Working from home, or not, boundaries and expectations need to be set! Or you're sunk!
There is nothing worse than waking up one morning feeling under the weather. When sitting up feels painful, your head is pounding and things just don’t feel right, you need to make the decision as to whether or not you're going to go to work.
For independent contractors who work from home, the decision involves a little more than that. Do we tell our clients we will be out for the day? Do we tell them our access to email will be limited that day? Or, do we pretend to be fine and hope they don’t notice our lag in response time or the responses that sound like nonsense?
Last Friday, this was a personal experience. Through Saturday, I knew I was pretty ill, and Sunday was spent in the hospital. Most of my clients are aware that I will work if I'm available on weekends, and they are thankful.
However, if I don’t answer a call or an email, they also know I am most likely unavailable, so they don’t keep pestering me with random flights to make, forms to create, or emails to send.
This is because boundaries, or expectations, have been set. Although it's not easy to communicate or make clear, setting expectations is important in business. Everyone both sides wants to have good experiences with zero conflict. Or, at least that is the goal.
To start, honesty is key. If you offer a service, be clear with what you are able to do or not do on a project or task. If a task requires learning new software, simply tell your client as much. I promise you that pretending to be an expert will bite you on the behind in the long run.
For example, several months ago a client wrote a book. It took a little doing, but the finished product was complete with cover artwork, content with pictures throughout, and back cover artwork as well. The first publisher I checked with wanted it submitted in InDesign, which I relayed to my client. When he asked if I knew the software, because of the expectations I had previously set, I was able to say, “No, however, I am willing to learn, but it will take more time.”
You will hear this time and time again: communication is important. Have you set the expectation that you will respond within a set number of hours when you are emailed or called? Make sure your client understands this.
Assuming your client is OK only hearing from you when projects are done will do one thing -- lose them. Bob, a past client, one I didn’t contact for 37 days because I assumed he knew I was “working on it,” was gracious enough to let it slide once, but it was the lesson that taught me much.
Good communication is what makes the process of setting expectations and then meeting them successful.
Next to communication and nearly as important is deadline expectations. Do not make promises you know you may not be able to keep. There is no better way to make a relationship go south and turn bitter than by not making the deadlines you promised.
Unless you are fresh on the job, you know how long projects take, what turnaround times are, and what challenges may be involved.
Be honest in setting deadlines, but give yourself a little grace. Imagine your client's delight when you get it done a little early.
As Henry Cloud put it, “You get what you tolerate.” So set yourself up for success and happiness. Set those boundaries.