With a bright summer upon us, many of us are thinking about sun-soaked vacations and finally taking some personal time to unwind. The last year has been a tough one, but there is a lot of hope for the future. And, let’s face it — you deserve a break!
While it’s vital to take time off for yourself to preserve your sanity and practice self-care, it does little good if you’re jetting off somewhere fun only to be glued to your laptop and taking client calls at all times. If you’re taking time off, it should be spent resting and recharging so you can return to the office fully refreshed and ready to get work done.
Of course, you can’t just go offline without preparing your clients and colleagues. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your operations going – even if you’re stepping away for a few days. Transparency is the name of the game, so don’t be shy about establishing boundaries and setting realistic expectations for employees, creative partners, clients, and other industry peers who rely on you.
Get crystal clear from the start.
When setting expectations, you need to draw clear and defined lines from the get-go; otherwise, your boundaries will be blurry and other people won’t know when they’re pushing it. A great way to set these terms early is to define them in your contract. Every client that books must review and sign your contract, effectively agreeing to everything inside. From day one, they’ll know what to expect from a working relationship — whether that means you have set office hours, specific days off each week, or a rule that requires appointments be made at least 48 hours in advance.
I recommend laying out your rules and policies in one of the first pages of your contract. The average person has a rather short attention span, so they have a tendency to read a few pages of a document and glance through the rest. Don’t let your boundaries be skimmed! To go the extra mile, consider having an extra signature line on your policies and procedures page to ensure that every client understands the terms they are agreeing to.
Appeal to others’ empathy.
As business owners, we sometimes feel obliged to be the face of our brand all day every day. But, don’t forget that you’re a human, too! You have all the same needs as your clients and colleagues, whether you own a business or not. When you approach people through a personal connection, you can establish empathy and help them to understand why you need to be out-of-pocket. If you’re planning a special trip for your kiddos, be honest about it!
As long as you’re providing good service and practicing strong communication skills the rest of the time, your clients and colleagues will be understanding—if not encouraging!—about giving you the space you need during the summer.
Ask questions to confirm it’s understood.
New clients have a tendency to nod and sign, but don’t always fully grasp the full terms of agreement. It’s understandable when you consider how much information they are processing, particularly if they are in the process of booking several professionals at once. However, that’s no excuse for pushing your limits and breaking the rules you’ve drawn out in your contract and/or discussed in meetings.
Be intentional about confirming that your policies are fully understood. A simple question asking them to verify agreement goes a long way in protecting your boundaries.
Here are a few examples to adapt with your own rules:
- “Do you understand that I do not accept phone calls after 5 p.m.?”
- “Will you be OK if I do not respond to emails on Saturdays?”
- “Do you accept that our meetings will be virtual rather than in-person?”
All they have to do is say “yes,” but saying that simple response out loud will help them commit those rules to memory.
Commit to your own boundaries.
People will not respect your boundaries if you don’t adhere to them yourself. If you say you’re going to be offline for a long weekend, do not wake up and start responding to emails. When you ignore your own policies, you’re telling other people that the rules don’t mean much and inviting them to step over the line.
Give credence to the rules that you’ve established, and make it clear that you mean business. It’s your responsibility to set the standard and let your clients and colleagues follow in suit. After all, you created them for a reason—likely to give yourself some space to recharge—and you can only achieve that if you follow through. (Don’t worry, your inbox will be there upon your return!)
With a brighter future in 2021 and beyond, you may find your business growing to new heights. As busy as you may get, though, it’s even more important to be mindful of your mental health and personal wellbeing. Ultimately, a positive state of mind will help you to be more productive and harness your creativity. In order to achieve that, you will need to set clear boundaries that allow you the space and freedom to take a timeout and return to the office restored.
Need someone to talk through your client experience and how to establish boundaries? Jen’s an expert — reach out to get the support you need to grow your business.
System & Workflow Strategist
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