If you are anything like me you are checking your work email every 20 minutes to see if a client needs you and responding to those clients at all hours. You think that you're doing your client a favor and will be considered the best freelancer in the world, in their eyes. Fast forward to the point where they start taking advantage of it and expressing anger when you happen to not respond as promptly as you usually do.
When we are just starting, we want to blow our client's socks off and stand out from the rest or just simply keep up on the project, you overflowing inbox - whatever the reason is, or if you are doing it subconsciously, stop. Stop that right now, Carol.
I'm not perfect and I still slip up, especially on Friday's. I've deemed Friday's as my Admin day and don't work on projects, respond to emails, take calls, etc. I use this day to catch up on accounting/bookkeeping, sending/following up on invoices, creating new items for The Shop, joining live/recorded training and anything else in that general group of things. I go as far as turning on my out of the office from Friday - Sunday and do not have Friday's available to book on my Calendly. But, what do I do 70% of the time? Respond to emails and schedule calls. I told myself yesterday that I will no longer open my email on Friday's. That's my biggest weakness in this area.
Not only am I wasting 3 minutes of my life by setting my out of office, the OOO email is sent automatically every time they email me - so if we're having a long email convo, they are getting countless OOO notifications. But more importantly, I'm not focusing on what I have intended Friday's to be. I've broken a promise I made to myself.
How do I avoid this you ask? Set boundaries from the beginning, not only for your clients but for yourself! You will get burnt out if you continue to operate as a 24/7/365 business. Now, let's see what we can do:
Display your hours of operation anywhere you can. List them on your website, your FB page, in your Welcome Packet (Don't have a Welcome Packet? Grab one from The Shop), in your email signature, out of office responses, block out days/hours on your calendar or scheduling app so clients or prospective clients cannot book during those times. Those potential clients will simply assume you are booked those days/hours that are not available. Which can be a good thing! It shows that you are busy running a successful business! Seeing an experts calendar 100% free would make me second guess for a hot minute.
If you have a business phone number, don't give it out to anyone and every one and do not answer outside of your business hours. You know I don't have a phone number for either of my businesses and it truly is amazing. You can see why I love it over here, but yesterday I joined a brief training and they brought this topic up. Frankly, they said it better than I could of...what CEO do you know that will (or can) drop everything to take random calls 24/7/365? What CEO do you know that can drop everything if a client or potential client randomly walks in your office?
Turn your out of office on if you will not be available on a normal business day. This helps the client from assuming you are ignoring them.
Schedule email responses. If you truly feel the need to respond use a scheduler. I use Boomerang that is an app that is available on G Suite. I write up my response and schedule it to be sent first thing in the morning on the next business day. The task gets completed and stays within your normal business hours. You can do this with any type of email too, which I love! This has helped me immensely.
Don't respond to after hour FB messages or FB calls. If this hasn't happened to you yet, I'm sure it will at least 1 time. I have had clients do this and it can be very frustrating and frankly, it's completely inappropriate. Would you FB message/call your lawyer, accountant, doctor, teacher, coach, etc? I have experienced clients message me at 11:00 pm, FB call 8x in a row starting at 6:00 am on a Sunday. If you do this, stop. Now.
If a client questions why you don't respond at 8 pm on Saturday remind them of your hours. You don't need to be rude or make it a long conversation. "Thank you for your question, Complianceology's business hours are M-F 8-5pm. Emails are returned during normal business hours." Period. End of story.
Owning your own business is hard enough - we are the CEO, bookkeeper, marketing, social media manager, blogger, sales person, collections officer, assistant, trainer on top of everything else we do for our business and then our everyday lives!
Putting these boundaries in place reinforce your priorities and creates balance for your personal and business life. Our work week can often be 70+ hours, you don't need to add to it by being on-call.
Carve out 30 minutes to an hour and set up everything I have mentioned and stick to it. It's hard, I know, but you will thank yourself (and me :)) once you are no longer on-call.