Do you ever feel like you are always “on”? Like your clients don’t realize you’re a human being with a family or a social life or that you just want to binge “This is Us” without answering a text about a bridesmaids shoes?? It can be overwhelming to never feel like you can be in off mode and it can lead to burn out! Burn out is dangerous because it can make something you once loved become something you dread or make you question your career choices!
But did you know you can control this?? You do not have to give 24/7 access to yourself! You can establish work time and down time. And not only can you do this but you SHOULD do this! It’s important for your mental health and for the health of your personal relationships!
Setting boundaries with clients early in the process will help you and them to have a clear picture of how you will communicate and how often. It will also help them to know you’re not ignoring them when you don’t respond on a Saturday (hello 12 hour wedding days!) and to feel confident about when you’ll get back to them! And it will also enable them to feel free to text/call/email you when they need to and know they’re not bothering you!
So here are a few tips I share with my team to help them establish boundaries and avoid feeling burnt-out!
Know what work hours you are ok with and try to stick to them as much as possible. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances that you can accommodate but for the most part stick to your working hours. On our team, some of our planners are ok taking a final details call at 7 pm because they don’t have kids and this gives them time to dip out of the office to get to the gym, grab a bite for dinner and then jump on a call. For me, that would be in the middle of dinner/shower/bedtime chaos in my house so I would prefer to stay a bit late at the office and get the call done and then be able to fully focus on my family for night time.
Don’t respond to texts or calls past whatever time you’re comfortable with. If you don’t want a client constantly texting you at 10pm, don’t ever respond to them at that hour. It will make them think you’re ok with it and then will begin to happen more regularly. You can’t be upset that they’re interrupting you’re every night if you’ve never trained them differently. If a client texts you at an odd hour, say “hey Siri, remind me tomorrow at 9am to respond to text from Sally Smith.”.
If you’re working late (which we all do from time to time) set your emails to “send later” and schedule them to send early the next morning. There is nothing worse than sending an email at midnight and getting a reply with lots of questions! You feel sucked in and like you now have to answer right away! Sending the next morning will help you avoid training your clients to think you’re working late every night and expect an answers at that time!
Be clear from the very beginning. Immediately upon beginning to work with a new client, I chat with them about their schedule and mine. Are they a teacher? They will likely not be able to communicate with you between 8am and 3pm. Are they a doctor?? That may cause them to send you texts or emails at super odd hours when they’re sitting in an on-call room:-) You want to know times of day they are best reached and share best times for you as well based on that! Again, having this clear expectation early will help avoid any frustration in lack of communication or timeliness of responses. And you won’t feel pressure to respond right away!
Always, always, always set an out of office responder on your email when you’re away! Our staff takes “comp” time during the week to make up for the weekend days we work. And it changes week to week based on schedules. We ALWAYS put an out of office notification on our emails when we’re out with a clear time that we’ll be back in the office so clients know when to expect a response. We also leave an emergency contact (another one of our staff or studio phone number) for them to call if they need a faster response.
If a client texts you on a Saturday while you’re at a wedding, feel free to respond and let them know that you’re at a wedding and focusing your full attention on the bride for that day and you’ll respond by ____. Your client will appreciate that she will get the same attention when it’s her turn to walk down the aisle!
I hope these tips help you to set some boundaries with your clients so you can be more focused when you’re working and not allow yourself to be distracted and overwhelmed! It’s definitely a learning curve but your clients will respect you for it and your family will appreciate your less-stressed personality:-)
What are some tips you use to set boundaries with your clients??