After neglecting my blog somewhat, I found myself asking why. To put it simply, I have been run off my feet these past few weeks on other projects and client work, so even though writing was always in the back of my mind, I never managed to find the right moment to sit down and let my mind wonder so I guess now at 11:52 pm my time is a good a time as any.
It also got me thinking about the amount of time we invest in completing work for our client and how much we as business owners actually spend on our own businesses. Granted, our obligation is to fulfill work we have been contracted to do but we mustn’t forget to set time aside to focus on taking care of things our end to ensure our business continues to flourish. So, how available are you to your clients? Do you jump to it every time you get a call? Do you respond instantly to every email you receive? Or, do your clients know your “office hours”?
Another thing that set this post into motion was that I received a call at about 9pm tonight from a client. To be honest, I was just going to let it ring but I decided to answer it to let this person know that hey, I DO have a life and I am not available 24/7 whenever she decides to call. As I put it to her oh-so- nicely, she apologized saying that she suddenly remembered to she had to speak to me and called so without thinking about the time (fair enough I suppose, it can happen) but what if it were a regular occurrence? Should you feel “obligated” to be at their beck and call so as not to cause waves and possibly offend or even worse, lose your client?
I don’t think so. After all, you wouldn’t call the tax office, your tax advisor or lawyer at silly o’clock because a) you know the tax office is shut, b) the chances of getting a response from your tax advisor or lawyer after hours are slim and c) you sure as heck know you’d get billed triple for the inconvenience! There are so many methods of instant communication at a push of a button, common courtesy can sometimes fly out the window. Before, if you rang somebody’s office after-hours on the off chance they were still there and received no response, you would shrug your shoulders and make a note to call again the following morning. This is no longer the case, people will go from land line to mobile phone to Skype to instant messaging followed up with a good dose of Twitter in a bid to track you down. Just because you’re self-employed and/or work from a home office doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get some down time to enjoy a hobby, spend time with your family or veg out on the sofa if you want.
On the other hand, if your clients have no boundaries, broach the subject with tact and you’ll find that your client will appreciate your honesty and view you as a professional. Another important factor to bear in mind is that by running after your clients every whim and impulse, you are actually undervaluing your own services. To your client you will probably come across as desperate and this can and will be used to their advantage. Some consultants use an online appointment schedule to deal with impulsive clients as a way of calming their nerves knowing when they will get some personalized attention from you.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t offer the absolute best service you can or become deliberately difficult to reach (definitely not good business practice) but find that happy balance that says, “I’m a professional, not a push-over”. In the long-run it will bring the best results.