Being self-employed and reporting absences - a practical guide for entrepreneurs
There are many reasons why you, as a freelancer or contractor, may be absent for a period of time for new assignments or work, while your website naturally continues to collect new leads and orders. To make your visitors and potential customers aware of this, there are a number of measures you can implement. We want to present these in today's blog post. And you can counteract negative feelings among potential customers as much as possible and minimize the damage to your hard-earned reputation.
Be clear about the reason for the absence
Many reasons why an absence occurs are well understood by visitors if you are open about it and clearly state why there is an absence. This can then be better understood and there will be more understanding than if you just state that you are absent. So just be honest if you are on vacation, sick for a while or have no capacity for new orders. As a freelancer or your own (small) business, you often have limited capacity for assignments, and the slightest change can throw off your planning.
One reason why a client chooses you may be precisely because you are a smaller company, a more personal approach and the same contact persons. This can have its advantages and disadvantages.
Announce this as far in advance as possible
If you can indicate in advance that you will be absent for a period of time, it is important to indicate this as far in advance as possible. You can indicate this in a fixed place on your website and also in your email signature. This way, customers know where they stand and can take this into account.
Set up out-of-office messages in your email addresses
Email correspondence is of crucial importance for every company, because this is where appointments and orders are recorded in writing, and this is often where the first contact takes place. It is therefore important that if you know in advance that you will be absent for a period of time, you can indicate this in the signature of your e-mail so that this is already marked in the e-mail traffic for this period.
During your absence, you can indicate this with an automatic reply or out-of-office notification within the email. You can already set this up in most mail programs, but you can also do this easily via our webmail. Go to Webmail, log in with your e-mail address(es) and then set up your reply under More -> Settings -> Automatic reply. Here you have two fields, one for sending to users within your domain name. This is relevant for your team or employees, for example. And the field for sending to everyone else. Here you can set this up as follows, for example:
When you have finished your message, you can save it with the next option and you will also immediately see that it is only sent to a user once a day. You can also set a time period for it and the option to send it only to direct mailers. This means that it will not be sent to newsletters you receive, forwards or aliases.
After that, it is active and will be sent to the people who send you an email.
Set up absence notification on the website
There are several ways to report absences on your website. The simplest and most effective is to display a pop-up window on your website that forces visitors to confirm this. This way, there is (almost) no discussion about whether this will be seen and you can avoid any confusion.
If you still think a pop-up is too aggressive, you can also mention it in a banner on your website. You can program both of these options yourself if you have experience with them, and there are hundreds of (free) templates and examples available. If you work with a content management system such as WordPress in your hosting, you can also easily solve this with a plug-in that you can install.
Counteract some orders or requests that cannot be processed
You can already counteract this to a certain extent with a pop-up or banner, but you can also go one step further and temporarily not accept any new orders or requests. You can often set up your shopping cart so that it cannot process new orders and, depending on the CMS, deactivate or activate a setting that allows this. To do this, consult the documentation for your CMS and switch it off or on as required.
You can also add a notification here in your contact or order form if you do not have a direct webshop option on your website. This way you can inform your customers of any delays. This way you are also ahead of any frustration.
Have you ever had to enter an absence for your freelance work or your own business? How did you communicate this to your clients? Please let us know!