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I Need a Break! How to Take a Holiday from your Virtual Business

By Jennifer Kirk
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Want to take a break from your online business for a week or two? How to take a vacation without hurting your business or alienating your customers?

Many small business owners decide to close up shop during the week between Christmas and New Years. But in the virtual online world, it isn't as simple as hanging up a sign on your door proclaiming that you will be back open for business on January 2nd. And for most of the year, people expect responses to their emails NOW, not a week from now.

But most of your customers will understand if they don't hear from you until the first days of January if they happen to email you on Christmas Eve. This is perhaps the only time of year when a week's delay in answering email will not be detrimental to your online business.

But how can you successfully balance your business and your customers, so that you are able to take a much needed and well deserved break? Here are some tips on what you should and shouldn't do when you need to take a holiday form your online business.

1. Never replace your main page with a page stating little more than "Gone on Holidays". Search engines are constantly spidering websites (they don't take holidays!) and when it reaches your main page, it will believe that operations have ceased indefinitely, and will index your "Gone on Holidays" note rather than what would normally appear on your site.

2. If you absolutely must have a note on your main page stating that you will be away, create a graphic image instead. You can make an image with any text you want on it, and that image text does not get indexed by any search engines, meaning no damage will be done to your site in the eyes of any search engines that happen to visit your site during that time.

3. Set up an auto-responder that will reply to any email messages you receive. It can simply state "I will be unavailable during the week between Christmas and New Years, but I will respond promptly to all email inquiries upon my return on January 2nd" or whatever date you will return on. Be sure to unsubscribe or go no-mail from any listservs you belong to first!

4. If at all possible, check your site and email at least every second day. This will serve as prevention incase your server goes down, or that Wall Street Journal reporter wants to interview you for an article on December 27th (hey, you never know!)

5. Be sure you have shipped out all orders prior to your holiday, and send a confirmation email to those customers letting you know that their item has shipped. If you receive payment for products on December 23rd, people will expect them to be shipped before Christmas, not in January. And by sending an email, this will save you any "Has my order shipped yet" emails that could easily accumulate during the week.

6. When you do respond to any emails after the holidays, be sure to include a short note of "Sorry for the delay in answering your email. I was spending time with family during the week between Christmas and New Years." This will let customers know that your response time is usually much quicker, and that you have acknowledged the delay.

By following these tips, you should be able to take a holiday without alienating any of your customers. Most customers will understand if they don't hear from you until the first days of January if they happen to email you on Christmas Eve.

About the Author
Jennifer Kirk is the owner and chief visionary of MyMommyBiz. Along with a very active message board community, visitors will find all the tools they need to start, build, and network their business or party plan online and off.


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