Guardrails for Clients + Followers
This post is Day #19 in the 31 Days to a Better Work + Life Balance Series.
I am so thankful for each and every person I work with.
Even after four years, I still kind of feel shocked at times that someone would appreciate my work enough to help support me. I remember doing the biggest happy dance when an item sold the first day my shop was open. It was like $3 at the time, but I so didn't care! Every time someone leaves me positive feedback or tells me my work lightened their load, it means the world to me! I also love getting to know creatives who I otherwise never would've met.
Once my business started growing though, I realized that some rules had to be made. We're all human, we all make mistakes and we all want things done differently. If there are no rules, then things get really chaotic making the results unfair for both you and your people.
I like to think of these rules as guardrails.
A guardrail on the road reduces the risk of getting too close to danger. If there is an accident, it keeps things from turning out too serious. In the same way, if you set up guardrails for your business, blog, etc. these rules will keep problems from turning into crisis moments.
Firm work hours - I try not to check or reply to emails after a certain time of day. If I stay up until midnight to work, it's because I decided to beforehand. I can think so much more clearly when there's a set time and I can get into work-mode. I also try to use things like email templates to make my work faster and stay within the bounds.
Limited custom projects - I hate telling clients no. I hate turning down projects. But there have been so many times where I've added a project thinking it would be quick and easy but then it never ends. It's not fair to my family to work when I should be spending time with them.
Fixing problems - I have to decide what problems are urgent and what can wait. The other night this happened where I checked an email late (breaking my firm work hours rule) about a client's non-urgent question/problem. It really bothered me and I wanted to get to it, but just had to tell myself it could wait. Dealing with it right then would've been a bad idea.
Communication means so much to people. If they know what to expect even when it may not be what they want to hear, I think things go so much more smoothly. Policies, contracts and terms are perfect for this. You can decide in advance how far you're willing to go and still feel good about your work.
For example if you're a designer, what type of work are you willing to refund? How many drafts are you willing to do before you'll need to be paid more? How are people able to use your work?
Or if you're a blogger, what type of comments will you allow? Are followers going to be able to contact you personally? What type of posts will you never write even if you were offered pay?
Deciding these in advance can be a guardrail so you aren't always caught explaining and defending yourself. Sometimes really ugly situations come up so it's good to be prepared with all the rules up front even if it feels awkward.
I think it's normal to worry that you might lose a follower or client because of a guardrail, but you have to follow through. Even if you risk getting a public complaint, criticism or lose out on a sale you'll be so glad you chose to stick to your guns. If you're thinking of the big picture, it's better to lose out on a follower than losing out on family, health, money, rest.