Setting Boundaries In Your Home-based Business
Author: Jocelyn Serone
Setting boundaries with customers when you work from home
As I approach my 20th anniversary of working from home, I have been thinking about the many customers I have met & worked with. There have been many wonderful clients, some who have become friends. The unpleasant memories are of customers who regularly overstepped my boundaries. Each time this situation arose, I tweak my boundaries a little more. Here is a few examples of some of my most testing clients & their behaviours!
- Many years ago, I had a customer turn up at my door early on Boxing Day morning, just because she had happened to be driving past & thought she would pick up her order! After visiting family the day before for Christmas Day, my young family & I were sleeping in, so this lady was greeted with me in my pyjamas & bed hair!
- When my daughter was a baby, we were woken at 10.30pm one night by a customer who thought we would be up watching TV. Actually, no, we were sleeping before our baby woke up again- thanks for waking her!
- One day, a client had knocked on my door. As I greeted him, the phone rang. I apologised & asked him to wait, as I quickly answered the call. When I finished this quick call, I went to the front door to bring the client in, only to find he was gone. Turning around, I saw him coming back down my hallway. While I was on the phone, he had thought he would let himself into my sewing room, which was several rooms away from my front door. Unbeknownst to him, there was someone else working in this room & he was caught out!
- I will never forget the day I saw out of the corner of my eye, another customer’s 4yr old son jumping on my brand new lounge. My kids weren’t even allowed to put their feet on this lounge at that stage, it was so new!
- I had been sick one week, so needed to work some of my Sunday to catch up. My husband had gone out & left our garage door up. This particular customer turned up unannounced on 9am Sunday morning, walked right through my house to my sewing room, to find me sewing in my pyjamas!
The reasons I am sharing these stories is to show how important it is to set boundaries when you work from home. If boundaries are not set, the wrong customers will walk right over you & your family life will be affected. Each time an instance like the ones detailed above happened, my boundaries became firmer. Here’s some of the limitations & solutions I put in place (in order to the events above)-
- To try to solve the problem of people turning up unannounced to my house, I now set up a date & time when their order can be picked up. This time is usually between 9am & 5pm, Monday – Friday. I find if an appointment is set, this is very rarely changed. This also shows that I am running a legitimate business, that doesn’t open after hours, just like any brick & mortar store.
- Very early on, I set up a separate phone line for my business. This meant that when it was family time, the work answering machine is turned on, letting the customer know my boundaries. No more babies being woken up! Of course, this could be a separate mobile phone & number- whatever works for your business.
- After having such a problem with customers coming into my sewing room & having a peek at other customer’s orders, walking through my house on Sundays & jumping on my lounge, I changed quite a few things. I was fortunate to move house which meant my sewing room was a little more separate, but still attached to my house. The entrance to my work area is now via the garage door. This door is now only up when I have an appointment with a customer- this eliminates the problem of people walking in unannounced, they have to ring the front door bell! When customers do reach the garage door, they are greeted with a sign to please ring the doorbell sitting nearby on my cutting bench. This alerts me in my sewing room, giving the customer no reason to even enter my sewing room without my permission. The connecting door to the rest of my house is closed at this time, meaning the house can be a total mess & my lounge doesn’t get used as a trampoline!
Obviously, everyone’s idea & need of boundaries are different. Some of us live alone & can be more flexible, some of us have young families that need our attention. For me, I always felt that after 5pm was my family’s time. I had kids to bath & feed & as they got older, there was homework & book reading time. This was not a time I wanted to be interrupted by my customers. Besides, who wants their customers hearing you yelling at your kids to get into the bath?!!!
Even now, my daughter has left home & my son drives himself to work, but I still advertise working 9 to 5. Of course, I am usually working at 7.30am, but this gives me an hour & a half uninterrupted to work solidly on my business before I have the phone ringing & emails to answer.
Having said this, a lot of my customers are young mothers whose only spare moment is to email me at 11pm at night or leave a message on my answering machine. This is absolutely fine by me, just don’t expect me to answer before 9am the next business day!
Of course, advertising working 9 to 5 might not suit you or your business- find boundaries that work for you & your lifestyle. There were many times in the early stages of my business when I worked 7 days & many, many nights, but this situation would have been so much worse if I had allowed my customers to contact me during those hours as well. I have always had the opinion that although I was working with other people’s businesses & need to keep to deadlines for their sake, I really wasn’t that important that I needed to be contacted 24hrs/ 7days a week. I work in fashion, I’m not saving lives!
A huge reason why a lot of us start our home-based businesses is for the lifestyle benefits- please make sure this stays your reason to be in business, without the constant pull of emails, texts & phone calls at all times of the day.
I would love to know any tips you have for implementing boundaries in your home-based business in the comments below….
Love It!!9 February 2016So true on so many levels! You have made such a valid point! Now to put that into reality!
I hope you can put some of these tips into reality. It can be quite a mine field, dealing with customers in your own home!