Work from Home Boundaries: Clients & You
Let’s talk about work from home boundaries. I promised I would talk about this week (last week – oops) on my Instagram Stories.
And then life happened. Hey, I told you – I talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Late Saturday night / early Sunday morning, there was this freak severe storm (no tornado) that partially uprooted a tree by our master bedroom window. The tree plowed into part of our fence. Had it gone the other way, it would have plowed into our bedroom. This was about 1 am. I have hypervigilence because of C-PTSD. So, I was up anyway. The storm was louder than most. It woke up BB. Bull went in there and something told me to go check the dining room AC (window unit). Sure enough, the storm had blown out the things on each side of the AC. Although the AC was off, rain was pouring in through the window, down the wall, and near the outlet. Fucking yikes. So, I had to fix up the window and dry everything out.
After that, we’ve been working on the fence / tree combo and dealing with everyday life (and, for me, a couple of tolerable migraines). So, yeah. Oh, and throw the tax stress in there. I always wait last minute. I always do that to myself. Don’t ask me why. This year, I looked into getting a CPA. Even that felt stressful to me. One year, I paid big money to H&R Block (this was probably 10+ years ago) to also get audit protection. I ended up getting audited that year. H&R Block refused to help. The IRS basically said there wasn’t anything super interesting about my taxes and they bawled out H&R Block (the local office) instead. I ended up getting an apology and refund from corporate.
Oh, and I found out that Google Voice isn’t working like it should for my business. So, I’m migrating to a new business phone system. It’s been a productive week. Just busy. So fucking busy.
So let’s get to it!
What I Mean By “Clients”
So for the purpose of this post, “clients” is a catch-all term to mean anyone who either works with you or inquires about your services or products.
Related: Upwork Client Training 101
The Importance of Work from Home Boundaries
I love what I do. Even before I knew my birth chart (I did my own and knew where my sun was located and what it meant…but then I read You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self Acceptance by Chani Nicholas and it just reaffirmed what I already knew…of course I love what I do…I was born to love what I do.), I knew that I loved my work. I also knew I loved it so much that I was prone to run myself into the ground…and to let others run me into the ground. I became very good at setting boundaries for myself.
When you work from home, it is very difficult to have an “off” mode because you live where you work and you work where you live. Those of us who work from home are not strangers to burnout.
Boundaries protect your time and your sanity. They make you enjoy what you do more…although you’re still going to have some days that just fucking suck…that’s just part of life. Nothing is perfect.
Related: Working from Home When Sick
Work from Home Boundaries with Clients Made Simple
When I say made simple, I mean I am simplifying the concepts. Whether they are easy for you to enforce is purely on you and your personality. Whether you decide to make allowances is also on you. If you give an inch, some people will take hundreds of miles. So, be careful.
- Set and stick to an open / closed office schedule. I don’t give a shit if you actually work during those hours or not. Outside of those hours, do not answer phone calls, respond to texts, or emails. Recently, I had a new probono client that took it upon themselves, despite the listed hours that they knew about (because the place they found my business number listed had my business hours), took it upon themselves to call me at 5am, 6am, 7am, 10pm, 11pm, all kinds of ridiculous hours. At first I thought perhaps they worked an odd schedule and that’s why they called at those hours and left messages…so I tried to ease them to email. Then, I found out they don’t work. They were quite proud to be on “Trump dollars (unemployment)” with no plans to go back to work until they stopped receiving unemployment. One fine Saturday while on a rare outing with my husband and youngest son, I received a pointed text from this probono client at 4 in the afternoon stating that if I didn’t respond they would find someone else. My reply was that they knew my business hours were Mon through Fri from 9 am to 6 pm and that weekends were family time and that they are certainly welcomed and encouraged and free to choose another provider. I also scheduled an email to go out to them first thing Monday morning stating I had given their contact information directly to someone who may be interested in their project, have a nice life. They called me Tues and my husband answered because I was busy. They were so much nicer to my husband (misogyny – so now you know “they” happens to be a “he”) and said it must have been a “total misunderstanding” and they “really want to work with [me.]” Not only will we not be working together, my new business phone system has their number on the block list. Do not take phone calls, texts, or emails after your set hours. That is your time. Protect your time.
- Do not allow anyone to bully you. I’ve also kinda given you that lecture already. This actually something I see others deal with on a regular basis. They get bullied into sales calls, webinars, doing projects without clear expectations, taking on work for less than it is worth, taking on projects with ridiculous deadlines…”do X or I’ll go back and edit my rating and feedback!” I had that one happen to me around January. I was tired of it by then because the scope kept changing. I was like do what you want…I have the entire email thread. The previous client threatened to sue. I said okay. I was never served. This person did not have a good history with others. I wanted to help (see what I mean about my stating how I sometimes do not enforce my own boundaries?). I learned an important lesson. I don’t jump in very often anymore just to help.
- Set a reasonable rate for yourself. If you’re just starting out and you want to charge less as an intro rate or to get some feedback on your profile, that’s cool. I get that. Just don’t sell yourself short. When I started out years ago, I had two jobs as well as writing. So, I charged $10 an hour. It helped me gain clients because they were’t afraid to take a chance on someone for that rate with my professional experience. I charge a lot more now. My flat rate projects generally break down to more than the hourly ones. Don’t take bargain basement rates if it will kill you to do it. I mean, if you just want to do it or if you live in an area where your cost of living is low so it’s an acceptable rate, cool. Just make sure what’s being offered is acceptable for you. Let’s face it – if what they wanted was actually “easy,” why wouldn’t they do it themselves? Sure, maybe it’s convenience. I’ve long held out that what I do for the most part (outside of SEO and “competitor” research) is, indeed, a convenience service. People (business owners) can do it. They don’t have the time or desire to do it. And that’s okay. But…we pay for convenience. I am not worth less money because of what I do. I am a digital strategy goddess.
- If they can’t tell you what they need clearly and you can’t help them figure it out, say no. This should be a given, but I’m always surprised at how often freelancers end up in bad projects because of this. There are times when people know the end-result of what they want or have an idea of what they want, but they don’t know what it really takes to get there. Through a line of good questioning or open dialogue, you should be able to come to an agreement that you reduce to writing and they reply with something akin to “Oh, that’s awesome let’s go!” If they are vague or can’t really answer you, run the other way. What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness and you will be blamed for it not being what they wanted. That’s a surefire way to not get paid and end up with bad feedback or a bad review.
See? Simple. As you work, you’ll come up with your own boundaries to set. Do you already have some? Drop them in the comments to help others.