When you work from home, the lines between work and home life are easily blurred. Therefore, creating and maintaining professional boundaries with your clients is crucial. You will, if you haven’t already, experience clients who make constant changes to a project, make phone calls or send emails around the clock, and seem to have the knack for completely undermining the way you do your best work. This is a boundary breakdown and it’s easy to cross the lines if you aren’t careful.
When it comes to setting those boundaries with your clients, decide how you want your relationship to be integrated. You will have those clients who expect an immediate response from you at any given hour — morning or night, weekdays, weekends and holidays. On the other end of the spectrum are the clients who completely disappear for days and days, leaving you with unanswered questions. Setting your boundaries to establish how you conduct business and what is acceptable and not acceptable will help draw a defined line. Communication is key, but YOU have to set the tone and draw the line. If you are answering emails at midnight or taking calls at 5 a.m. then you are allowing or even encouraging the behavior. Business hours and when you conduct business should be a top conversation with your clients. Some common things you need to consider include:
- When your response times will be – especially to emails (try not to send emails outside of the business hours you set.)
- When you are available to clients (be upfront with clients and if you are an online only business maybe put your hours of availability in your email signature to remind clients)
- How clients can contact you and when (try to be consistent with how you respond, only through emails and calls, or some instant messaging)
- Reasonable time frames to complete projects (set yourself up for a win, don’t guarantee quick turnarounds that will stress you. Work within reasonable time frames for YOU)
Just to be sure that your clients are aware of your boundaries and make sure to incorporate them in the terms and conditions of any written agreements or policies you. Enter into or provide to clients. Practice what you preach — If you’ve told your clients that you don’t take business calls on weekends, then don’t take them and don’t make them. When you set boundaries with your clients, you create the atmosphere for a healthy and productive working relationship.