Friday, April 30, 2010

Working Vacation: Do You Tell Your Clients?

I’ve been out of town for over a month. I spent some time in the Netherlands, Paris, Vienna, Prague, and London. It was an extremely memorable trip. But it wasn’t all vacation.

For several weeks during the trip, I was staying in a single place, more or less living a normal life. And that normal life involved working. During my vacation, most of my clients didn’t even know I was gone—I met my deadlines the same as I would have in the States.

There were some challenges, of course. I never had trouble getting an Internet connection—a rare thing on working vacations and one I’ve learned to expect. But the time difference was something I had to keep in mind; I was six hours ahead of most of the people I worked with, sometimes more.

And when phone conversations were called for, it was tricky. Phone calls to the States are difficult from overseas, even if you use Skype, unless the other person has it as well. I did one Skype conference call which went off perfectly fine. The next time I tried to talk to a client on Skype, the connection was terrible. I had to call her back on my European cell phone, and the minutes evaporated like an ice cube on concrete during a New Mexico summer. I finally had to make an expensive land-line call from my host’s phone, apologize and explain that I was in Europe. The client was very understanding, we finished the interview and the rest of the project went well. Looking back, I should have had an international calling card ready to use on the land line. Next time I have to make client calls from Europe, I’ll be better prepared.

I was reluctant to tell clients where I was—but when I ran into trouble because of it, it turned out to be better to explain things than to let them think I was a flake with a bad phone connection. What’s your policy when you’re on a working vacation?