Freelance writers: Are you making this costly mistake?

Wow. This freelance writer is really frustrated. Been there. Done that.

You answer emails within five minutes of them hitting your inbox.

You race to pick up the phone by the third ring, no matter what you’re doing (or writing.)

A client emails you Saturday night at 10:45 and you immediately return their note. Even if that means taking time away from your family.

And you’re always exhausted and wondering how you can work an 11-hour day with nothing to show for it.

Sound familiar? If so, quit it! You’re hurting your productivity by being so available (and hurting your business, too.)

Here’s why:

If you don’t value your time, why should your client?

Have you ever experienced the Friday “drop and go?” This is when a client emails you late on a Friday and writes, “I’m heading out for the weekend, but I need this first thing on Monday.

Ouch.  Suddenly, you realize that your weekend plans are now on hold until you can get the client stuff squared away.

No fun.

I’ve gone through this before. I actually had a prospect demand a proposal on Christmas Eve (really!). Did I do it? Yes. And the client didn’t look at the proposal until mid-January. Yeah. I learned my lesson.

The truth is, we train our clients how to treat us. If we’re always available and accommodating, it’s not the client’s fault for thinking we could handle a weekend project. Or a rush job. Or we’d drop everything so we could complete “just this one thing.”

That’s why setting client boundaries is so important. Yes, be available within reason. And yes, there may be those times when you do work a weekend to take care of a good client. But it shouldn’t be an expectation.

Being overly available kills your productivity

“I can’t get everything done” is a common freelance writer frustration. If this is a frustration of yours, here’s a reality check:

If you’re bouncing from email to client project to phone calls, you’ll never have enough time. It will take you ten times longer to finish a fast project. You’re doing it to yourself – even if it feels like it’s being done to you. You’re multitasking yourself into an unproductive frenzy. 

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Train yourself to NOT respond every time you hear the phone ring or your email ding. Turn off the ringer. Mute the notifications. Close the door. Do everything you can to give yourself some uninterrupted work time. It’s OK. People will leave a message. You can call/email them back.

2. Tell your clients when you are available.  Most clients don’t require (or expect) an instant response. They just want to know that you’ll get back to them within a reasonable amount of time. It’s even OK to write, “I received this and I’ll look into it later today,” so they know you’re on it.

3. Practice saying, “I’m happy to do this. There will be a rush fee of X.” It’s amazing how clients will suddenly value your time much more when they know there’s an extra cost involved. :) Plus, if you do work a rush job, you know you’ll be well compensated for your time.

Try implementing these strategies. I guarantee you’ll feel more centered, energetic and focused during the day. Plus, you’ll probably see a nice productivity spike – which could mean more money in your pocket. Bonus!

What do you do to keep yourself on track? Please leave a comment with your favorite boundary-setting strategies!

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