Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Setting Business Boundaries

I saw a post on Words on the Page the other day about setting work boundaries. The post covers the line freelancers have to draw in the sand when they decide which projects to take and which to skip. I’ve been thinking of another sort of boundary lately—the kind you need to draw with existing clients.

Some clients need a little more hand-holding and “nurturing” than others. Sometimes you need to set boundaries clearly on what you will be happy to do, as long as you’re getting paid, and what you won’t do—for any amount of money.

For example—a graphic designer friend of mine once told me she used to have her address on her business cards…and of course, she worked from home. She’s since taken her address off. The reason is that once she had a client show up at her house, on a Sunday, while she was still in pajamas drinking coffee, and insist on going over some aspect of their project in person. Those are the kinds of boundaries I’m talking about. Here are mine.

Working on weekends. If I take on a project that I know will have me working weekends to make the deadline, I get that out up front—and I charge more for it. I don’t usually take client calls on weekends or respond to emails then. I just don’t want to set up the expectation that I’m constantly available. Plus, I need a break.

Web cam tracking. I’ve seen postings on job boards advertising hourly wages and requiring the writers turn on their web cams so the employer can watch them at work—and verify they’re working the whole time. Um, no. This is why I’m a freelancer and not an office worker—Big Brother makes me uncomfortable.

Constant availability online. I cannot be productive if I have to constantly leave up Skype, Facebook Chat, Google Chat, AIM or any other kind of chat program so a client can “check in” whenever s/he feels like it. I need to be able to get away from the chatter.

Come to think of it…constant availability, period. I don’t like to set up the expectation that I can be constantly available for phone calls. The reason is that, if a client mentions he’ll “call me tomorrow” about a project, I then have to center my day around that. And the problem with that is that I’m not an office worker and I don’t always keep super-conventional 9-to-5 hours. If I have to sit around and wait for a phone call, I can’t leave the office. Sometimes this can mess up my day. It’s much better for me to set a time for people to call—that way I know when to expect them and can plan my day accordingly.

What are the boundaries you draw?


P.S. Jones said...

I've seen some of those sites. (I think one is called Odesk, but I could be wrong.) My thoughts have always been that if you don't feel comfortable hiring someone hourly, set a flat fee. And if you don't trust the freelancer you're working with, don't hire them.

P.S.--I don't put my address on anything either and I would have freaked out if a client showed up at my house on a Sunday.

Jennifer Williamson said...

Yeah, there are a lot of those sites...ODesk, Elance, GetAFreelancer...I saw that job on Elance.

I have my address on my old cards, which I still hand out sometimes--I've moved since. When I get new cards, there'll be no address on them at all.

Unknown said...

Late in seeing this - thanks for the link!

If someone showed up at my house wanting to talk about their project with me in pjs, I'd send them packing and tear up the contract. That's entitlement NO ONE should put up with! In fact, I might be tempted to show up at their house at 2 a.m. to see if the edits they couldn't possibly wait for are okay. (I don't do well with pushy people!)

Electronic contracts, Esign said...

I guess each of us has a right to set business boundaries. It is a teachable skill that can make a huge positive difference in the quality of your business. Good post!