Archive for February 29th, 2012

Dear Danielle: How Do You Cope with Holidays?

Dear Danielle:

I have a question for you. How do you cope with holidays? I’m about to go on holidays for a month. The first year I was doing this full time, I actually worked while I was traveling. Last year I had a friend fill in with a couple of my clients doing some of the work and other parts were left until I returned (mainly database entries). However, this year, I am requiring my friend to take on a lot of my clients (about six of them). One particular client requires my friend to take over everything I do which has required me writing a very long and extensive manual and take the day to train her tomorrow (only part will be for this client). However, when I asked if the client was willing to pay for some of the cost of my time in preparing the manual and for training, they have baulked. It has taken me approximately 8 hours to write the 60 page manual plus there will be another 3 or so hours training tomorrow for just this client. Who do you think should be responsible for paying for this? Sarah Munro, Sarah’s Office Services

Two questions for the price of one! lol

Let me preface things by saying there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to how you want to handle things in your business. So I’m just going to offer my own personal thoughts on this.

As far as the manual goes, to me, that’s just the cost of doing business. The client didn’t ask you to go on vacation and they didn’t ask you to develop a manual so you could have your support step in to do things. They just want to have the support they are paying for each month. If it were me, I wouldn’t charge the client for this as I initiated it as something to make things go smoother for me while I’m away.

And even if they had asked for the manual, I would still include it as part of our relationship retainer. Of course, you may not be pricing and packaging things the way I do, so that makes a difference as well.  I charge and get paid well enough that things like that don’t even need to be a blip on the radar, so to speak.

You actually have me somewhat stumped on the month-long vacation, lol. I mean, I have never taken an entire month of vacation away from my business. But I also don’t feel deprived in any way because I’m not working like a slave the rest of the time either. I don’t ever have feelings where I need to escape, which I know a lot of people do have (not saying you do, just saying in general).

My business is part of me, part of my life, so when I go on vacation it doesn’t bother me to keep a certain amount of tab on things and keep up with the most important things and delay or reduce others to half-mast.

In fact, maybe it’s just me, but one of the things I really enjoy when traveling or going on “vacation” is (for example) sitting in front of the ocean and doing a little work or checking emails on the laptop and aircard. When I lived in Europe, one of the things I absolutely loved to do was “set up shop” at my favorite cafe and do work while savoring the sights and sounds, people watching and soaking all the atmosphere in. Cafe society in Europe is so delicious!

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to actually deprive myself of a real vacation either. What I do is let clients know at the beginning of our relationship my policies and standards when it comes to the fact that I will be closed at times and even go on vacations. I don’t want them to be taken by surprise (which they really shouldn’t be anyway, but still it’s helpful to have those conversations upfront so they expect it and know exactly how things work).

I let them know how and what things will still be taken care of during that time (or not, as the case may be) and how/when they may need to step in and do things themselves. Yes, clients should never be dependant upon you! It’s their business and they should be able to step in when they need to.

I want clients to view our relationship as a whole, in the context of ongoing, so when they pay by monthly retainer, it’s more of an installment type of thing, in an abstract way of thinking of it. At the same time, I can’t justify for myself being paid a full month’s retainer if I plan to take an entire month off without giving them any level of support whatsoever. If I were to ever do that, and really and truly not work at all (and I’m just speculating here because I’ve never fully taken an entire month off), I would probably make sure there is some kind of support still available while still being half mast and/or maybe give them some kind of reduced retainer rate.

The whole vacation thing is one of the reasons I advocate for Administrative Consultants partnering with their own Administrative Consultant in the same kind of ongoing, monthly relationship that our clients have with us. When you do that, you have someone who gets to know you far better than someone stepping in off the cuff, who learns the ropes of your business and is a partner to you, not a subcontractor. This makes it much easier and more fluid for them to step in and take care of things when you are away.

I hope you have a blast on your vacation. And if I do ever decide to take off a whole month, I’ll be coming to you for advice!