When you work for yourself, the buck starts and stops with you. You set the rules, you bend the rules, and you let others crush the rules. What do I mean by this?
When you work for clients you must (and I mean MUST) lay out your boundaries earlier, remind them of them often, and enforce them without fail. If you ever want to be able to shut down your computer, put your phone on do-not-disturb, and enjoy your personal time, read on.
Set obvious working hours from the start.
From day 1 of working with a client, you must let them know your working hours and when you will be unavailable. For me, I let my clients know that, while I may complete work outside of my “office hours,” I will not be responding to emails or available for phone calls.
Let’s be honest; your clients are not worried about your Netflix and chill time. They are concerned about their businesses, their work, and their problems they are facing. They may send you an URGENT email at 8 pm at night, how you respond (or don’t respond) to that email will set the tone for the rest of your working relationship.
Consider whether you will give clients your phone number.
In this day and age, texting is a necessary means of communication. But texting can be very distracting and receiving a text message from a client at 10 p.m. can indeed ruin your evening. A lot of service-based businesses do not give out their personal phone numbers. You need to decide how you work best and whether you want clients to have that much contact with you.
An excellent option to consider is to set up a Google Voice number. This is a vanity phone number that you can give out to clients that will be forwarded to your phone. The fantastic thing about this service is that you can set hours for when calls/texts will be forwarded and when they will be silenced. I honestly think everyone should have a Google Voice number to give out to potential clients, so you do not have to give out your personal number or post it on your website.
Actually, you need to decide if you will take phone calls with your clients at all.
Let’s face it, as much as we hate to say that the old ways of communication are dying, today’s generation works much faster due to the advances in communication technology. Think of how much time a 30-minute phone call can take out of your day… 5-10 minutes for prep time, 30 minutes (or 40-50 if you are not strict with your time limits), and 5-10 minutes to regroup back to work. That’s nearly an hour of your work day gone, and you didn’t get any work done.
Depending on your line of business, you may be able to say no phone calls. There are so many ways to communicate these days such as Trello, Asana, Email, GDrive, etc. Phone calls are not always needed and sometimes can be a distraction.
I’m going to leave you with this…
This is your business. You set the rules, and you break the rules. When you decided to start your own business, did you picture answering emails and phone calls from clients at 8 pm? Probably not. You probably chose to work for yourself to earn freedom and flexibility. That freedom and flexibility comes when you set and enforce strict boundaries with your clients.
Start early. Start from the beginning. And enforce often.
Any client that is not willing to follow your rules is probably going to just cause more headaches and is not worth your time. Remember, this is YOUR business, not theirs. Be confident and set those boundaries.
Need advice on how to set your boundaries? Or maybe you already have clients, but you have no boundaries, or they don’t respect them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , and I can walk you through how to gain control of your business back.