Setting Boundaries With Your Business
"Dela I am feeling major anxiety and overwhelmed. Most of my clients understand I'm busy and I'll get back to them when I have a moment but I have a few that are VERY demanding. It's like they expect an immediate response from me to their texts or voicemails. In the past, I haven't been the best about responding quickly however, don't they understand that I can't stop while working on a Client to respond to them? Most of the time they're texting about about scheduling which to me, can wait until I'm in front of my calendar.
I'm also getting phone calls and text messages from clients at strange hours, like in the middle of the night. How do I get clients to respect my personal time and be patient until I get back to them?
I know exactly how you feel! I've been in this business for over 20 years and learned a lot along the way. I hope that by sharing what I've done to set boundaries in my own business, I can help you to do the same so you can focus on your craft. We got into this business of beauty because it's something we're passionate about and it's what we love to do. Most of us are creative people and when it comes to administrative tasks, that's not usually our strong suit. It's understandable when the task of scheduling appointments, managing calls, texts and emails start to feel overwhelming. It's mainly because the administrative side for running the business doesn't come as natural as being creative.
For me, I have a background working in the corporate world. My job there was to manage teams or to be the support for a high level executive. In both roles I had to be very organized and prioritize tasks by most important to least important. I'm thankful for that experience because it's made managing my business so much easier. I know what items need my attention the most and which don't. The most important thing for me is to have great relationships with my Clients which means I have to always be at my best with my energy high. No one wants to come to a tired lash artist. I also have to keep my focus on learning and growing so I'm at the top of my game at all times. So most of my attention goes to getting plenty of rest for my own health and taking advanced classes to increase my skills.
The first thing I encourage other artists to accept is the title of entrepreneur. Even if you work out of a salon on commission or rent a space, you still have a big responsibility in managing yourself. Once you accept this, it's a lot easier to keep a cool head when it feels like you have a lot on your shoulders. The next step is to make your life easy in any way that you can. Try to eliminate as many tasks as possible by delegating, hiring help if you can afford it or putting systems in place that handle these tasks for you.
GET A DEDICATED BUSINESS LINE
Google Voice is my friend. You get a separate phone number for free and you can have it set where calls from that number are forwarded to your cell or landline phone within the hours you choose on weekdays and weekends. This way you don't have to hear the phone ring during your personal time. With Google Voice you can also receive and send text messages. There's an app you can use on your cell to make calls from that number so Clients aren't calling you on your cell at all hours of the day and night.
CONFESSION: I really don't like talking on the phone. So getting a voicemail to return a call requires me to get into a good head space and turn on my happy voice. For me, it's exhausting and I just don't like it. So how do I spare myself from returning a bunch of calls?
CLEAR VOICEMAIL/WELL TRAINED RECEPTIONIST
If you are a solopreneur, make sure you put as much detail on your voicemail as you can that would be helpful to potential Clients. My voicemail tells people what I specialize in, my location, hours of operation, how to find pricing and how to book appointments. Occasionally I'll get a voicemail from someone that didn't listen and I have to call them back. Overall I've found that having an informative voicemail saves me from making calls. It helps that my website is loaded with all of the information a Client would need including pictures. If you have a receptionist, it's important that they can answer your potential Client's questions. They should know your pricing and hopefully you've worked on them before so they can share firsthand experience to really sell your services.
ONLINE APPOINTMENT BOOKING
In this day and age, many people are busy and it's a lot easier to book an appointment at a time that's convenient for them. Many times, I'll wake up in the morning and find an appointment was booked at midnight for the upcoming week. Even if I could, I wouldn't answer calls at that time or hire someone else to do it. I use Acuity online booking and my Clients love it. I set mine up to ask the pertinent questions I need answered prior to an appointment. To help avoid flaky people, I set it up to require a credit card to enforce my cancellation policy. You can sign up for a free trial here.
SHARE THE RULES WITH CLIENTS
Many times the reason why boundaries are pushed is because you simply haven't let your Clients know what they are. Put your list of do's and don'ts together and send them out in an email or newsletter to your Clients. That way, if any of your boundaries are pushed, you can reference the rules you sent to reiterate where you stand.
DON'T MAKE A HABIT OF MAKING EXCEPTIONS
It's hard I know. At times your Clients may ask you to come in on an off day or work after hours. There's a reason why you have business hours. You need your personal time to handle your own business and to recharge. Honor yourself and stick to your time. It's not your fault your Client didn't book an appointment in time and now you're booked solid. The only way people learn sometimes is through uncomfortable and inconvenient experiences. If they appreciate your work, they'll remember in the future to make sure their appointment is booked so it doesn't happen again in the future. As far as text messages, remember that if you reply to a text at 10pm, you're training your Clients to expect a response outside of normal business hours. Don't start bad habits in the first place and it will save you a lot of frustration down the line.