How do you cope with notifying agencies of your off days?
Thread poster: Todd Field

Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:22
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
Jul 21, 2009

I’m curious to know how colleagues deal with notifying agencies about when they plan to be out of the office.

Normally I translate full time, 5 days a week, and am available to respond immediately to job offers. Occasionally I do take some days off, and notify the half dozen or so agencies (via email) that I work with the most regularly.

The problem lies with those unexpected job offers from other agencies that may only call on me a couple of times a year, together with new ones. I don’t want to send “out of the office" messages to every project manager that may potentially contact me for work, since this would be cumbersome and potentially annoying to the recipient. I’ve had only limited success with auto responders and the ProZ.com availability calendar. Also, I don’t want to take a mobile device to check my email outside the office.

So here is my question: how do you cope with notifying agencies about when you plan to be out of the office? Is there a fail-safe method to do so?

Thanks in advance for your ideas.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
What I do Jul 21, 2009

Todd Field wrote:

I’m curious to know how colleagues deal with notifying agencies about when they plan to be out of the office.



I assiduously update my Proz availabiliy calendar once a week but my clients don't seem to look at it I do remind them, but this seems to have no effect !

And yet I keep on doing it. Maybe because changing the colours is fun


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:22
Member
French to English
+ ...
Advance notice + Automatic message Jul 21, 2009

I generally warn my regular customers about pending days off and then I use an automated "out-of-office" message which gets sent by return mail to all incoming addresses.

Depending on the length of my vacation, I give more or less advanced notice. If I'll just be out of the office on a Friday afternoon, for example, I generally don't go to much effort to alert customers in advance and only mention it in passing if I'm already in touch with a customer (i.e. upon returning a job, I'll add a paragraph stating that for information I will not be available on Friday afternoon, but will be back at my desk as usual on Monday morning).

For actual holidays, I warn my regular customers well in advance and remind them again a week or two before leaving. My out-of-office message always includes the date when I will be back and accepting new jobs again.

Best,
Jocelyne


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Eleni Makantani
Greece
Local time: 05:22
Member
English to Greek
+ ...
I do the same as Joselyne Jul 21, 2009

I give them an advance message, I add a notice in my email signature well in advance and I give them an automatic away message once I'm gone.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:22
Dutch to English
+ ...
Blackberry or other smartphone Jul 21, 2009

I know you don't want one Todd, I didn't either, but I thought I'd let you know anyhow that I recently crossed to the 'dark side', because I need to get out a bit more.

Well worth the investment, doesn't have to be invasive (unless you let it) and so quick to check, unless you are going to be kayaking, of course

Otherwise automatic messages and advance notice. My problem with advance notice is that it is potentially annoying, and often gets ignored, unless you're giving your regulars notice of an extended period of time.

[Edited at 2009-07-21 16:17 GMT]


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avsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
English to French
+ ...
Same Jul 21, 2009

Advance notification, automatic reply, availability calendar... Most of them took good note of it and didn't send anything until I was back.

But I must say that it doesn't always work. During my last vacation, I received dozens of offers from the same client (from different project managers though...) who just seemed oblivious to the fact that I was on vacation. You'd think the automatic reply would give them a clue, but they kept on sending messages asking if I could confirm receipt of their request send 2 hours ago and reply ASAP, etc. etc. etc.


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:22
Portuguese to English
+ ...
No off days Jul 21, 2009

I do not have off days, the rare occasions when I do travel I always try to get to a cybercafé at least once a day. I do notify the translation agencies I work for by e-mail a few days before the trip and always take my mobile with me. I do use the availability calendar as well.

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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:22
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Depends on how long the absence is Jul 21, 2009

If I am going to be out of the office for 1 day to a week, I just put my auto responder on my email, stating when I am out of the office, when I will be back, that I am available to start new projects as of XX date, and my cell phone number. I don't give any advance notice unless I have specific clients who are likely to ask me for work during that time. If so I mention it to them in an email in advance.

If I am going to be out of the office for longer than a week, I put an auto responder (same info as above) and send out advance emails to my frequent clients. And in this case, after I get back and turn off the auto responder, I send out emails to whoever I sent emails to saying that I'm back in the office. And I also send 'back in the office' emails to anyone who emailed me while I was gone.

As for the ProZ calendar... I haven't had any indications that anybody is actually looking at this... so I don't use this as a form of notifying anyone, because there's no way to know that people looked at it or not.

You said you've had mixed luck with auto responders... I don't know what kind of email account you have, but if you have your own domain name for your work email, your auto responder should work, and you should be able to type in your own specific information. If your auto responder is not reliable, I recommend getting a new email package where the auto responder works, because it is a very valuable tool that can allow you to go on vacation or take time off without you having to worry that people don't know you're out of the office. I definitely recommend getting a proper auto responder.


[Edited at 2009-07-21 17:31 GMT]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
I check email on my off days Jul 21, 2009

Unless I'm on a plane, I generally check my email several times a day even on days off.

If a job comes in, I dash off a quick reply explaining my schedule and proposing a delivery date for the job (or indicating that I'm unavailable, as the case may be).


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Tomasz Poplawski  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
English to Polish
+ ...
Cost/benefit analysis Jul 22, 2009

My experience (10 very intense translation years after a few slower ones, and at least 80 days out of town every year) tells me that all things considered, it is better to stay in touch when you are off, or semi-off, than to have an automated response, or other forms of fences.
How can you create a universal response when every project is different? Do you want to risk missing a 100,000-word project because a PM cannot cannot ask you in time what s/he needs to know, and goes with someone else? Do you want to annoy a great client by not being available for a 20-word update you could do in 5 minutes?
Unless you are getting close to retirement, and actually think about slowly dropping clients, I believe it's wise to do the Tinkerbell thing - accept who we are, and thrive on it - I mean the fact freelancers are never 100% off (and because of that, they can be 80% off a lot), find beauty in that trade-off, and feel sorry for your corporate friends and their 2-week vacations once a year.
Is carrying a PDA really such a burden in comparison?


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Elisabete Cunha  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:22
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Advance notice + automatic message Jul 22, 2009

I always give advance notice to all the clients (whether they are regular or not) through my mailing list. Then I leave an automatic message and normally everything works smoothly. I avoid checking my email during vacation, because it just doesn't make sense. It’s family time and clients (at least the professional ones) must respect that. I only take one week off per year, so I believe I have the right to rest at least during these few days. After all, we are translators, not slaves.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Out of office reply Jul 22, 2009

Todd Field wrote:
Occasionally I do take some days off, and notify the half dozen or so agencies (via email) that I work with the most regularly.


In my opinion an out-of-office reply is sufficient. The reply is usually sent and received within minutes after the original person mailed his message, so no client has an excuse for thinking that you are available if you aren't.

The out-of-office message should contain an indication of when you'll be back, where you can be reached (if relevant) and IMO preferably some indication of why you are not available, eg "on holiday", "out shopping" etc to help the recipient get an indication of your general availability in the coming hours or days.

I’ve had only limited success with auto responders...


What problems did you have with out-of-office replies (I assume that's what you mean by "auto responders")?


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:22
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
This may not work for you.... Jul 22, 2009

As I have to do the school run and take my daughter places in the afternoon, I am not always at my desk, so all my clients know they have to phone my mobile if they get no quick response to an email. This works quite well for me. Those who balk at the cost just phone and hang up and I ring them back.

I have so far resisted Blackberries and Laptops, but I think it's only a matter of time before I succumb.


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Lucy Leite  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:22
Member (2008)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Not an easy task Jul 22, 2009

I try to be available for my clients as much as possible, even if I just reply an email telling them I'm on holidays and actually unavailable to take on projects.

If possible, I discuss an alternative delivery date for a project; if it's a small thing and there is really no other way, I do the job.

Some of my direct clients really count on me for their projects so I try to go away without compromising my relationship with clients. Many agencies work with other translators in my language pair, so they have someone to turn to, which is a lot easier. Sometimes I tell the client a colleague owill back me up during that given period and s/he takes the jobs while I'm away (I ALWAYS advise my clients about it and ask if they're interested in this alternative first). It all depends on where I'm going to and for how long.

It's not easy for me, though! I try to travel about 3-4 weeks, but never in a row... and usually with my laptop!


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