Okay, this one might be tricky.
I have a client who calls all the time. He’s called at normal hours, like 10 and 11 a.m., but he’s also called at “normal” mealtimes, as well as 6, 7, 8, and even 9 p.m. I never said anything, because honestly I didn’t want to risk insulting him and losing the work, but I can’t tolerate it anymore. I need to say something, but I’m not sure what or how. I’m afraid I’ve let it go on too long and things will get awkward when I address it.
What would you say?
Failing to establish client boundaries is a pretty common problem among freelancers.
It does sound like you’ve let it go on way longer than you should have, but I wouldn’t say “too long.” Rest assured that this is a fairly easy fix (it only takes two steps!) and you can do it via e-mail or even in person, if you meet your client face-to-face sometimes.
Pull up a fresh Word (or whatever program you use) document and create a chart representing your daily work schedule. It doesn’t have to be too specific (for example, there’s no reason to include “Drop the kids off at school” or “Fix dinner”) but it does have to include the hours you are and are not available.
- 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. – Available for phone calls, e-mails, instant messaging, etc.
- 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Working.
- 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. – Lunch – out of the office.
- 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Working.
- 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Available for phone calls, e-mails, instant messaging, etc.
Obviously this is just an example. Your schedule may vary wildly. The point is to make clear two things:
- When you’re available to talk, chat, or answer e-mails.
- When you’re not.
Give it to your client.
A simple e-mail letting him know you’ve reworked your business hours and just wanted to update him should suffice, but of course you can give it to him in person. I don’t recommend handling this over the phone, as you want to make sure he actually has a copy to refer back to.
Things to Remember:
- All businesses have business hours. Do NOT feel bad about setting and sticking to business hours.
- You’re not Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, or the 24/7 convenience store down the street. Do NOT feel bad about not working ’round the clock.