Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vacation - Do You Reveal Your Whereabouts?

I can't tell you the number of times, in passing, a friend has mentioned to me they were going on vacation in a few days. They might even tell me they'll be gone for the weekend, or a whole week. What is always substantially after their return, I get a call from them.

"Aren't you on vacation?" I'd ask. Only to be told that they were back a week ago. In other words, I don't keep close track of my friends' vacation schedules. Sometimes I comment about their trip before they've gone, sometimes, I think they are supposed to be gone but have returned, and sometimes I think they're back early, when they were to have been back several days ago.

How, though, does this impact your work as a freelancer?
(Continued after the Jump)

Well, consider that while you're on a shoot with a client, and they're talking about their upcoming vacation plans, and they ask you about yours. If you tell them you'll be gone the first week of July, or the last week of August, they likely won't remember the specifics, and when an assignment comes up, the may well assume you're on vacation, and you'll lose an assignment.

Or, if your voicemail or e-mail reveals that you are on vacation, that client will call someone else for the assignment since you won't be responding to that e-mail (in their mind) even though you're likely checking your e-mail during vacation. Thus, even though the assignment was for the week you've gotten back, because you could not book it while gone, you lose it.

Since I don't keep close track of the vacation plans of my friends, I surely don't expect my clients to keep close track of when I return - and to wait for me to get back for me to send them an estimate, or tell them I am available.

So, in my office, we don't discuss, in the future tense, vacation plans. If were on vacation, it would be "John is out of the office right now..." with no specific information about when I'll return, that my office manager would pass along. Or, "John isn't here now..." or something to that affect.

Further, consider this - if you're at a station in your career where the affordable vacation for you is a weekend drive to the local amusement park, if you heard from your vendor that their vacation plans (recounted after the fact) included a week in Paris, a week in the Grand Canyon, a week in X location, even if that week-long trip was something you'd saved for for years, what are the chances that that the person who can only afford the road trip will be jealous? The thought might cross their mind "must be nice being able to afford that trip...", and yes, that, in turn, could cause you to lose a $2k assignment.

This doesn't make it right - that a client would judge their vendor like that. That clients are so quick to chose someone else when you're not responding (or not responding fast enough.) However, people do, and thus, clients do. Are you willing to risk the loss of an assignment during a date when you are not on vacation and are otherwise available because you revealed your vacation plans, and clients were either jealous, or thought you were not available when they needed you?

Keep this in mind when setting up your away messages and voicemail - even when you're travelling for a few weeks or a month on an assignment and not vacation! Revealing your lack of availability to prospective (and even repeat) clients quite possibly will cost you assignments - and income.

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