This post is Day 11 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
“I know I shouldn’t complain, but it seems like I’m always working. I have clients call at 6 in the morning, and sometimes as late as 10 at night. I meet clients in the evenings and on the weekends – really whenever they have the time, I make time for them. I want to grow my business, and stay busy too, so I hate to say no to anything. How can I get my clients on a better schedule?” Michelle
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever gone to dinner with a friend, and had them take one call after another? How did it make you feel? Did you feel your friendship was important, and that your friend was truly a friend? Or did you feel somewhat let down? After all, you took the time out of your schedule to meet, why can’t he or she?
Even if they use the line, “I have to take this call, its business, you understand right?” It still leaves you feeling a bit let down. Yet it’s almost the way of the world anymore. Everyone is connected; everyone has a phone. And with smart technology coming on full force, it’s not likely to decrease any time soon.
But there is a better way. You don’t have to be at your clients’ beck and call. You don’t have to available 24 hours a day, just because technology makes it easier. Instead of being at technologies mercy, you simply have to establish your own internal priorities, and stick to it.
Start With Priorities
If you were to list the priorities in your life, what would they be? Think about your day-to-day actions. Who and what would you put on that list? What would go at the top? For me, I would say:
- Family – mom, in-laws, siblings, etc
- Health – exercise, etc
So for me, I would drop everything if my husband or daughter needed me – they are my top priority, and I would put everything else aside. Likewise, when I spend time with them, I give them my undivided attention. Unless I’m expecting an emergency phone call, my phone is turned off and left on my desk or in my purse.
I’ve been to many restaurants where the family is all in their own worlds. The parents are texting and talking on cell phones. The kids are texting or on gameboys. We even sat next to a family a couple of weeks ago where they put the kids into the corner of the booth, and pulled out a portable DVD player, and turned a movie on for them. Really? There is very little communication going on within these families. And my daughter always comments on how sorry she feels for them. Whether we eat at home or out at a restaurant, we have lively discussions about world events, politics, education – pretty much everything.
We’ve made it a priority that our mealtime is spent together. No distractions. No outside influence. It’s our priority so that we can connect and learn about each other’s day.
What are your priorities? Have you ever thought about what you would put at the top of your list? And once you have your list, how do you nurture the items on your list?
If you put your family above your business, and you take calls during a family dinner or outing, are you really showing your family they are top priority? You aren’t putting your family at the top – you’ve now moved business to the top. If that’s your priorities, that’s fine. But if its not, then you need to start questioning how things are running.
Establish Time Periods
Once you have your list of priorities, then its important to give everything the time it needs and deserves. Even if your family is at the top, with business falling a step or two behind, you still have to dedicate time to each activity. So you learn to control what timeframes you dedicate to each priority.
Then watch how you handle each situation, and learn to put life balance steps into place.
Make your working hours convenient for you and for your clients. You may need to dedicate one night a week for clients – i.e. Wednesdays until 9 pm. Or work Saturdays until noon. Specify it. Make sure your clients know your working hours, and your family and friends know you won’t be available for them during that time frame.
But once your business hours are completed, put it all aside. When you spend Saturday afternoons at the kids soccer games, or Friday nights out with your spouse, put the phone away. You can even get different cell phones for different usage – one for business, one for personal. That way the business phone can be put on your desk until Monday morning.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Clients Will Change
If a person calls at 6 am and can get a hold of you, you’ve now established the precedent that you are available at 6 am. So they will keep calling at 6 am because it’s convenient for them. The same applies for the clients that call at 10 pm. If they call and get you, they learn to expect it.
How do you change? It’s very simple. Establish your working hours and stick with it.
I answer my phone between 9 and 3 Monday through Friday. Unless I’m meeting with a client or on another line, I will answer the phone during that time frame.
I’m usually at my desk by 6 in the morning, and pop in and out for breakfast, exercise, and bringing my daughter to school. However I will very rarely answer the phone because this is my time. I’ve chosen to work and get things important to me done during this time frame. It’s not a client timeframe – it’s my timeframe. So I don’t answer the phone. That’s my priorities. And I stick with it.
I’ve had people complain, ask about my whereabouts and even ask me to change for them. But I hold true to my timing because it’s important to me. It’s my priority. And it works.
Will I miss out on a client? I haven’t yet. I’ve never found anyone to be in an immediate emergency to hire me. When I call or email in a few hours or the next day, its usually more than ample timing, and it ultimately comes down to my business and my customer service that makes the difference anyway. And if they truly are that demanding, do you really want them as a client?
Create Your Own 24 Hour Time Span
Sit down today and list out your perfect day, and your perfect week. Let me show you an example.
- 12 to 6 sleep
- 6 to 7 social networking and planning
- 7 to 9 breakfast with family
- 9 to 3 work and client meetings
- 3 to 6 work and planning period
- 6 to 9 family time
- 9 to 11 personal time
- 11 to 12 sleep
Your week may be slightly different, which is why I suggest mapping out a week. For me, Saturdays and Sundays are 100 percent family, friend and personal time. I may schedule in some business planning time, or attend a conference over a weekend. But I never schedule business time where I connect with clients. I also schedule my Fridays a little different, as I usually incorporate personal time into my Friday afternoons.
Once you have your week in place, try not to deviate from your schedule. If you find something not working, adjust it accordingly. Then stick with it. Turn the phone off, or leave it in your office. Be present in every aspect of your day, and you’ll soon come to appreciate every piece in a newfound way.