Have you ever responded to a client email or text at 9p.m. on a Saturday night and dropped what you were doing (or sat down your glass of wine) to tackle a to-do or respond to an inquiry?
Are you “on call” to every client whim, because you want to make a lasting impression and prove that you’re on top of things?
Even the most well-organized and intentional business owners can find themselves in a place where their business and clients suck the life out of them.
Every single one of us has to learn how to set solid boundaries for ourselves and our business or we will be married to, laboring for, and living in our business to our own detriment.
I have seen it time and time again with friends who are photographers. They are tied to their phones or computers emailing and responding to messages every minute of the day. While it’s awesome to be in demand—and a definite compliment—it’s important to be in control, proactive rather than reactive, and to take a deep breath.
When you lay out a strong foundation of ground rules and do the work to provide all of the information up front, you can optimize your client experience AND not be tied to your phone, at the mercy of every whim, all day long.
Once you set your boundaries, there is one thing even more important than that if you’re really going to avoid burnout, scope creep, and being “on call” 24/7 for even your most loved clients.
When you set your boundaries, you HAVE TO follow them.
The first time you respond outside of your “work hours,” you are opening the door to a relationship where your foundation is cracked and anything can slip in.
So what can you do? Follow these tips to avoid business burn out and boundary creep:
What the Real Talk version here:
1. Create work hours when you will respond to messages and emails and STICK TO THEM
The world is not going to burn down around you if you do not answer emails or client questions immediately. If you have a hard time avoiding emails or pings on your phone, sometimes getting a cheapo prepaid phone is the best way to go so they aren’t following you around at all times. This works because you can separate yourself from the incoming messages, create a schedule of when you will check in and respond, BUT still be able to take it with you in an emergency for sessions where your clients might need to contact you right away (who doesn’t look cool with a flip phone LOL? I had one for my business for the longest time).
2. Send out a welcome guide that lays out how the process will work and how/when you will respond to messages
In your welcome packet, lay out your boundaries, but also provide the necessary information about your session and how you will be available the day of—or a certain number of hours before—their shoot in case of an emergency, such as if they can’t find the session location or studio.
Now while this packet has to be full of important information, DO NOT provide too much information, causing people to get overwhelmed and not read it.
Try to make this concise and to the point to get to the meat of your boundaries and process, so clients and potential clients don’t have too many lingering questions they have to email you about.
For tips on how to create a branded welcome packet that clients read and follow, visit my post “How to Elevate Your Client Experience with a Welcome Packet that Has all the Right Pieces.”
3. Have an automatic workflow
By creating an automatic workflow that sends out emails that provide important information when your clients need it, you ensure your clients are not “just guessing” with the information they provide or asking you more questions.
Having automated workflows set up in systems such as Honeybook, Dubsado (this is my affiliate link), 17hats, or other workflow software creates more space in your calendar because you are not physically sitting down to do as many administrative tasks. It also clears up “head space,” because you don’t have to remember each and every detail so your clients are getting the best experience (and the same experience) each time.
4. Be upfront with what is important in life to you
What’s most important in your life? Family, friends, having work/life balance, or me time? We all need to be honest with ourselves and our clients about who we are “as real people.” If we’re making real connection with our clients, they’ll respect the fact that we’re upfront (and maybe even be proud of us) that we are taking control of our life and spending time with who and what matters. As a mama, I have created a schedule that works for me and my little and I do not bend the rules for anyone. My hubby works a lot of nights so me working outside of my business hours is not an option. Despite that, I want to be with my family, friends, or doing other things that I enjoy in life rather than worrying about work 24/7.
As we all know, our clients all have different schedules so we cannot adjust to everyone. If we tell them they can expect communication at certain times, they will not be sitting by the phone thinking we are ignoring them. We are adhering to a schedule and they will know when we will know when to expect a reply. Most of my clients are inspired by my boundaries and I have only had ONE client back out of a contract because she wanted/needed more attention than my schedule allowed. I was upfront about this from the beginning so I knew it just wasn’t a good fit—no hard feelings.
5. Build a team or ask for help
Now, most of the time when we read “build a team,” most of us think it’s referring to hiring help in our business and for many of people that’s not in the budget nor realistic for profitability. BUT, even if hiring an employee or two isn’t in the budget, you can still build a team of support.
Trade time with a fellow mama and watch each others littles. More often than not, you will both accomplish SO much more when they are playing together and/or you have more isolated “work only” time. You can also look into local church groups or centers that have drops for designated times that you can have free childcare and be able to work separated and not distracted.
So often when it comes to burnout or feeling overwhelmed with clients, we already know what to do…we’re just not doing it.
Make a commitment to set some boundaries or stick to the ones you’ve already established and you’ll be amazed at how the smoke starts to clear and how at ease and refreshed you begin to feel.
As mamas, I know that sometimes we just need to chat things out in order to take steps in the right direction. I am always here. Shoot me an email and let’s get to know one another—you can never have too many online business owner mamas who “get it.”
Hearts and Hoorays!