It is at 6 o’clock in the evening, and suddenly your phone pings you.  You finish the family dinner in a bit of a hurry, as you consider the message important.

You are out on Saturday morning errands, and your phone lets you know there is an incoming email marked urgent.  What do you do in these instances?

The best way is to acknowledge them, but indicate that your business hours have been stated, and you will be happy to provide a solution on the first available business day.

Here are some suggestions when you find a client asking for your time day and night.

SET BOUNDARIES

Let your client know that you are in business just like they are, and you have set hours of business just like they do.  Do let them know that occasionally you will work outside of those hours if it is an emergency that requires your immediate attention.  But, in turn, let them know that you charge an extra fee for that service.
You might be surprised how that will deter people from asking after hours.

ESTABLISH BUSINESS HOURS & HAVE THEM POSTED

Let all customers and clients (and potential ones too) know what your business hours are.  Post those hours anywhere you are promoting your services.  This will in turn provide the times you are not available.  Also, if you use a calendar service, be sure to post those available times in the appointment areas, so that your client’s book only the business hours.  If you need to postpone your appointment, give your client a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, and provide a suitable alternate time for them.

USE AN AUTORESPONDER

Most email programs have an auto-responder message you can set for certain times.  Create an auto-respond and set it during nonbusiness times.  This will indicate to your client that you will respond to their request during the next available business day.

MAKE IT PART OF YOUR CONTRACT

When setting up a contract for your client, be sure to include the normally available business times.  Include in the contract that if you must work beyond the normal business times, an extra fee will be charged. By signing the contract, your client acknowledges those facts and agrees to them.

BE KIND and be firm

We all have emergencies that come up at times, and we must appreciate that happens with others too.  If you have done all of the above, and your client still needs your services, indicate to them that you may need a minimum of an hour’s notice and that you will be applying the extra fee.  Please let them know that you will do this on an occasional basis, but if it becomes consistent, you may need to terminate the contract.

In conclusion, this is a very grey area, as you do not want to lose potential or existing clients. But, establishing your set times upfront, makes it easier for both you and your client.

The suggestions above are just a few ways to make your work/life balance work in harmony.