Shhhh… I have a confession. Despite the official operating hours of Sutton Creative Studios, my work day begins well before 9am. How much before 9am? Well, that’s between me and my coffee maker, however I promise I do NOT mean 8:59.
And if you must know, my work day often ends well after 5pm – however don’t expect me to respond to your emails unless we previously agreed on it.
Because BEFORE 9am and AFTER 5pm are mine.
If you’re a parent you will understand where I’m coming from with this comparison: As a toddler, children will constantly test the boundaries to see what they can get away with. For example, our daughter went through a phase of slapping us. Because we held our ground and gave her a firm, “No!”, she learned she could not get away with it.
Clients are the same way.
Don’t get me wrong – they’re not trying to get away with hitting their contractors when they email before 9am or after 5pm. However if you always reply and/or complete the work they’ve requested before 9am or after 5pm, what are you teaching them?
Your clients need to understand completely that your time IS your time.
Recently I had a client start telling me when she has appointments scheduled that I need to be on.
I scratched my head out of confusion when I saw these emails.
I’m sorry… When did I become an employee rather than a contractor/consultant? Nothing in my contract says I will be available when you are.
Remember: As a FREELANCE contractor/consultant you are offering your client(s) a specialized service. You are a skilled professional, and as such you should be treated that way. You are not a call girl (or at least I don’t think you are?), and your client is not your pimp. YOU have ultimate say and authority over your calendar – regardless of what time it is.
If you find that one or more clients are regularly pushing the boundaries of your work day, then perhaps it’s time to figure out why:
• Do you have a turn-around clause in your contract? If so, how soon do you promise delivery of work to your clients?
• How about an emergency clause? Just because your client (or his/her client) waits until the last minute to announce they need something doesn’t mean it’s your problem. Offer a rush service, however make it clear that any work performed as rush will cost 2-3 x’s your regular rate.You will either eliminate rush jobs altogether, or you will make a bit of extra dough.
• Are you answering emails before 9am and after 5pm? If so – STOP! Clients will begin to expect immediate responses to all their correspondence, and the last thing you will want to hear after taking a night off is, “Well, I sent an email at 9pm last night – Why didn’t you respond?”
• What does the outgoing message on your voicemail say? Does it clearly state your “regular business hours”?
I realize all of what I have just written could come across with attitude and seem like I have little to no appreciation or respect for my clients. This is not the case at all. However in 30 years my clients will not remember whether or not I answered a call or email before 9am. My children, husband, friends and family, however, will remember if I was too busy to spend time with them. With that said, who do YOU work for?
If you’re going to be working before 9am or after 5pm, here are a few tasks I would love to see you working on:
• Your business blog – Does your business even have a blog? If not, you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity to showcase your expertise!
• Developing your business strategies – Could your business run itself if you needed to take a leave of absence? EVERY process within your company should be well-documented so that anybody else can pick up where somebody (unexpectedly) leaves off.
• Marketing – How often are you evaluating your print or social media marketing materials? Are you participating in LinkedIn groups? Are you thanking your new Twitter followers with a personal message?
If you are going to work before 9am and/or after 5pm, make sure these extra hours work FOR your business, and not against it.
Kim Sutton is the Managing Partner and Chief Everything Officer of The Sutton Companies, including Sutton Strategic Solutions and Sutton Creative Studios. She is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Architecture.
An avid reader and passionate learner, Kim is constantly researching, studying and developing business improvement strategies. When it comes to client work, Kim especially enjoys helping her clients develop innovative marketing strategies and sales funnels, particularly when they are using Infusionsoft to automate all the heavy lifting. To find out how you can further develop your company’s marketing and automation strategies schedule a 1-hour Business Boost Strategy Session by clicking here.
In her free-time, Kim cherishes the time she gets to spend with her husband, Dave (her business partner), and five children. She also enjoys reading, knitting, writing and playing video games.
Get a copy of Kim’s FREE guide, “10 Top Tools for Small Businesses” by clicking here.