Wednesday, August 6, 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.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely the most pragmatic advise I've read in a long time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the newbie (me) has "linking" issues. Huzzah!

Anonymous said...

Seems kinda fear-based to me, if you always have to worry about what a client may or may not think.

Everyone needs a break. Just keep it to yourself. But to fear what a client may or may not think seems silly to me.

Camere Photography said...

It isn't fear based... but reality. If you aren't there to give an estimate the client will look somewhere else. You might lose an assigment cause you are gone for a week. This way you can keep your vacation and your client with a simple answer.

I am not quite there... but I will be using this when the time comes.

Lux Umbra said...

This summer I got married and went on a 10 day honeymoon to Guatemala. I work solo so I had a very trusted friend keep my calendar. My regular clients know my rates and really don't ask anymore.

Further, shortly after returning my faithful clients got a nice 5x7 print in the mail of a Mayan Ruin with, of course, a short hand-written note thanking them for their business. By doing this I was also able to show them a different visual style than the usual corporate work that they usually see.

Anonymous said...

In my shop we're ALWAYS in town.

When I schedule vacations my staff tells the clients that I'm booked on another job and that's it. If there is an emergency, my staff contacts me and I'll get back to the client.

I think that John is right about not flaunting one's vacation plans. I think that the clients have more piece of mind knowing that "you're around".

Anonymous said...

I wish I had the time to actually take a vacation and had the problem you are talking about. Seriously, I have been dealing with this problem for years and your solution is precisely the best approach.

Will Seberger said...

You get to go on vacation?

Thanks for reminding me it's been more than a year since I last got away.

Need to fix that.

But your 'system' is really a good idea. I've always taken the exact opposite tack; worrying that if I'm not picking up on the first ring, work is going away.

I'd tell clients exactly when I was leaving, exactly when I was returning, where I could be reached in the meantime, etc.

Next time, I'm not telling that I'm leaving.

Anonymous said...

And most importantly, if you do leave an away message..MAKE SURE TO CHANGE IT BACK when your home. This recently happened to me..not good.

Brian Mc said...

I do the same thing now after missing many assignments for just that reason in my "single-guy" days. Now, "married guy with kids" I can't afford to miss any assignments, so I forward all the calls from my business line to my cell phone which is always with me. Unless I'm in some location with a lot of ambient noise like a restaurant, they never know I'm gone!

Anonymous said...

I like to let certain clients know that I'll be traveling to an area with photo potential but I don't volunteer the particulars of why I'm going and I can always say, "it's to shoot." I've picked up a few jobs that way.

And yeah, for a one-person operation why have a land line at all these days?

Anonymous said...

Great advice, John. It also works if you've got plans in town as well. I just told my assistant to never tell folks "I have dinner plans" or "I'm going to a party" etc. My advice was, "I'm sorry but I'm already booked!" Clients feel like they're getting blown off if, god forbid, you've got personal plans that might trump their assignment. It's not paranoid. It's good business sense.

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