Here’s my way of looking at it: Value your time and the money will come!
Nothing is worse than working a 10-hour day with nothing to show for it. Protect your time. Be fierce in your boundaries.
Put systems in place to protect your time. If people don’t follow those systems they do not get your time… it’s that simple.
Here are 5 systems I’ve put in place to protect my time on a DAILY basis:
- Utilize software for scheduling.
I use Calendly, but there is a variety of software available for scheduling. When a client emails me that they need to talk, I simply pass on my Calendly link. This eliminates the back and forth emailing when trying to find a mutual time that works. It allows you to set aside time to sort out client issues efficiently and with ease.
- Honor your own boundaries
My work hours are 9am to 5pm on weekdays. During that time, I place a low priority on responding to personal messages. My friends know that if they text me during my workday, I will probably not respond until later.
This works both ways. It’s inevitable that my clients will email me outside of work hours. I stay true to my boundaries. My clients understand my hours and response times. If you set, apply and honor your boundaries consistently, your clients will do the same for you.
- Managing inboxes
My email inbox is one of my biggest pain points. A growing number of unread messages will draw me in like a decadent peach cobbler hot out of the oven. To combat this distraction, I’ve created different folders for which to prioritize my email responses. For instance, I have a folder named “emails to answer this week” and “emails to answer next day”. This allows me to push through and overcome the incessant need to respond immediately.
- The use of business lines
I have a business phone number different from my personal phone number. This is extremely helpful. For my clients who prefer to call rather than email, they know they can reach me at my business number. I encourage leaving voicemails and assume no action is needed on my end if there is no message left.
My clients know that emails are my preferred way of communication. Do your clients know your preferred way to receive communication? If not, make sure to include this language in your onboarding process. Set the stage early so that you are on the right track for a low-stress working relationship.
- Responding to tardy clients
In the world of zoom calls and virtual meetings, the chance of being late has greatly increased. Isn’t it crazy how that works: the shorter the time to arrive at a destination, the higher the chances of being late. That’s the story of my life but I digress.
I have a rule: if a client does not show up for a meeting within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time, I move on with my day. The next steps to re-engage are on the client, not me. If they want to reschedule and connect, they can, but I will not wait for a late client more than 10 minutes… which is pretty generous considering it’s virtual. I value the time of others and expect to get that same respect.
So, what does protecting your time look like in real life?
Here’s a story to help you better understand…
Recently I had a client who needed help cleaning up her bookkeeping for some legal battles she was dealing with. This client had become a trusted friend. I wanted to help.
Initially, I helped her. I did the tasks and cleaned it up per her instruction. She quickly responded with additional requests and rejections. There was significant back and forth between us that lasted for months to the point where we had gone completely over budget and I was now working at a loss. We were wayyy over the time allotted per the cost of the service. It finally got to a point where I felt like no matter what work I delivered to her… she wouldn’t be satisfied.
It was DIFFICULT to find a way to terminate the business relationship. This woman had become a friend over the years of being a client. I did not want to let her down, but ultimately I had to stop wasting time, energy, and money.
Sending that “this will be the end of our engagement” email was so hard. I even had my EA help me write it! And it took the whole day to finally press send.
After sending that email I never heard back from this client. It solidified my belief that she was taking advantage of my time and kindness. I knew then that I did the right thing and should have ended the relationship sooner.
The point here is, DON’T DO EXTRA WORK beyond the scope of the engagement. Stay true to your time and offer commitments per the contract your client signed!
YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE AND COMES WITH A PRICE TAG.
Your best clients will understand that and work within your boundaries. This is the win-win relationship you should strive for EVERY TIME with EVERY CLIENT. If simply just thinking about the client brings you anxiety, then you might wanna rethink the relationship.