When you are a small one person outfit, you tend to attract clients that are similar, small, one person outfits. Most often Mom & Pops (not always), and many times these clients don’t have a large budget, may tend to think that it is not really all that hard to do what you do, thus do not value your skills, and think that you should do things their way, and on a moments notice. One thing that I learned a long time ago, you do have to set boundaries, or you’ll be walked all over.
Cyberspace makes people act like in ways that they would never tolerate in person. From the start, you need to put into place business guidelines, that fit YOUR needs. After all, you are the business owner. You’d never go to a grocery store or print shop and demand that they stay open to service you or take your phone call at 10PM. Your clients should not demand that from you either. Yes, you may work from home, but you are a business, and unless you respect yourself as a business, clients won’t either.
Now, just because you set guidelines does not mean that all will follow them, but if you are firm, you will be able to “punch out” at 5, even though you are still working, and not feel bad. Some tips that have come through the mailing list over the years:
- Set business hours, and post them on your web site
- Have a gmail account with it’s mega storage so that clients can use it to send you those 25 photos that total 500mb and not accept them any other way. Yes, delete them from the server.
- unless you really want to get bugged at night with phone calls, do not reply to emails after say… 6PM. The client will get used to bugging you, if they are the “phone call needy” types, they may decide that it is better to call you instead of email, after all, you are still working. Do you really want to be talking to Sally-Jo at 10pm?
- Get a business phone line, or a second line, or a cell phone or VOIP just for business
- Use a project management online app. There are a couple of them that you can install on your own server, but I have found that Basecamp is a fantastic online service, it is not all that much money, and it gives you the feel of a large company, and gives the clients assurances that you are rock solid.
One thing more. Respect and treat yourself as a business. You can run a successful business with boundaries and client respect, by setting limits and sticking to them, yet still be caring to your clients. A good mom does not let her children run all over her, she sets limits and treats them with respect so that they can grow into well functioning adults. You can do that for your business by treating your clients in much the same way. Limits, and respect for them and for yourself. You’ll sleep better at night. And actually make money at this business.