Setting Your Business Hours

Even if you work for yourself, you still need to know when you’re on or off the clock.

If you’re working for yourself, one of the key things to think about when you’re trying to effectively manage your schedule is how are you going to set up the boundaries around your work life. Some people really like having flexible boundaries; that’s one of the benefits of being your own boss–you can set things up how you like them. But I encourage you to think about structures you can put into place, whether it’s starting and ending work at the same time each day or working from the same location each day. Setting boundaries that can carry forth from day to day can help you be much more effective in managing your time.

One of the most important boundaries you need to set for your business is what your regular hours will be. This can be as flexible or inflexible as you feel comfortable with–you’re in charge, so you get to set the parameters. But I encourage you to set some parameters. For instance, which days per week will you be open for business, and how many hours you want to work in a day? What time will you start and end each business day? Your working hours become the general container for your schedule.

You also want to factor in how many hours per week overall you want to work. This is something that varies from person to person. I’ve worked with clients whose goal is to work less than 40 hours a week, while others are so passionate about their businesses that they are happy–elated–to work 60, 70, or more hours per week if they feel like they are using their time effectively. Whatever it is for you, choose it deliberately. Then set your working boundaries to accommodate the schedule.

Once you’ve decided on that basic schedule, then it’s time to let the people connected to your business know what that schedule is. If they don’t know what your hours of business are, how can you expect them to respect those boundaries? You need to be able to communicate these effectively to the people who are connected with your business–your vendors, your clients, your family, your friends, your business partners and associates. That way you don’t have clients calling you at ten o’clock at night when you’re only anticipating being open for business until five.

Depending your business, clients might think you’re available whenever they need you. If that’s the case for you, great. Let them know that. And if it’s not, you definitely want to communicate when they can expect to reach you.

Once you’ve decided on these hours you can let people know what those hours are in a variety of ways: post it on your website; leave it on your outgoing voicemail; if you have a retail storefront or dedicated office space, post it on the door.

Another effective way to set boundaries is to let people know when they can expect to hear from you if they don’t reach you during your business hours. For instance, you might want to indicate in your outgoing voicemail that clients can expect to hear from you within one business day, so their expectations are appropriately set.

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