If you work with clients, you will know it can be a challenge trying to balance the need for responsiveness with the need to manage your time effectively and efficiently.
You will have some clients who are a dream to work with, others can be extremely hard work; stealing both your time and energy. You know the ones, they are always on the phone or sending emails that demand an immediate response and they always seem to need to see you for an ‘urgent’ meeting.
If you struggle to keep up with the demands of your clients, the following tips may go some way to help you to manage your time and restore your sanity.
Understand your clients’ needs
What exactly does your client want from you? How often do they expect progress reports and in what format? When do they need you to complete their project by?
Seek clarification on what their expectations are, agree to workable deadlines and calculate how much time you will need to commit the project.
Agree on how you will communicate with each other going forward; will telephone and email correspondence be sufficient or does the client prefer face to face meetings? If you feel something is unrealistic, this is the time to express your concerns and establish mutually agreeable terms.
Be open and honest
Explain exactly what your client can expect from you, how you prefer to work and outline the things you are not prepared to do.
Be clear about the number of face to face meetings you are willing to attend. Are you happy to spend time travelling to their offices? If not, then work out a compromise.
Also, don‘t be afraid to let the client know what you need in order to make your management of their project run smoothly.
Being frank with your client from the start allows you to tackle any unrealistic demands on your time and reduces the potential for future disagreements.
Communicate throughout the process
Aim to stay one step ahead of your client and anticipate possible problems early on in the process. This will not only help you stay on track with any changes to the plan, but save you from potentially losing time on a project.
The worst case scenario would be to get to the end of a project, only to find your client has additional requirements they failed to communicate to you earlier.
Create trusting relationships
Always follow through with the things you said you would do. If you say you will send them a report by close of business on Friday, do everything in your power to make it happen. In doing so you are demonstrating you are responsible and that you take accountability for your actions.
Instead of receiving those nervy ‘so how’s the project going’ type of calls, you will find your clients’ backing off to allow you space because they trust you will deliver.
Communicate your availability
If your business hours run 9-5 Monday to Friday then make this known to your client. That way, when you receive an email at 10am on a Sunday morning, they will know not to expect a response until Monday.
Set up email auto responders and voicemails with a pre-recorded message to let them know you are currently unavailable and when to expect a call back. Usually a 24 hour period, during business hours, is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a response.
Monitor and track your time
Your time is valuable so keep track of how you’re spending it to ensure you are getting a good return on your investment. If your clients’ are adamant about scheduling in extra meetings consider charging them for it.
Professionals such as Lawyers, Accountants and Solicitors, do this all the time. There is no reason why you can’t do the same. Not only will you receive adequate compensation for your time, but your clients’ may change their mind about throwing an extra meeting into the mix.
The above steps are key to allowing you to manage your time effectively when it comes to working with clients. Ultimately comes down to two things; communication and the setting of workable boundaries. Once you have managed to get the balance right between being client focused and how you manage your time , you will begin to have more enjoyable and productive relationships with your clients.
You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Till Next Time
Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor