Travel is one of the perks of this business that I enjoy the most; I enjoy visiting new cities, experiencing other cultures, and observing the differences in human behavior around the world. Since opening my video business, I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a lot of traveling on someone else’s dime. In the last three years, I have gone on more than 20 paid business trips in five countries. Most of the trips have been for video shoots, while a few have been to present at conferences and to attend training seminars.
This kind of travel appeals to the business side of me that enjoys being paid and having my expenses covered, while I get to explore new places while fostering my professional development. I even allow myself to indulge further and take some time off after whatever work I’m doing, and extend my stay to visit acquaintances or sightsee. This is one of the benefits of self-employment that I enjoy the most; I set my own schedule and can take time off around my busy seasons.
When I first got started in this business, these were the only types of vacations I could afford to take. Now I am proud to say that I enjoy at least one large personal vacation per year and several smaller ones. One of my measures of personal success as a small business owner is that I am both earning more and am able to take more vacation time than I’d be able to if I’d kept my day job. Now that I have reached that level, I am secure in the decision I made to go into business for myself. But in the early days it wasn’t easy.
This begs the question—when was the last time you took a vacation? And if you were able to take some time off, was it more or less time than your non-video friends? If you are not taking at least three weeks off per year, you are working too hard. Remember the old adage “work smarter, not harder.” Working harder on its own is not going to make you more successful. You need to be working toward your goals, and taking time off allows you to refresh yourself and refocus on the task ahead. I don’t think I need to convince all of you that you want to take more time off, or describe the benefits of doing so. But I will spend some time going over the steps you need to take in order to be able to take a vacation and enjoy it.
The first step in taking a vacation is selecting a destination and time of year. If you are single or your spouse has a flexible schedule, you can take advantage of some great off-season prices. But if you have school-aged kids then you will probably have to stick with spring break, summer vacation, or the winter holiday season.
What is important to remember is that your dates, location, and budget will determine the rest of the plan, both in terms of time and money. As with all goals, business or otherwise, it is important to share your vacation goal with people around you and to commit yourself to seeing it through.
The second step is to start saving up to pay for your vacation. I use a dedicated high-interest savings account for this purpose and have automatic withdrawals that come out of my checking account to force me to save. How much you need to put aside depends on where you are going and for how long. If it is a big trip, I like to start saving at least a year in advance. It is amazing how quickly your savings add up when you contribute regularly—$10 a day equals $3,650 in savings in one year. You can add about $100 in interest if you open a high-interest online savings account.
Don’t expect much interest from a regular savings account; most pay less than 0.5% interest. Open a no-fee online savings account with a company like HSBC or ING, which at the time this article was written featured APY rates of 5.05% and 4.50%, respectively.
The final step is to prepare your business. Most of us are sole proprietors, so this means closing your business for a week or two or, if you have employees, preparing them for your absence. I start by informing my clients whose projects are in progress that I will be away on vacation and set clear and realistic expectations of the timeframe of completion of their project.
Obviously, I don’t book any shoots or editing for the time I am away unless I have someone to fill in for me. Just before I leave, I change my voicemail and email auto-responder to indicate that I will be away and unavailable until a certain date. I also leave callers a preferred contact method (typically email) in case there is an urgent matter.
So now is the time to start planning and saving for your 2008 vacation. You’ve probably already earned it for your hard work—now get out there and earn enough to afford it! Happy travels.
Shawn Lam is an MPV-accredited videographer and business owner based in Vancouver, BC. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production and has presented seminars on business strategy and stage event video at WEVA Expo 2005-2007 and the 4EVER Group's Video 07.