Technology can be both a blessing and a curse sometimes… We love it for so many reasons -- being able to work remotely, being able to help clients all over the world, and well it just makes our lives a whole lot easier most of the time. With that though, there are a few drawbacks too... like feeling like you always have to be "on". Especially as a business owner because 1.) you want to keep your clients happy and be helpful (always our TOP priority) and 2.) Let's be real, as a business owner there is always something you could be doing. #AlloftheStruggles right?! Well yes, but there's more to that.
I truly believe people treat us the way we allow them to and if we've answering emails at 2 in the morning and working on client edits every weekend, then that's what they're going to expect because we set that expectation. But that's not really sustainable for anyone so that's why today I'm going to tell you why boundaries are so important. Not only to improve your relationship with your clients but also improve your creativity and productivity, which all sound like a lot of wins to me!
Sets Expectation for What to Expect from the Beginning
Often the trickiest things about boundaries are making sure you stick to them! It can be tricky to change your policies with long-time clients or mid-project so we suggest laying out your boundaries right from the beginning. There's a reason we have our office hours on our website and in each of our project kick-off kits... It's so that it is front and center! This helps our clients know when they can expect us in the office and when we'll be working on their projects. In what seems like a 24-hour work cycle sometimes, by doing so, our clients know that if they email us after hours they can expect a response the next business day. And guess what?! Creating this boundary hasn't been a big deal at all. Our clients know that we are super responsive. We try to reply to all emails within 24 hours... but let's be real most are replied to within the hour -- blame that NYC mentality. So they know that they will always get that attentive communication during office hours and after hours, they may just have to wait a little bit longer. We know that sometimes great ideas spark after hours and that's fine, but they know we won't be having a social media campaign brainstorm sesh on a Saturday afternoon.
What about if an emergency happens or there's something urgent? I mean, there are always exceptions to the rule and we're certainly not going to leave our clients hanging. We still see all of the emails that come through -- we're not that hardcore enough to take email off of our phones. Yes, in 2018 that is what is hardcore 😂For all of the everyday non-urgent requests though? A few hours never hurt anyone. This way we can relax in the evenings and on the weekends and any emails that come through we can star them in our inbox and reply the next business day. This may seem like a silly thing to even have to do, but we've found that it really is helpful so that everyone is in the know on when we're in the office.
Another thing we do? We create timelines for our design projects with clear deadlines for our branding and web design projects and also have a client delay clause in our agreements. While the clause seemed a little extreme at first, we realized that we were being too lax with letting some of our clients take longer to give us back edits and then projects would drag on much longer than anticipated. Which, as a service-based business, wasn't productive for our business nor was it beneficial for our clients. We know everyone is busy, but by making these adjustments and being upfront with expectations we've made it clear when clients will receive work and when we need to receive edits back to continue forward. Same goes for our social media clients. We send content every week and they know if we don't have edits back by a specific day and time then we have the okay to continue posting according to schedule. By setting the bar right from the very start not only are projects more productive, but communication is also clearer.
Allows for Downtime which is Critical to Creative Process
If you take away one thing from this post... it should be how important rest is to the creative process. I'll be honest, in the first two years of our business we worked ourselves down to the bone. We're certainly not perfect, but when I moved home last year we decided to make a conscious decision to give ourselves more time to relax! I wrote a whole blog on this topic before, but for some reason, "rest" seems to have gotten a bad rap in the entrepreneurial world. Something I personally think is such a bad trend. Rest isn't a luxury, it's essential and even more so if you have a creative business.
I've found that often when I'm running low on ideas, whether it be client projects, blog topics, or social media content, it's usually when I've been working on overload. The work we do as creative entrepreneurs isn't repetitive work. It's very much a mental process and if our brains are feeling fried... well I can tell you my ideas will be pretty fried too. That is why having that off-time is SO important. And I can bet your clients are hiring you for your tip-top best ideas so give yourself that downtime!
Maximizes Productivity During Office Hours
Last but definitely not least, by setting boundaries you can also boost your productivity during office hours. When we were working around the clock, it was easy to push a few things back because we were working pretty much all of the hours we were awake. Which I definitely don't recommend! When you actually set office hours and try and stick with them though you have to really get your priorities in check and bang out as much as you can during your office hours. And guess what, now that you're actually giving yourself more time to relax you'll probably find that you get work done a lot faster! Plus it just allows you to better plan our your week and really decide what needs to get done and when that needs to happen.
By having boundaries, this also benefits your clients too because the time you are giving to them is at 100% and not at 70% or sometimes even lower. I think anyone who starts a business is some form or Superwomen and Superman, but the reality is there's only SO much we can do in a day. So make sure you're giving your all during that time.