Dear client, I am leaving in seven weeks to travel the world for perhaps a year, starting with this Caribbean paradise. I will have access to white sand beaches, snorkeling gear, a rainforest guide and a hammock, yet you will receive the same high-touch service to which you are accustomed. Please continue sending your retainer checks to the same address, I will have someone deposit them into my account. Love, Tyler
See, that wasn’t so hard. In reality, if you have clients, there is a lot more to working around the world than simply having a laptop. Clients expect and deserve on-time deliverables, responsiveness and high-quality work, all of which can be compromised by the lure of the tropics, spotty wifi or Montezuma’s Revenge.
Breaking The News To Clients
Clients will span the spectrum in receptivity and flexibility, ranging from unbridled enthusiasm to heart palpitations. Whether your relationship is based on email communication, frequent phone calls or in-person meetings, you need to set expectations appropriately, anticipating and addressing any concerns the client inevitably has.
Look at it from their point of view: they have entrusted a key component of their business to you, and need to know you will be there for them in basically the same capacity by which you have earned and retained their business.
Put your communication in context. How long have you been planning this? Why is it important to you? What do you hope to learn?
Lessons From The Road
I am not yet a road warrior, nor am I a travel virgin, having had my cherry popped by an Italian train strike. I have a lot to learn. Two things I do know from a month in Europe:
- Traveling every two or three days is anathema to a conducive working environment
- So is being a tourist
Staying in one place for a month or two is exciting to us – we can sink in, absorb the culture, meet some locals. It gives us a stability that allows me to serve my clients. It removes the intense pressure to be a tourist twelve hours a day.
Thinning The Herd
It is ok to:
- say no to new business
- no longer offer certain services
- redefine your business
- redefine the criteria for what business comes in the door
- refer business to a qualified friend
- cut loose the clients that aren’t a great fit
I am still in the discovery phase. I need to choose the technology that accompanies me and know what technology I will get on the road. How about hardware? Backup drives, power sources, power adaptors, surge protector, cell phones and sims, headsets, earbuds, splitters, extenders, doo-hickeys, and flux capacitors. Software too – SaaS, Cloud, VoIP, P2P, GTM, IM and proxies, oh my.
If I am three hours ahead of the west coast, do I get up early and crank out a full day of work? Do I reserve time later in the day for Skype calls? Do I enjoy the day and work nights? Yes, I have lost a little sleep thinking about these things.
I work 70-80 hours a week currently. I want to cut that in half on the road. That will require some serious efficiency. If this laptop opens up, I need to be on. And when it closes, I need to have fun.
How I best serve my clients is also how I can best serve myself. In a perfect world, I set expectations, I don’t take on too much, I deliver what I promise and I take time to experience the amazing opportunity in front of me.
(image h/t Air Panama)