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Online Entrepreneurs: How to Take a Break (Without Breaking Your Business)

  |   Business Tips   |   25 Comments

Dreaming about stepping back a bit from online entrepreneurship? Need to take a business break? It's possible, and you can even keep your brand afloat while you do it. Here's how!

 

No matter the situation you find yourself in as an online entrepreneur that’s causing you to consider such a decision, it’s never an “easy” task to take an extended business break.

 

There’s so much guilt.

 

And SO many worries.

 

For instance, how can you take a “business sabbatical” — either full-time or part-time — and still make money (either a lot or a little)?

 

How do you continue to build followers and keep your blog alive, even if you’re not writing posts?

 

What should you know when it comes to taking care of client/customer service issues?

 

…Can you really take a break from business and still have anything at all to come back to? I mean, REALLY?

 

If this sounds like your kind of personal agony, I have some tips + ideas to share with you from my recent 4 month business break that just may help. 🙂

 

(And if you’re keen on discovering why I stepped back almost 100% from running Olyvia and what I’ve been doing all this time, you’ll find the details at the end of this post!)

 

HOW TO TAKE A BUSINESS BREAK — 5 THINGS THAT WILL HELP YOU STAY AFLOAT

 

1. Give extra prominence to your best passive income streams

 

You may or may not know just yet whether you’re taking a permanent or a temporary break from your biz, but in most cases you’ll still want to make money while you decide what’s next. To do this in a way that allows you the most freedom and rest, you’ll want to place a major focus on passive income.

 

First, take note of all the ways you currently make passive income (aside from ads): affiliate links, books/e-books, e-courses, stock photo packs, website themes, printables, membership libraries, etc.

 

From there, filter out what is most lucrative for you. What brings in the bulk of your monthly income without any special effort? For instance, you might have dozens of Amazon affiliate products featured around your website, but if your earnings from them are quite low overall, set them aside for now.

 

The same goes for premium priced e-courses that you can only sell with a lot of highly targeted work via your email list. (Unless you have a heroic email sequence already automated, of course!)

 

Once you have an idea of your 3-5 top performing passive income streams that can run entirely (or almost entirely) on their own, go through your site and remove — or minimize — everything else.

 

Do this:

 

If you utilize a sidebar, place big, beautiful graphics + links for 1-3 of your best-performers near the top. Take out all the others.

 

For Resource/Favorite Tools pages, create a section at the top with your “must-haves.” Feature only a handful of your select passive income links in this section. (You might also consider giving them more prominence by making the graphics and/or text larger than the rest of the items on the page, putting in section dividers or giving that section a special background color, etc.)

 

For Products/Course pages, do the same as above. Pick 1 product and/or 1 course that is your top seller and set it apart from all the rest. If you have time, add oomph by putting in (more) trust-building testimonials or reviews. (Depending on your circumstances and your brand, you might even try a small discount or special bundle price for the period where you’ll be stepping back.)

 

2. Refine your calls-to-action

 

You’ve heard it dozens of times from almost all online biz teachers: “The main goal of your website + blog is to get people on that email list!” And that’s true — as long as you’re able to sell via that email list.

 

However, when there comes a time where you can’t or won’t be using your email list as you should — yet you still need to have money coming in — I’m here to tell you that you CAN break this marketing rule.

 

What to do instead?

 

Direct people to your entry-level passive income products.

 

Leaving your standard email subscription boxes alone (ie: in your header area, sidebar, footer, etc.), work through a dozen or so well-trafficked blog posts and see where you can remove “Subscribe Now!” CTAs and content upgrades with a big, bold, direct call to “Buy ____ Now!”

 

Because you’ll be targeting a lot of fresh visitors who will have very little trust in your brand, this isn’t the place to push your $400 video workshop.

 

But if you have a lower cost item (less than ~ $30) that’s an ideal fit for that particular blog post topic (don’t try to sell something that is unrelated — it won’t work!), advertise it loud and clear with an eye-catching graphic and big purchase buttons. Plus, don’t forget to link to a sales page where they can learn about the item in greater depth (if available).

 

Other things you might do temporarily:

 

Install a bold call-to-action “bar” that sits at the top of your website/blog and directs people to your best-selling passive income product. Try Hello Bar for this.

 

Remove non-crucial main menu items so that it looks more like this:

 

ABOUT // [LINK TO SHOP, A SPECIFIC PRODUCT, OR RESOURCES/TOOLS PAGE] // BLOG

 

Move the other links — such as ‘Contact’ — to a secondary menu bar in your footer or sidebar.

 

Change your social media bio links so that they point directly to a product page (or a resources/tools page that has affiliate links) instead of an email subscription landing page or your main website.

 

3. Set yourself up to be awesome in your inbox

 

Although you’re taking a break from your online business, I know that you’ve already guessed that it’s not a smart idea to remove yourself from your email inbox entirely.

 

All kinds of people, including your beloved clients or customers, are sure to be contacting you during your “time away” — and they’ll still desire (and have the right to) your epic service. 🙂

 

To make this quick and pain-free for you, prepare yourself (or a biz assistant/volunteer) with some pre-scripted phrases and paragraphs that you can reach for when an important email lands in your lap.

 

When you compile these, think: what are some anticipated questions or requests you might receive? What is the most common thing people contact you about? How will you need to turn down _______ while you’re taking your sabbatical?

 

Do know that you’ll often need to tweak your replies to suit the individual situation, but getting the bulk of your answers sorted out ahead of time will make customer service a breeze — while also protecting your reputation.

 

When/if you step back into full-time operation of your business, you don’t want to have to try to recover from the problems that arise from alienated customers or ignored biz inquiries!

 

If you’re not sure how to even start (or you simply just don’t have the time — #storyofmylife), I suggest grabbing an e-book/book to help you out. Mine is Pre-Scripted: The Small Biz Owner’s Mini-Guide To Building A Customer Service Script Database. It includes over 87 ready-to-use pro scripts that you can swipe (or modify), and they cover the most popular topics in online business:

 

When…

You’re Inviting Input/Feedback
You Don’t Know The Answer
Someone Is Slow To Respond (…Or Goes Totally Rogue!)
Someone Is Experiencing Problems (ie: Technical Issues)
Someone Leaves A Critical Comment
You Want To Give A Word Of Appreciation
Someone Leaves You A Negative Review (ie: On Etsy)
Someone Wants Something They Can’t Have
Someone Is Frustrated…Or Furious
Someone Won’t Pay The Bills
You’re Turning Down Work
You’re Signing Off
You Want To Reassure + Build Trust

 

Instantly download the guide + scripts for $5 now.

 

prescripted_salesmockup

 

4. Tend (wisely) to your social media scheduling queue

 

Even if you’re not planning on working your business at all, it’s a big boon to you if you can maintain a minimal social media presence via some pre-scheduled posts. You don’t necessarily need to do this on ALL of your networks, though — you can choose what you think will benefit your brand most and go with only one if that seems best to you.

 

By doing this it will keep you in people’s minds, help you continue to attract new followers, support your blog traffic, and provide an opportunity for you to bring in some money. #allgoodthings

 

Here’s a bare-bones example of what you could set up in Buffer, Tailwind, [choose your weapon of choice]:

 

Twitter or Facebook

Tuesday: promote old blog post, product, affiliate product, or service
Thursday: share a helpful link or tip or quote

 

Pinterest

10 pins/week, with 3 being your own (aim for at least 1 of those 3 pins leading to a product/service/monetized e-course/etc.)

 

Instagram

1 photo/week (every other week, you can also soft sell* a product/service/monetized e-course/affiliate product…)

 

If you can do a little more, try:

 

Twitter and/or Facebook

Monday: quote
Tuesday: share a helpful link or tip
Wednesday: promote old blog post, product, affiliate product, or service
Friday: share a helpful link or tip or photo

 

Pinterest

30 pins/week, with 7 being your own (aim for at least 3 of those 7 pins leading to a product/service/monetized e-course/etc.)

 

Instagram

2 photos/week (every so often you can soft sell* a product/service/monetized e-course/affiliate product)

 

*  My favorite example of effective soft selling on Instagram is from byRegina:

 

Instagram soft-sell from byRegina

 

5. Remain active in at least one online community

 

The whole point of stepping back from your business is to step back, right? I hear you! You don’t want to have to be tied to social media like it’s a pet. It takes a tremendous amount of work + energy, and if we’re honest here, it’s probably no small reason as to why you’re taking a break in the first place.

 

That said, hear me on this: if you can stick around in just ONE online community — whether that’s a Facebook Group, a Twitter chat, a biz forum, or a hopping blog combox — you’ll find it much, much easier to both maintain and jump back into your business if/when you choose.

 

Where do you love to spend your time most? Is there a core community that you’re in charge of? Pick that and yes, forget the rest.

 

A FEW MORE QUICK DO’S AND DON’TS

 

Do keep your email marketing service (ie: ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.) + social media schedulers + financial apps

 

Do cancel other non-essential monthly subscriptions, like stock photos/online photo editing apps/etc.

 

Don’t feel like you need to keep up with what other biz people are doing — use Unroll.Me to move newsletters out of view

 

Do let your followers know in advance that you’re taking a break, if you can (I didn’t and wish I had) — but don’t promise specific time-frames for returning if you aren’t absolutely sure

 

Do try to write a few blog posts or recruit some guest posts and queue them up for publishing throughout your break

 

Don’t feel bad if you can’t

 

Don’t feel like it’s a “step backward” if you need to take on some minimal client work to help pay the bills

 

 

How to take a business break

 

 

MY PERSONAL STORY: WHY I “QUIT” MY BUSINESS FOR 4 MONTHS

 

If you’ve read my fairly mortifying tell-all confession about my secret fears as an online entrepreneur (who also happens to be a single mom of three spirited munchkins), you know that over the months I’ve been getting tired.

 

Bone-deep tired.

 

One late evening I threw myself down on my bed in a state of what I now fondly refer to as Entrepreneurship-Induced Clarity Syndrome (officially: EICS) and thought to myself,

 

“I freaking love my business. I’m proud of what I’ve built. But the very last thing I want to do anymore is run this darn thing. If I could spend my day immersed in simply helping people instead of being the one who needs to run this whole wild show, I’d be so. much. happier.”

 

And so, I did the reverse of what nearly everyone else is trying to do in the blogosphere:

 

I intentionally (and quietly) went looking for a job working for ‘The Man.’

 

Only, the company I ended up choosing, after careful thought + reflection on my longtime experience with them, was a place so admirable that in my heart of hearts, I can’t think of them as The Man, nor my choice as a kind of “sellout.”

 

I chose to apply at Buffer.

 

I don’t mind telling all of the interwebs that my first application was a disaster. Though likely acceptable, if not desirable, at many places, it was everything Buffer is not: corporate-esque and terribly formal. Their classy + kind “thanks but no thanks” email was hardly a surprise!

 

But those who know me know that if I see value in something, I fight for it — and so I decided it was (more than) worth it to try again.

 

The next time I approached them without the usual dull trappings of the de-humanized, often pretentious American business culture. In essence, I chose to be honest, vulnerable, and completely myself. Flaws and all.

 

The gratitude I felt when I received an email in return asking me if I was up for answering another round of questions was such that I broke out in happy dance mode for at least a good 60 shameless seconds. 😉 #imsuchageek

 

From there I made it to a few more rounds of video interviews with Jenny and Carolyn, which in and of itself was an opportunity incredibly humbling, exciting, and pee-my-pants terrifying all at the same time. (Though I’m thrilled to report that I did not, in fact, pee my pants at any point.)

 

From what I understand Buffer can receive hundreds and hundreds of applications for a single position, so even to be asked to chat one-on-one with the genuinely lovely people there is sobering. I was (and continue to be) so very thankful.

 

In the end, however, I wasn’t hired for the position I had wanted. And while it was a hard thing, I don’t think it was a bad thing. The specific role I had applied for required a level of nerdy passion in an area that, while achievable over time, I wasn’t the best suited for right out of the gate.

 

And you know what?

 

That’s okay.

 

I’d rather a company hire the best person for their customers as opposed to the could-be-the-best person, even if that means I’m the one who’s let down.

 

My expectations in my own business are no lower.

 

So, I still think it would be extraordinary to have the privilege to work long-term for Buffer one day, and hope that if the right opportunity opens up, I may be considered again. But time will tell, and I am okay with the wait. 🙂

 

And that’s the story of how I kept busy in April and May!

 

In June and July I was…

 

 

Erika Madden of Olyvia.co on Instagram

 

It’s been such a healing summer for me, but now I suppose it’s time to ask the inevitable question: what’s going to happen with Olyvia.co next?

 

The best answer to that is, I’m still figuring that out. 

 

Despite being the Super Introvert that I am, I fiercely miss working with or among people. To help remedy this, I’m currently looking for a part-time position virtually or in my local community.

 

I also have this crazy dream where I open a beautiful bookstore-slash-coworking space, so we’ll see where that goes. 🙂

 

As far as Olyvia.co, I’m eager to keep it going — with conditions. I know now that I won’t ever be the entrepreneur who does joint venture webinars and emails people incessantly and seems to have some big ticket course to launch every other week. That’s not me, and not how I want to do business.

 

I’ll also refuse to return to the 16+ hour days where my health, house, and kids suffer. No, that will not be my life.

 

What Olyvia will be is a company fully dedicated to online customer service. In the short term, there are new customer service audits starting at $43. In the long term there will be straightforward, affordable digital goods for grab-and-go client/customer service and — tentatively — the opportunity to hire me to write service copy.

 

Beyond that, we’ll see what develops. I won’t make any promises beyond that whatever I put out there for you, I will make it as practically useful and financially reasonable as possible.

 

Now, if you have any questions for me — either about how to take a business break or my future plans — the floor is open to you. 😉 I’m happy to answer anything. If you’re up for it, please comment below — or shoot me a private email at erika@olyvia.co!

 

 

Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)

 

The free 21 day ecourse that creates pro online impressions for business owners!

 

 

 

  • amberb23

    OMG! I absolutely LOVE this post! It’s really good to know people have the same struggles as I. I love your transparency and truth. This was a much needed post for me and I’m sure for everyone else. I’m going to Tweet this! ?

    • I’m so glad that you don’t feel as alone in all this craziness, Amber. ? It’s not popular to talk about, but this stuff is HARD. And it takes it toll. You are not alone, and it’s okay to take care of yourself. Thank you so much for your kindness and support!

  • There’s so much that I love about this post and you. Seriously, you are one of my online heroes 🙂 I’ve been in the “figuring” out mode for awhile after I hit a burnout in April, and really less than two weeks ago, am slowing coming back. I’ve been doing similar things to you as well, with the exception of the cool outdoor trips and traveling and reading, ha. I think it’s great that you’re setting your boundaries of what you want and especially don’t want. We are all figuring this out after all and it’s easy to get swept up. It’s best when we can get our feet back on the ground and think about what really makes us happy and how. Speaking of traveling, I finally got to take a short day trip! What’s next is a good book and getting back to being “soul happy”. I’m eager to see how things turn out for you and your blog! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂 ?

    • Tishana, you are incredibly kind. ❤️ Thank you so much for the willingness to share your story with me and how you’ve found peace in taking a break, too. You’re right — it is SO easy to get swept up, and in my experience it may feel amazing for awhile, but it never lasts!

      I’m so glad your goal is to get back to being “soul happy” — that’s the most important thing in the end. More than the money, more than the popularity, more than anything. I’ll be rooting for you. 😊

  • Hey Erika! I hardly ever comment but wanted to give you major props for this post. I started my business in January and I’ve already started feeling the “I love this but I’m not sure I like this!” feelings. I’ve already taken one step by changing up my blog content but I still feel like something is off. Glad to hear I’m not alone and best of luck to you!

    • Oh no, Brittney, you are NOT alone! I’m REALLY glad that by sharing my (sometimes embarrassing 😉) thoughts + experiences, you feel less weird about your ambivalence. I can relate to your “I love this but I’m not sure I like this” feelings so well, and if I could say anything somewhat helpful, I’d say to listen to that intuition as best you can…and not to be afraid if it leads you to do things differently than “they” say you “should” do things. I’m hoping for the best for you, Brittney! And please: don’t be afraid to reach out if you need some encouragement or advice — I’d be happy to listen. ❤️

  • Kristen @cursorandink

    Hi Erika, thanks so much for this post! It’s so easy to get swept up in all of the “should do’s” of running an online business, and I’m so impressed at your ability to make brave decisions about what your best business (and work-life balance!) looks like. You’ve been a huge example to me as I navigate this world of growing a platform online, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing where this new direction takes you! Wishing you all the very best!

    • Kristen, you are so sweet to say that I’m brave. 😂 Although I (still) feel like I’m just figuring this stuff out for the first time, it helps to know that there are people like you that believe in me and see some value from my “experiments!” 😉 Thank you so very much for your support!!

  • Yadah Kock

    Well done you for seeing what you, your family and future need to be happy. More people need to have the balls to do what you have. All hail chief Olyvia 🙂

    • LOL You’re hilarious, Yadah. 😂😂 And thank you. 💓

  • What a great, wonderful, needed post! Not only great tips but also sharing your journey that so many of us can relate too. I needed to hear this, and you are asking questions I’ve been asking of myself. It is so nice to hear I’m not alone and that others are going through similar issues and situations.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words! I’m ridiculously happy that a little of what I said resonated with you, and that you feel less alone in all this. 😊 I’m seeing more and more how important it is that we all realize how everyone else is struggling, too. There’s an incredible amount we can learn from one another (and strength we can gain by being open). 💕

  • Erica Dallas

    “I know now that I won’t ever be the entrepreneur who does joint venture webinars and emails people incessantly and seems to have some big ticket course to launch every other week. That’s not me, and not how I want to do business.”

    GET. OUT. OF.MY.HEAD.

    I had to step back because of this very thing! The overall culture of this ‘new aged online entrepreneur’ did not align with my values and who I am. Why would anyone want to escape the 9-5 rat race for more freedom & time but then spend said time stressed about creating 50 webinars and 29 opt-ins, etc! I am all about doing what feels good to my creative spirit. So, you basically just became my biz bestie in my head, lol. And we share the same name 🙂 Kudos to you for redefining what you want to do.

    • GIRL. Yesss!!! That’s exactly how I feel, too. I’ve come to realize that, if anything, a 9-5 is actually much less intensive and worry-free than the life of an online entrepreneur (at least, if you run your biz the way “they” say you should if you want to make big cash off people). Ugh. It doesn’t feel right with my values, either. Thank you for letting me know I’m so far from alone, Erica!!

  • Oh Erika, I completely understand where you’re coming from! After taking my own 2 month hiatus, I had a few realizations about my business as well. I want a SIMPLER life, not a crazy hustle kind of life. I am so glad you’re back and I hope that you still appear for a post here and there. 🙂 I always love reading your posts, they’re so smart and well-written.

    And also, a thousand thanks + kisses for mentioning me in your email. You are the sweetest! muah!

    • Marianne, omg. That’s IT: “a simpler life, not a crazy hustle kind of life.” It’s popular in our circles to talk about how epic “hustle” is, but you know, the last few months have taught me that it’s really not. 😒 A bit of hustle here and there is rewarding, but when it describes your life on a consistent DAILY or WEEKLY basis, it just means stress, burnout, and depression. And I don’t care what anyone says: that’s not cool. Not even close.

      That’s why I simply loved reading your latest post about the life changes you made when you moved to Costa Rica. I think that’s beautiful. How does it make you feel? I imagine you feel so much more calm and happy. 💗

  • Crystle Monahan

    I love that you’re doing what is right for you. I have wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time, but was/am too scared to start my blog because there are so many “rules” to follow. I am a rule-follower, but I wasn’t quite comfortable with the ones relating to blogs and business, possibly because I just want to make my own mistakes. I also had financial issues, but I think I’ve figured those out, so next month I plan to officially start my blog (which may someday become a business), and I’ll do it my way. I feel so inspired by your story, thank you for sharing.

    • Good for you, Crystle! I’m happy that you’ll do it your way, and learn from your own wins + mistakes. That’s how I did it over the years (I started blogging way back in the stone age, haha) and I feel it’s the most impactful way to learn. Yes, slower perhaps, but there’s something so profound and rich about LIVED experience. I hope you figure out a great way to do things the way YOU want to do it, and are wonderfully successful at it! 🙌

  • Wow. Your blog and this post is awesome. Great tips here. But I’m a little sad about ending stock photo subscriptions! Because… Cheers from author of picjumbo.com! :)))))

  • You have given me some awesome ideas on how I can make passive income a little more possible. I have some really good blog posts that can lead to a sell of a low cost product. I took a little break this summer from much of the activities that I do for my blog. I plan on “going back to work” on my blog the second week in September. Still, I really want to try those CTA ideas and Hello Bar.

  • Jennie @ Little Girl Designs

    Love, love, LOVE this, Erika! Thanks for (yet another) amazing post. I have to admit I really missed you but then I thought to myself that you were probably out there living your life instead of being tied to your computer. 🙂 I’m so grateful for people like you who tell it as it is. AND I’m grateful you were able to have a wonderful summer with your family. Now I’m off to check out the books you mentioned . . . 🙂

  • Julie Harris

    Another classy post my dear 🙂 I just took a two week break and it was really hard to break away and separate myself in order to really enjoy my time with family. But I so loved your point about being active on at least one social community. It helps keep that tingling feeling of separation anxiety away and allowing us to be somewhat still around for our communities, but not so much that it takes up our whole day.

    I love that you shared about your own pursuit of a “traditional” job again even after working for yourself and building such a loyal following. Your honesty is always so refreshing and it helps really show the reality of what running an online business can be like. And that no matter what, being honestly yourself is always the best decision <3

  • This is such an awesome post Erika. I love how you so openly share the behind-the-scenes, I’m sure so many people (myself included) can relate to what you’ve share here. I think your tips can be really useful for maintaining a presence when you’re focusing on other things, which I’m grateful for as I’m currently working on my first paid product and also trying to apply for work experience in the local mental health industry. Recently, I’ve been wondering how I can devote more energy and attention to these things, without neglecting my business, so I appreciate the tips you’ve shared 😊

    PS. I can totally relate to being an introvert but wanting to work with (or among) other people, it’s one of the big reasons why I want to be both self-employed and have a job as well.

  • Is it ultra creepy that I want to hug you right now? I know this post is from August but I just had to comment: thank you for being so honest and so unique!! I started my blog a month (and three days) ago and I’m extremely pumped and in love with what I’m doing, but I have this annoying little voice in the back of my head telling me every single day I have to start creating courses, doing webinars, creating funnels, popping in all social media channels and simply dedicating my 24h to finding customers that will buy the stuff I should already be making to be succesful. But just like you said “that’s not me, that’s not how I want to do business”. The thing is, with the vast amount of people following the same “guidelines” it almost feels wrong to do things differently, so it’s both a relief and an inspiration to read such raw honesty from a blogger you admire. I really wish you the best with your plans and your blog. Thank you for sharing! <3

  • So sorry to read your unsettling experience…But glad it has and still is turning into a positive! Thanks for sharing! Food for thought for when I reach your level…If I ever do 😅