I recently enjoyed a coffee with a freelancer friend on a weekend, who took a client call during his time off. When he got off the phone, he started to lament about clients calling him at all hours of the weekend and evening.
Whilst I was sympathetic, it was obviously his fault as well. Why? Because it was evident that he didn’t set boundaries. By not setting any boundaries, his personal life was suffering from these constant interruptions, and so were his other clients – he often slept in or had haphazard hours as the result of late-night callers or unnecessary midnight coding sessions.
So how do you claw back your personal life and set some boundaries? Here’s a few tips on how you can avoid similar interruptions in your personal time.
Have a Separate “Office” Number
Sure, it may be just you, but that doesn’t mean you should give out your home and personal cell numbers to everyone. It’s quite cheap and easy to get a second number or even a second phone to use for client calls.
Switch your Phone(s) to Voicemail Outside Hours
If you use an office number and cell number, divert your one to the other on weekends and outside hours, and encourage your clients to leave a message.
Only Return Urgent Calls
Sure, if the server is down, that’s pretty important. But that new graphic or form validation script can probably wait until the next working day. As suppliers, it’s part of our job to be able to prioritize requests based on actual urgency, not the whims of a client.
Block your Outgoing Number
If you use a different number to call out from, most carriers allow you to block caller ID. That way, you won’t be broadcasting your number to everyone to use.
Have Separate Email Addresses
This is easy; I have a work email address that I avoid checking on weekends, and a personal one which I check when I’m not at my office. Even if the second is an alias, it’s fairly simple to set up a few rules in your email program to filter emails to different folders.
Can it wait?
If you do get caught off-guard, make a point to ask your caller if you can return the call during business hours. Do it politely, and you’ll be rewarded with the luxury of being left alone in the future by that caller.
Don’t use your Personal Address
If you work from home, use a postal box, co-working space or serviced office as your address on stationery and your website. This reduces the chance of unannounced drop-ins on a Sunday morning.
By following these tips, and setting some boundaries, you’ll have more quality after-hours time, and you’ll be training your clients to treat you as a fellow professional, not as a late-night or weekend always-on help desk. I can guarantee they don’t spend their weekends and evenings answering calls from their customers – and nor should you be expected to.
Good luck setting boundaries, and I’d love to hear about some of your experiences. Have any other great suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!