Next week I will be embarking on my first vacation in over 2 years. In fact, since starting CMD+Shift Design, I have never taken more than 1 day off and never gone a full 24 hour period without checking in on email or social networks. I really love what I do and I am actually going to miss my normal day-to-day work routine, but I do recognize that taking some time away is valuable and I am pretty excited!
If you’re a freelancer looking to go on a vacation, here are a few things you will want to take into consideration before packing those bags!
Alert Your Clients Ahead of Time
Send out a simple email announcement to all of your clients alerting them of the dates you will be unavailable. Weather you have an open project with the client or not, I suggest sending the message to all your clients about 2 months before your departure date. If you will be gone for an extended time (a month or longer) you may want to consider even more notice.
Alerting my clients early allowed everyone to think ahead to what they need from me and even ended up jump starting a few projects!
Even if you are expecting to work a bit while you are away, it is smart to prepare ahead so that a spotty hotel Wi-Fi or a last minute change in plans won’t cause a catastrophic client communication meltdown.
Alert New Clients
In the time leading up to your departure, make new clients aware of your office closure early on. You may anticipate their project to be wrapped up before you leave, but it is best to let them know anyway — That way, if circumstances cause the project to run longer than expected the client will not be caught off guard when things are put on hold while you’re gone.
Call out closure days in contracts and/or emails.With any projects you have that will overlap with your office closure, make sure it is clear that these days you are gone will not be counted as business days and therefor will effect the projects turn around time. If your project agreement states that the turnaround is “10 business days” you will want to make your client aware that this turnaround does not include the 4 business days that your office will be closed.
Outsource Open Projects
If you want to keep things moving while you enjoy some time off, you can outsource work to another freelancer. If you’d like to do this, it is a good idea to work with this person on a few projects ahead of time so that you get a feel for how they work and you can be sure you will feel comfortable with them taking on your projects.
If you plan to have this colleague communicating with your clients make sure your clients have been introduced to them (email, Skype, 3-way call, or face-to-face,) and feel comfortable with them taking on the job while you are away. I would suggest giving your client the choice. “We can put the project on hold until I return or I can have my colleague James finish things up with you while I am away” This way they have the option to wait if they prefer working exclusively with you.
Work Like You’re Leaving Tomorrow
You don’t want to leave loose ends and you don’t want to be pushing to finish a project from the airport (or airplane) Wi-Fi!
Set your due dates a day or 2 before you go so that your last day in the office can be as low stress as possible. This will also give you a smaller chance of forgetting to do something important!
Plan For Your Return
In addition to planning for your departure, It is also a good idea to think ahead to your return! If you will be traveling outside of your time-zone you will most likely return jet-lagged. Consider adding an extra day to your away schedule (if you return on the 20th, tell your clients you will be back on the 21st.) This gives you some lead way if you are not ready to jump back into work the day your plane lands! If you arrive home and feel like jumping right into what you missed however, our clients will get a pleasant surprise! It’s always best to under promise and over deliver.
Updates, Replies & Deliveries
Even with alerting your clients and vendors of your office closure, be aware that time will march on while you are away. Emails will still come in, blog readers will visit your site, people will Google your name and the postman will bring you deliveries. Try to prepare for all of these things with automated services as much as you can.
Most all internet based services can be set to an automated mode. Turn on your E-mail Vacation Responder stating that your office is closed and the dates of the closure. Also reassure the correspondent that your normal business hours will resume on the date specified and that you will respond to them at your next earliest convenience.
It could take a little bit of extra time to set up, but using custom email Filters you could create custom messages for each of your clients. This could be helpful if you have a few clients whose projects are being outsourced while you are away. Your auto-response can remind them of the dates you are unavailable and give them the contact information for the freelancer handling their project.
Blog posts can be scheduled to post even when you are away from the computer and you can use services like SocialOomph (formerly TweetLater) if you want to schedule periodic tweets to go out.
Lastly, don’t forget real world services as well. Record a outgoing voicemail message and Set up a mail hold at your local post office. Cancel any deliveries that may be scheduled during your time off and if you have any office pets or plants, make sure they will be cared for until you return!
Pay Bills & Send Invoices
It’s smart to double check the due dates on any pending bills and make sure to send off your payment before you leave if the due date fall during your vacation. In addition to thinking about the money going out, what about the money coming in? Take a moment to go over any billable hours you can invoice before your trip, you may have the payment waiting for you when you return! :)
If you’re planning on traveling with your work laptop, do a full back up before you go. In the horrifying event that your laptop is lost, stolen or damaged during your travel, knowing your data is safe at home will be of some comfort.
As I prepare for my time away, I am feeling a little overwhelmed — trying to get as much stuff finished as I can before I go and making sure that my clients are tended to. One thing I need to remember is that once I set out on my adventure, I need to enjoy myself.
Vacations seem a little different since I started my own business, it’s not really about escaping my day-to-day, it’s more about enjoying life and recharging for the exciting work ahead. I will surely be talking about business while I am away because it is such a large part of me, but I will return excited to get moving on new things in the new year to come!