Stop needless interruptions by setting boundaries with your clients

"I just wanted to see if you got that email I sent..." (which was sent 10 minutes ago)

"Do you have a minute to talk about feature X?"

"Is helpful to my business?"

Clients have all kinds of questions for you. In their eyes, you are their expert on these matters and they want to know what you think. They respect your opinion.

This is great when you are starting out, because it makes you feel useful and appreciated and helps to boost your self-confidence.

But the luster quickly wears off when these "short" calls start interrupting your work.

You can't just stop having these conversations, because sharing your expertise is one of the best ways to build a trusting, long-term relationship with your clients.

You also can't be rude and dismissive of them, or you will damage the relationship you have already built.

But you really need to have uninterrupted time to do quality work.

So what's the answer?

The truth of the matter is you have brought this upon yourself. By answering calls and having a conversation right then, you have taught your clients

  1. this is acceptable behavior on their part
  2. you are available any time they need you

By not setting boundaries with your clients, you have allowed them to set their own boundaries. Those boundaries are always going to give your clients immediate gratification. This is just human nature.

You need to reset your boundaries to be what's good for you, and you need to do without ruining the relationship you already have.

Resetting boundaries with existing clients

Resetting boundaries sounds scary, and you are probably worried that you are going to offend your clients or hurt their feelings.

In reality, this is easy to do without being rude at all.

When they call at random times, just tell them you are working on something and will call them back later (and give them a time range to expect you). You want to get off the phone as fast as possible and back to work.

When you call them later, just explain you have organized your day to be more effective and only take calls between certain times, or that you need to schedule phone calls in advance before you can take them.

If they call again, reschedule the call and remind them of the new rules.

That's all you have to do.

Pretty quickly, they will fall in line with your new rules, and you will both be happy. You will also find a lot of the questions they want to discuss on the phone can be answered by a quick email and no call is necessary.

Win-win!

Setting boundaries with new clients

This process is even easier with new clients, because you don't have to remove bad habits from the relationship.

All you have to do is explain your phone call policy when they are new.

It helps to tell them in a way that they understand the benefits they receive from having a policy. They get better quality work because you aren't interrupted.

You should tell them your policy on the phone and have it as part of your kick-off document.

If you ever realize you have been slipping and client calls have crept back into your work time, then just reset the boundaries and you are good to go!

Try this out today

This is something that made a huge difference to the quality of my life. Random interruptions take a bigger toll than you realize, so try it out and see if it makes a difference to you, too.