what you do. Don’t fill those few short work hours with meaningless tasks you could do anytime.

Focus on high-value work that will actually benefit your business. Make the sacrifice of being a little plugged in worth it to you and the people who matter.

It’s that easy

Ha. I wish.

I still don’t have all this stuff figured out. And I still struggle to step away from work sometimes. If boundaries and real, unplugged vacations are a new thing, give yourself some grace. It’ll take a bit to figure out what’s best for you and you’ll learn how to do these things.

Now, go, thrive on your time off, and revel in the glory of a laptop left shut and an inbox unopened.

Need a Little More Inspiration? ✨

Need some more inspiration to throw your phone in the ocean? Check out Gene, Greg and Ben’s conversation on The Communal Podcast on this very topic. Fun, funny and full of good insights that might help YOU if you’re struggling to figure out why and how to do this elusive thing called “Time Off”.

About The Author

Ben Culbreth is a content strategist and copywriter and the only one who shows up for work at Culbreth Copywriting LLC. He helps folks develop branding and content strategies and writes copy for websites, emails, and customer stories. He lives in South Carolina. He’s been an active and passionate member of the SOCO Community. You can read his words and see his work at