I realized over the weekend that I have been a very naughty freelancer. It was my partners birthday weekend so, aside from shipping a blog both days, I mostly unplugged from my inbox and social accounts.
I received late Friday/Saturday emails from 2 separate clients. I saw them come in but was busy with birthday festivities and didn’t take time to respond. Both sent follow up emails asking if I had seen their message before the weekend was even over.
While I don’t want to trivialize the importance of these requests, they weren’t necessarily time-sensitive updates which made it all the more clear I had created a monster.
The worst part? This is entirely my own fault.
I created the monster.
I have trained them that I am “always on” and to expect weekend, weird hour replies. I usually reply as requests came in, even if it was a weekend or late night. Now, these two clients have come to expect that as the norm.
This is one of those hard truth teaching moments that come from freelancing and being your own boss (although I’ve done similar things to myself in office jobs in the past too!).
It’s extra important as a freelancer or self-employed person to set boundaries for your responsiveness. There is no reason to sacrifice your sanity or burn yourself out trying to be “on it” 24/7. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Consider letting clients know up front that, unless it is an emergency, not to expect responses outside of business hours and give them a protocol for reaching you when it truly is an emergency. This will ensure expectations are clear, and they can rest assured they can reach you if they truly need to.
I now have the uphill battle of retraining these clients to understand that I occasionally need “unplugged” weekends for my own sanity and creative abilities!
Even if you still do work on the weekends for yourself or clients, that doesn’t mean you have to be fully responsive too.
My new tactic.
I now understand the importance of letting clients know when I onboard them that I might not be available on the weekends for replies. If they don’t appreciate this request, I probably don’t want them as a client anyways…
This is as simple as saying:
“I am really excited to start working on this project with you. I value your time and want to ensure you know what to expect from me as far as communication and availability. I will let you know when I am travelling in advance, and outside of that am most responsive during normal business hours Monday through Friday.
I do my best to unplug on the weekends, and while I may do some client work or occasionally respond to an email, this is not the norm. If there is an urgent matter outside of normal business hours the best way to reach me is…..”
Save yourself a hassle by being clear up front about when you can reasonably be reached, you’ll thank me later.