Running any kind of business online can be a lot of fun, but it can also be stressful. Most people who run their own companies love to talk about how their online venture is different from a grueling day job- in fact, the problems in their day job might have even driven them to entrepreneurship to begin with. But what happens when someone tries to take advantage of the freedom and flexibility you’ve worked so hard to incorporate? It’s time for some business boundaries! Here are my top tips for getting your clients on the same page.
When your business starts to grow, it becomes even more important to draw these boundaries early on with your clients.
Clarify Expectations Upfront
How often will you communicate? How do you prefer to be contacted- phone, email, or some other method? If you’re a coach, for example, how many phone calls each week or month will your clients get? What kind of turnaround times are you promising at the outset?
It might seem silly to dive into this much detail, but skipping over it completely leaves too much room for error. It’s much harder to get people in line after they have already developed bad habits of pushing your business boundaries, so try to be clear upfront.
Use an Autoresponder
Today, some people take advantage of the “instant access” atmosphere that email appears to indicate. Some people might have the expectation that you’ll be at your computer 24/7, and if you give in to answering them within five minutes, they could end up expecting that.
I like to use an autoresponder when I’m super busy that explains I’m working on someone’s project at the moment and can’t be disturbed, but that I’ve seen their message and will get back with them in 24 hours. This can help train your clients really effectively- I used this method when I was studying six hours a day for my PhD qualifying exams and literally would turn off my phones and email during that time.
Your autoresponder might even be turned on with a cool tool like Gmail Inbox Pause, which hides your messages while you’re working on answering other people or on an intense project.
You can simply hit “unpause” to throw those messages back into your inbox or you can even set a schedule. While you’re working, the messages are just hidden in your Gmail folders, but they’ll all be delivered with correct timestamps as soon as you “unpause.” You can even use the built-in autoresponder feature to train those clients that you’re not immediately accessible. This tool works wonders!
Use Gently-Worded Reminders
If a client does begin to push your buttons and cross the line, start off first by taking some time to get back to them. Some people really need to learn what an emergency is- and isn’t. Unfortunately, sometimes you even have to train your family members on this one, too!
When you do get back in touch, if anything is said, I like to give them a bit of detail on what I was doing i.e. “I was on a client coaching call for an hour” or “I was leading a webinar workshop and couldn’t stop in the middle of it.” Sometimes people simply forget that your sole job is not to answer emails or unplanned phone calls. Highlighting gently that you’re running a business can get you back on the right track without calling the person out too much.