Ever been woken up by a text or phone call from a customer? Ever agreed to a job from a demanding customer even though you knew you’d have to burn the midnight oil to get done? Ever spend Christmas holidays working when you’d definitely rather have been with the family? Me too!
It’s the fate of many a small business owner to spend our rare spare time working on the business while we build it but then there are some customers and clients for whom that’s not enough. The mickey-takers. The awkward ones. The ‘I’ve got the sun but I want the moon’ types. Sound familiar?
The thing is, you and I are micro business owners, we don’t have a big team of support staff – we do most things ourselves, which means it’s really easy to slip (or be bullied) into doing work and taking calls and answering messages when we should be sleeping or spending time with the family or on holiday.
And when you don’t have boundaries in place in your business, you start getting taken advantage of and that’s something you can ill afford at any time – it’s hard enough running a business without that!
What does that look like?
- Customers or clients will start to contact you at stupid hours, like 11 o’clock at night and expect a response
- Some get nasty because they’ve emailed you on a weekend and haven’t had a reply within 10 minutes.
- Customers are friending you on Facebook and personal messaging you while you’re out with your family.
- You get people turning up at your house to discuss business when you haven’t invited them
None of them sound like great situations to find yourself in, do they?
The thing is, only YOU can stop it.
- You are allowing this behaviour.
- You are allowing people to treat you like garbage
- By not telling them NOT to do it, you are allowing it
- If you respond to a text at 10.45pm you are basically saying “I’m available”
- If you reply to the email whilst you’re on holiday, you are saying “I know I’m supposed to be out of bounds but actually I’m around! Keep talking!”
So, naturally your clients and customers will take advantage of that. If you give them an inch they will take a mile. That’s human nature.
If you let them do it then they will do it. The first thing you need to do is stop allowing it.
Get Clear YOURSELF On Your Boundaries
- What are you going to allow, and what are you not going to allow?
- Are you on holiday or ‘off duty’ and out of bounds or not?
- At what point do you switch off?
- At what point do you stop answering emails, texts and things of an evening?
- Do you work weekends or not?
- Stick to your boundaries because they will immediately give you some freedom – you won’t feel tied to the business.
- Even if you love your business now, clients overstepping boundaries is a really quick way to make you start resenting your business
You need to get really clear on what your boundaries are, realising that you need to have time for you, your family and other stuff that you want to do.
Declare Your Boundaries
Once you know what those boundaries need to be you need to tell people about them.
Put your terms of business and your boundaries on your Facebook page, on your website, on an email auto responder.
If you tell people you’ve got a 48hr response time to emails, you’ve got a 48hr response time to emails, people aren’t going to expect an email from you immediately, they realise it might take some time.
Get rid of that nagging fear that your customers are going to hate you, be annoyed with you, not come back and you’re going to lose orders. I understand! It’s a really scary thing to do, but do you want a life or not? Do you want to be at the beck and call of people who are just taking advantage of you? It’s very rare that something is so urgent it needs an answer right now.
Your Super Customers won’t mind. They’ll be understanding of the fact that you have boundaries and will work around them.
Get Used To Saying NO
When you get used to this, it will be a revelation. It will be easier for you to set and stick to your boundaries but you’ll also not get guilt-tripped into doing things you don’t want to do (be treasurer of the Parent Teacher Association, make cakes for the school raffle, whatever your weakness is).
Take back control of your time. Stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do.
Say ‘no, I’m sorry I can’t’ then shut up. You do not have to justify saying no.
No explanation required. If they pressure you for more information just repeat “I just can’t, I’m afraid.”
Practise saying it. It works like magic.
This works for needy customers who are taking the mickey. It works on people trying to get you to do stuff during the day because you ‘work from home’. The more you say it, the better you will feel and the more time you will have to do the things you DO want to do.
This is a BIG step. It’s a mindset shift from being ‘little old me’ who is desperate for business to thinking and acting like a business owner. As soon as you start working this way you’ll find you have more energy for your business (including time to plan and think as opposed to just firefighting), more free time to spend doing what you like (OUTSIDE of the business) and your customers will have more respect for you.
Start today, you won’t regret it!
Have you done this in your business already? Share how it worked in the comments, we’d love to know!
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.