We adopted two puppies a few months back. Good dogs, but if you’ve ever had puppies before, you know what you’re in for. These little guys eat, scrap, poop and destroy anything that’s less than 20” from the ground. For you dogs lovers out there, yeah I know, they are just being puppies, but they are exhausting. Mercifully, they are starting to get better. They eat a little more now, but they scrap and destroy things a little less.
When I look back to when we first got the pups, we made a critical error in bringing them into our home: we didn’t set up clear boundaries. While I can’t say I was thrilled with them chewing a hole in the wall or digging up the carpet, the most frustrating things abut adopting the dogs was that we never felt like we had any time to ourselves – they followed us everywhere. We never got a moment of peace. Whose fault was all of this? Ours.
Let’s tie all of this back to freelancing – you aren’t reading this to learn about puppy training. Adopting puppies, at least in this example, is a lot like bringing a new client on board:
- They both need to be shown who is in charge (this has to be done gently and tactfully)
- They both need clear boundaries.
- They both need to be watched so they don’t chew on the carpet.
Okay, the last bullet might not apply to both – then again, it might (I've worked with some people that acted like they might eat their own carpet, I don't know). The point in all of this is that you have to establish clear boundaries, whether you are dealing with clients or puppies. If you don’t want phone to answer client phone calls at 5AM or 10PM, tell your clients upfront what your work hours are. If you aren’t willing or in a position to work overtime or weekends on a project, let the client know that as well. If you prefer the client doesn’t visit your office unannounced…well, you get the picture, right?
Whether were referring to puppies or clients, when “people” invade our personal space and personal time we often get upset – I know I do. But when I really look at why it happened, I often find that I did not effectively communicate where my boundaries were. For puppies, I’ve found baby gates work wonders; for clients, I would suggest discussing what you’re able to do for them in your initial meeting, and summarizing some of those boundaries in your contract.