Having a true amount of vacation time might be an unrealistic expectation as a freelancer, but that doesn’t stop you from trying. Whether you go with family, with friends, or simply by yourself to get away for a few, vacations are a welcome relief to, well, everything.
If you’re truly trying to get away and appreciate your trip, it means separating yourself in a few ways from the freelance market. It means a removal of jobs, phone calls, and other means of communication that connect you to the film industry.
But life has a way of dragging us right back into the norm and vacations are prime time for Murphy’s Law to kick in and start throwing jobs at you every which way before you have time to turn them all down.
I’m not saying you should completely detach yourself from the world, but there are a few steps you can take before and after your vacation to maximize your enjoyment of it while minimizing its negative impact on your freelancing career.
1. Alert Your Colleagues You’ll be Going Off the Grid
For every filmmaker, there are a few people you constantly work with or for who consistently call you for work. These are the people I would refer to as your immediate colleagues: You expect to work with them, you enjoy working with them, and you want to keep that working relationship intact for as long as possible.
These are the people that you should tell you’re going on vacation. By now, part of the reason they keep hiring you is because they know you’re available and they can depend on you. They trust you’ll be there to help them when they need it — especially if it’s for money.
Imagine their frustration if they give you an urgent phone call in the morning while you’re on vacation (and of course left your phone in the Hotel) and you don’t get back to them until the end of the day. At this point they’ve probably filled the job, but not before trying to call you 6 more times, send a few text messages, and finally a terse e-mail with a big fat “nevermind.”
Do a courtesy and let them know you will be unavailable for however long it is you’re planning to be gone. This can be as passive as setting up an “out-of-town” email responder or voicemail, or as active as informing them personally with a phone call or text message.
If you’re like me, then you see or talk to these people on a regular basis and it shouldn’t be a problem to slip it into the conversation.
By telling the crew you consistently work with that you will be unavailable, you save them the stress that comes with expecting you to work, then clamoring to find a replacement.
2. Have Crew Recommendations Ready
Even if you manage to alert your peers you’ll be leaving, it won’t always stop them from calling you and begging you to come back to work. If the price and project is right — and only you know what that is — you rush back into town.
But if it’s a job you’re not exactly dying for, have a few recommendations for other crew ready. This will have two effects:
- You don’t have to feel bad for turning down a job for a friend
- They don’t have to look any further for someone to fill your role
By directing them to someone else, you’re doing them as good a favor as accepting the job in the first place. While they want to work with you, most people will happily settle for a strong recommendation, especially from someone they trust. You’re essentially giving them another stepping stone to stand on instead of panicking that they didn’t get the guy they wanted.
If you don’t have anybody to strongly recommend, still give out a few names with the caveat: “I don’t know what his work ethic is like” or “I’ve never worked with her, but have heard good things.”
Ultimately though, consider the fact that the recommendation does reflect on your name. If you provide a name that’s still a bit of a gamble, it will be your friends decision whether to act on that or not, but they may hold a negative outcome against you.
3. Call When You Get Home to Follow Up
If you got some phone calls for work while you were on vacation, it’s an excellent idea to call back the person you turned down and follow up with them. Ask them how the job went, how the person you recommended did, and give a light apology for not being available.
This is what they call networking and it’s the master key into the Land of Plentiful Work.
Following up also alerts this person you have returned and are ready for to accept work again.
Lastly, it also lets the person know that you didn’t turn down the project because of lack of interest, but because you were truly unavailable. People can get weirdly insecure and, even if they know for a fact you were on vacation, may think their involvement or the project itself could’ve been a factor in your choice of “No.”
Remember they took the time to call you for a job, so the least you can do is call them back and ask how it went.
Relax and Enjoy the View
Anytime you decide to go on vacation, you are going to be met with resistance in your life, whether in the form of money, day-to-day responsibilities, or your job.
These are a few guidelines to help you (hopefully) tip-toe the line between enjoying your vacation and minimizing its negative effect on your career. But don’t be afraid to go on vacations thinking you’ll miss out on work — no job is ever a guarantee anyway. Just do what you can to cover your butt while you’re gone.
And when you do pull the trigger and get away from it all, try to relax and enjoy the view. Vacations are all about escape, relaxation, and a change of pace.
Finally, when you’re done slurping up that Mondo Mango Margarita on the beach and feeling a bit lonely, start calling crew through your phone book and see how many forgot to turn off their cell phones on set.
Cruel? Maybe. But hey, it’s your vacation right?
Have you ever gone on vacation and gotten calls for jobs? Did you take them? Did you let them go? Tell me in the comments!