Q: I feel really lucky to have some great clients, but one is making me crazy. She calls me at 7 in the morning and 8 at night. She emails all the time, even on weekends. I’m always working on her projects. I want to give her great service, but I also need some time off. How can I convince her to stop contacting me during off hours?
A: When I first started my business, I was getting calls and emails demanding my response at all hours. At first I was quick to answer and respond. Then I decided to take control of my business (I’m the boss, not my clients!) and I started answering the phone and replying to emails only during business hours. It took a while but soon I noticed that off-hours demands almost disappeared. Occasionally a client might have a real off-hours design emergency. I make it clear that working off hours is an exception (and I may charge a rush fee, too).
You can’t change someone else’s behavior, but you can change your responses. So set business hours, times when you are available to be contacted. If you have been allowing clients to contact you at other times, you may want to add those office hours to your email signature for a while, so they get the idea. Then only contact clients during those hours. Do not answer client phone calls (use caller id) or respond to client email outside of your office hours. Your client has been taught that you are always available, and it will take some time to retrain her. But stick to your plan and in a few months she should realize that business hours means time for business.