In any given month, we find ourselves managing a sizable number of Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as writing well over 100,000 words of content. Additional duties include providing consultation, building and updating websites, editing books, and creating business strategies. But we have no complaints. When business is busy, business is good. Yet, managing multiple clients is a careful balancing act that is part scheduling genius and part setting realistic expectations – along with having the right team.
As a service business, you want to please your clients, but that shouldn’t occur at the risk of your own well-being or to the detriment of the other clients you have. You can provide excellent service without selling your soul, and it starts with setting some ground rules for yourself and your clients.
Build a routine.
Establish in advance what you want your work week to look like. Some prefer the typical Monday to Friday schedule, and others don’t want to start work until noon. Regardless, the same daily routine will have you prepped and ready for work on a regular basis. Build your to-do list each day and establish a typical schedule so that your clients know when to reach you. This will improve organization on your end and reduce frustration on the clients’ end.
Let your calendar be your guide.
We would forget half of our own obligations, personal and professional, if it weren’t for our calendars. Your calendar – or project management tool of choice – is your guiding force on even the most stressful days, and more importantly, it holds you accountable. You need to reliably deliver the services you’ve promised to your clients, and by having a visual of looming deadlines, you can provide excellent service to everyone – without the midnight scramble when you realize you’ve forgotten to submit an important proposal.
Set communication boundaries early.
Unless you’re a plumber, locksmith, or physician, you don’t have to be on call 24/7. Simply because you’ve received an email does not mean you have time to respond immediately. Still, it’s inevitable that you’ll have the experience of working with someone who expects an immediate response to the emails they send each day, and who texts you when you haven’t responded as quickly as they’d like. For your own sanity, make it clear that you cannot be available around the clock.
It’s okay to set boundaries and it’s fair to communicate that you have other obligations. Do not get pressured into instant responses to please a new client, because they’ll expect it in the future. If your business hours end at 4 pm, don’t schedule conference calls at 6 pm. Accommodations can always be made, but they should be communicated as a courtesy rather than the norm.
Get in the habit of saying “no.”
Clients will ask for more than they pay for, just on the off-chance that you might agree. Whether they want more than they’ve contracted you to do or simply want it faster than you’ve promised to deliver it, they will ask. This could be a request beyond the scope of an agreement that has already been made, or it could be something to which they honestly believe is acceptable. Don’t be afraid to stick to your principles and point out when a request is outside the original terms of agreement. Business is a give-and-take, and there’s nothing wrong with a special request here and there. However, if you say “yes” to everything, you’ll find that you will be overwhelmed with expectations you never signed on for. It’s okay to push back, and most of your clients will respect your position. Tip: Put it in writing, so that both of you know what you’re getting out of your relationship.
Leave your work at your desk.
Whether you work at home or at an office, leave work at your desk. Have a portion of each day that does not revolve around business. When you’re managing multiple clients, it’s easy to burn out and feel like you must work until everything is complete. If we did that, we would never be able to stop working. There is always something else that needs done. But many tasks truly can wait until tomorrow, and you’ll be more apt to provide better service when you’ve taken some time away.
Managing multiple clients will keep you on your toes, but it does get easier with time, organization, and the right team to help you keep things going. Setting a routine and establishing healthy boundaries for all involved will help keep your sanity intact, and you’ll have many more satisfied clients. If you want to be working at your peak performance level, set rules for yourself and for others.