Boundaries. What does that term mean to you?
Recently, in weekly client strategy calls I’ve had with a couple of my clients, they’ve surprised me by telling me how much they appreciate my business boundaries and even went so far as to say they would like to adopt something similar in their own businesses.
I found this a bit surprising because my boundaries don’t always accommodate my client’s working hours (time zones, work hours, etc. – but don’t worry, we always make it work for both of us!).
So, what exactly are they talking about? I’ll explain:
Weekly Work Schedule
It’s important to have a REGULAR work schedule. This is especially true for those with families. It doesn’t matter if you are working from 6 a.m.-noon daily, you’re the typical 9-5 business owner, or you work late afternoons into the evening. The key is being consistent with your schedule so that your clients will always know when they can reach you.
Determine what holidays you will be away from your desk. It’s important to spend quality time with loved ones on major holidays, and that goes for YOU as well.
Work out your vacation weeks WELL in advance (I advise that you do this in January or February when it’s cold, crappy and we’re all dreaming of summer), and communicate that with your clients/customers. Either send out a personalized email with this information to your clients/customers or have it in your out-of-office at least a few weeks prior (more on this later!).
Daily Working Hours
Just like having a consistent weekly schedule, it’s important to also work consistent hours during the day. Of course, if you’re self-employed, this also doesn’t mean you’re chained to your desk. Let’s be honest, one of the key reasons we decide to become our own boss is so that we have certain freedoms that we didn’t have in the workplace.
However, being available during specific hours of the day, just like days of the week, means your clients/customers know when is best to reach you.
And if you’re out having a tooth pulled, you don’t have to TELL your clients that! You can simply say you’re away from your desk, and you will look into it as soon as you are able. Providing an ETA is even better – it lets them know they ARE definitely a priority.
Out of Office
This is a blissful little tool to have, and most email clients have it, thank goodness. If you aren’t sure how to set this up, Google something like, “How to set up out of office in ____”. There will be step-by-step instructions to walk you through it.
What do you say?
My own O-O-O says:
Subject: Thank you for your email!
I apologize for the autoresponder but I wanted you to know that your email is very important to me.
I am out of the office on (this date) and will resume my regular working hours on (this date). Thank you, and have a wonderful day!
There are even out-of-office generators that you can find online – some may be snarky/funny, so just be sure you REALLY have that kind of relationship with your client/customers so that they won’t be offended. I try to stick to politeness and professional.
One of my favourite quotes is “The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who were benefiting from you having none.” – Unknown
It’s true, and I have experienced first-hand, push-back on my boundaries. Clients/customers who truly care about you, and enjoy working with you will not only respect your boundaries, they will help you to protect them, simply by REMEMBERING them.
Having boundaries, to me, ranks WAY up there with self-care. I feel this way because no one else is going to protect your time, so it’s up to you to do so.
“Working for the man” usually means you have to work days/hours THEY want you to. It also means that getting vacation time can be tricky, and you may not even get the specific weeks you want. And to get more than a few weeks per year, you have to spend a LONG time with the company to earn them.
Being a business owner has its perks and us business owners need to take full advantage of them!
I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful – and a huge shout out to the clients who suggested that I write this post!
Book a free consultation call with me and let’s talk about moving your business forward.