One of two things helps.
First, I set times when I am available for calls. Here it's M-F, 10-4 CDT. I've always been a night owl (and a morning owl, I just don't get/need a ton of sleep all the time). That's a pretty wide swath of Chicago's work day and includes East and West Coast reasonable times.
Two, and related, I'm trying Calendly this summer to book calls. That way I can block days out if I know I have a writing thing I need to focus on or we've booked something for the night. (I'll be sharing more awesome tools next post).
And there's a third thing. I just flex. If someone really wanted a 8 am call Chicago time, Brett and I can figure it out. If someone wanted an 8 pm call, I'd figure it out. Exceptions are just that, the once in a while-s we do to have the most of time-s. I've done 4 am conference calls in the foyer of our apartment in Auckland. Because when it was done, I was still in Auckland and it was awesome.
Talking & working with Clients while away
So, now you know it's possible to get work done in a foreign land. It really is! But those other people...clients...do they get it? How does it work with them?
This seems to be the source of the most it'll-never-work anxiety.
Thus far, I've had really, really limited negative impact from our trips. I think there is one project in seven years that I had to pass on because I wasn't sure if it would be a great fit.
In part, it's because we're already pretty choosey about work. I don't typically work extended onsite engagement as is, Brett rarely does. So being remote isn't something that is a huge hurdle for us or our clients. It's more the normal stroll we're on together.
You Asked: How do you tell them you are going?
I'm not going to prison. So, I kinda just do? As a project starts if it falls during the trip I let the organizer or project manager know. If a project is slow and delayed (that never happens, right?) I give a head's up with a reminder that it's not a big deal. Because it's not.
We've both built great relationships with our collaborators and clients (see high achiever / pleaser above). So for ongoing projects and collaborations it's part of the larger conversation.
For the most part, clients and collaborative have responded not only positively but enthusiastically and usually (dare I admit) with some envy.
I do have some who wish me a wonderful, extended vacation. I have to remind them I'm working, which is not what I expected to have to do. The most impactful pieces of the trips to date has been reminding clients I'm not unavailable. I'm here! Let's do this!
You Asked: How do you manage them once you are there?
First, I add all the timezones for Chicago and for all the people in various places for project into my phone. I really should to that all the time.
Then, I do things in the exact same way I do at home. Open, honest communication. A dash of humor. And then I meet every damn deadline.
We have a kid, she gets sick. Things come up. Life is messy. Being a responsible and reliable independent is essential wherever I am.
If it's someone I've worked with before, they're aware of the trip as soon as we book tickets since I tell them first the week I'll be offline at the end and then remind them the month before I'll be available, but away.
If it's a new potential client I frame things accurately and set expectations. I offer the caveat that if an in-person is essential, I can start on X date. Again, I've never had someone pass that I can think of. That may be because folks are flexible or because so much of my work comes through referrals.
I also back up what I say I can do with third party proof. Often I can reference that the person referring me collaborated with me while I was abroad and can share how it worked for them. Or I have a handful of folks who I know I can ask to speak on my behalf wherever I am when a project starts.
Then, it's business as usual.
Here in Vienna I can take a call with some advanced notice anytime between 5 and 11 or 11:30 pm, earlier or later too if need be, and everyday Monday-Thursday. I've had folks with way less availability than that stateside so I feel good offering a pretty big window most days of the week.