As we all enter the silly season, with family events, social evenings and all the fun of Christmas, it’s a pertinent time to reflect on how you deal with client demands.
When I first started out on my own, I worked whenever I could – more so, I worked whatever hours clients demanded of me. This often ended up evenings and weekends, and I started to believe all client work was important and urgent, and it had to be done right now.
Then, after a year, I reconsidered having my mobile number on my business card, and dropped it with the next print run as a test for both clients and myself – would the barrier of not having it close to hand dissuade them from calling on Sunday mornings?
I was relieved to find it did, and more importantly, hardly any of my clients complained. Those that did complain had become accustomed to having me at their beck and call seven days a week. Sure, I could blame them, but I had also trained them into believing I was, so I was just at fault as they were, if not more so.
Now, five years later, none of my staff advertise their after-hours details, and nor should they. In fact, we close down next Friday right through until the first day back in 2008. By allowing clients to remove the wall between business hours and all hours, we train them into believing that we’re happy to take their evening or weekend calls.
Just because your clients don’t have the self discipline to keep to a consistent time schedule, doesn’t mean that you need to, as well. Rather than asking them not to call, simply don’t answer the call and let it go to voicemail. Call back in an hour or two, if it sounds urgent, otherwise wait for the next available business day and return it then.
If you work from home, organise a second phone number or line, so you can distinguish between personal and business calls – if you don’t, you’ll end up spending your life working, and having no clear division of ‘work time’ and ‘personal time’.
Christmas should be a time of relaxation, and to enjoying the success of all of your hard work the other eleven and a half months. Encourage this philosophy within your client base, and claw back your personal time.
Have you already done this? Good work! Tell us how you went about it, in the comments section below.
I wish you a safe and enjoyable festive season, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts, and listening to yours, over the festive break and into 2008.