Managing Your Time with Clients, Or: Don’t Let Your Favorite People Take Over Your Life

Managing Your Time with Clients, Or- Don’t Let Your Favorite People Take Over Your Life

Managing your time ain’t no easy thang. Be ye not careful (to mix a few dialectical variants), and all of a sudden half your day has evaporated, and all you have to show for it is an empty Cheetos bag an ever-so-slight dent in the infinite Netflix bucket.

Am I projecting? Clearly I watch too much Netflix. It’s an issue.

Point being: time management is hard, but if you want to be successful, super necessary.

It’s not just your own time, either; you also have to manage clients’ timeframes and expectations. This post takes a slightly deeper dive into some of the boundaries we talked about in How to Deal with Difficult Clients. If you haven’t read that one, do it now. I’m a terrific writer.

But really, I am. Aaaaaaanyway …

Why Manage Your Time with Clients?

You’ve heard the oft-repeated and ever-so-trite phrase “time is money.” Thing is, though we like to judge platitudes, they’re usually around for a reason: Time management is a killer for most people, and with it goes that healthy bank account of which you dream.

The good news? If you can harness that elusive sundial, you’ll soon be making more money than everyone else. And competition is really what it’s all about.

… no. Sorry. It’s, er, about personal fulfillment and thriving in the work you’ve chosen for yourself. Yes, that sounds closer to what I meant. But while most people think the biggest obstacle when you freelance is staying off the internet (myself included), that’s not it at all.

It’s keeping your head out of the fridge.

I mean, time management with your clients! Man, I cannot get things straight today. That other thing is just a personal problem. Forgive me.

Anyhooters, let’s cut straight to the chase. And by straight, I mean via a circuitous route of my wandering thoughts, clearly. Here are some handy ol’ tricks to whip yo clients into shape posthaste. Go.

Set Regular Working Times

One of the issues with being freelance is that your clients think they can get a hold of you whenever they want. At 10:30 at night on a Friday, they have a quick question. In the middle of family dinner on a Tuesday, they have one minor change they need you to make. And sure, they want it right away. Why wouldn’t they?

But you don’t have to do it. Even if you’re sutured to your inbox like I am, that doesn’t mean you have to respond.

Even better, be very clear about your working hours. If you work weekends, cool. If not, say so. Clients are like children: amazing and friendly and a really important part of your life, but they will try to get away with whatever they can. Be upfront with what they can expect from you, and you’ll both be happier.

Get a Special Phone Number

Consider getting a Google Voice number that you give out top clients. That way, you always know when a client is calling (as opposed to a telemarketer) and you can decide whether or not to answer.

Obviously this means it will often go to voicemail, so set a very professional message that states your name and the name of your company as well as a message. Don’t begin with “Hey, this is Cheryl.” First of all, because your name probably isn’t Cheryl, and that would just be weird. But also, it’s not professional. You need them to know you’re not friends; This is your job.

In the message, it’s nice to specify what your working hours are so that they know when they can expect to hear back from you. And then stick to that!

… And a Separate Email Account

You should also have a different account for work emails. This is a must. You do not want to wake up and check those babies first thing in the morning. Check your regular email. Peruse pictures of your friend’s babies or their cats. Or even better, baby cats. That’s pretty much the only thing I want to look at first thing in the morning.

Wait until you sit down at your desk during your specified work hours before you open up your work email. And make sure you have some coffee by your side when you do, because woo. Never can tell.

Enable Brain Dumps

If you’re someone who doesn’t love talking on your phone, I suggest you get a phone app called Voxer( or something similar). It’s a free app that lets someone leave you a voice message up to 15 minutes long, and you can respond in kind. What I love about this simple little app is that you can listen to it and respond to your client at your own convenience.

There’s even a feature where you can send one message to multiple people at once, or have a group conversation. That way you don’t all have to find time to be on a call all at once. People can listen in and comment as they have time to. This may not work for you, especially if there’s a lot of information you’d need to transcribe, but it can definitely be quite handy.

FYI this is also an awesome app to use with family members. I don’t think I’ve had to speak to my own mother in weeks. Life is good. Okay, okay, just kidding, Mom!

… sort of.

At the end of the day, setting boundaries isn’t necessarily fun. You want to give your clients what they need, because they give you what you need: job satisfaction, a reason to live, and if you’re lucky, a good chunk of change. But that doesn’t need you need to be at their mercy, or vice versa. This last point is important; if you don’t respect their time, you can’t very well expect them to do so with yours, so practice what you preach.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other time management tips for client work. We’re curious what you think.

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