I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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What contact details to give?

If you are looking for something online, what form of contact details do you like to see? What difference does it make to you if it isn’t there?

I have often read about offering a range of contact methods to give clients options and their preferred choice. I believe in the value of certain options being offered, too. So it was very interesting to read Danielle Keister’s view on contact details.

Her argument is that someone who really wants your services will use the contact details your provide; if they won’t follow your system (in her case, completiong of a specific form to get a quote, etc) then this forms a process fo weeding out clients you didn’t really want in the first place.

I like the concept – it is impossible to please everyone so I can make my business run the way that best suits me. My contact pagedoesn’t include my mobile because I don’t think anyone’s writing project is so important I need to be contactable all the time, and it doesn’t include my email address to avoid spam. On the other hand, it does encourage an email contact form as the preferred means of contacting me.

I could delete my phone number from the site altogether, but I think there is a certain credibility attached to having a phone number available. Please tell me if you disagree!

My postal address is rarely used by anyone I don’t have an existing business relationship with, but I include it because it helps identify my location – I know I hate not knowing where a business is located if it isn’t clear (my .au domain and about us page do make it clear I am in Australia, and my exact location isn’t very relevant to clients so the contact page is less critical for me).

Away from my website, I generally use my URL and email address for contact information.

And I guess it works as the majority of clients and prospects do contact me by email – at times I wonder why I have a business phone at all!

Do you offer all your contact details or do you tailor it to your business preferences? How does that work for your business?

Phone or email…

When writing about including an email address on printed materials the other day, I mentioned that I prefer emails to phone calls.

Other than anyone’s personal preferences between writing and talking, here are some of the reasons I prefer communicating via email in my business:

  • it is much easier to ignore an incoming email than phone call. If I am concentrating on a document for a client, I don’t like interruptions and prefer to keep working so ignore incoming messages
  • I can manage my time better with emails – I choose a time to go through emails and respond as it suits me, but a phone call won’t just sit and wait for my convenience! Yes, I have an answering machine which can allow me to call back later but that doesn’t mean the other person is available when I do call back…
  • I don’t always work conventional hours – I can read your email at 3am but I doubt you want me to return a phone call at such hours!
  • an email forms a record of what is discussed. This makes it easier for me to check facts and deadlines when working on a project rather than relying on memory or finding where I scribbled notes during a phone call!
  • in an email, I have the time, when necessary, to plan what needs to be said and how to present it; on the phone, an immediate response may be regretted later
  • I can appear professional in an email no matter what is happening in the office – not always feasible over the phone in a home office with three children and renovations in the background!

That said, the phone can be quicker and easier for clarifying information or an involved discussion. And obviously my reasons don’t apply for different types of businesses.

Do you prefer email contacts over phone calls? How do you prefer to contact potential suppliers/service providers yourself?

Boundaries between home & work

In a traditional job setting, the difference between work and home is fairly clear and easy to see – until you start bringing work home anyway! But when you run a business or have a remote job, it can be harder to spot the difference – and harder to manage things.

Of course, the big question is HOW to manage time! I think the simplistic answer is to set boundaries to maintain control.

From talking to various people, I see two main groups of at home workers – those who get distracted from work by the need to tidy the kitchen, hang out the washing, vacuum the floors and so on, and those who work a lot and find it hard to manage much of the house stuff at all. Which group do you fit into? I have no trouble (well, generally speaking!) getting on with work but end up working too hard and letting the housework slide…

Here are some of my ideas on creating boundaries between business and home, but I’d love to hear your suggestions, too…

  • physically separate your working space from your living space as much as possible – if you are sitting in your work space, don’t do home things and vice versa. My article, separating your home office, may give you some new ideas
  • separate phone lines if you can – then only answer the business phone during business hours, and the home phone during personal hours. Before you assume this is too expensive, consider a VOIP phone as this is much cheaper than renting a second landline
  •  tell clients your expectations/limitations – for example, “We work 10 to 4” or “we don’t answer phone calls in busy periods”. Kylie of Tilda Virtual went further and actually sacked a client to gain back control of her business and family boundaries!
  • set clear business hours and stick to them most of the time – if clients see you work outside those hours, they will start expecting you to do so. If you do work out of your usual hours, make it clear it is unusual or mask the fact – sometimes I work late at night but program the email to go to my client the next morning so I am not advertising the fact of when I did the work.
  • if possible, use a different email address for friends and family than for business. Set up filters for incoming emails and just concentrate on business emails during business hours.
  • learn to say no to clients or extra work – or at least say it won’t be done straight away. Know how much work you can deal with in a day/week and refuse to overload yourself
  • if you have people visiting you during the day, try putting a sign on the door that says “Business in operation – please call back later for a personal visit” so people can see you are serious about your business hours. If you want, you could leave a pencil and notepad by the door so they can leave you a message

Sometimes it seems impossible to make those boundaries, but the reduced stress and lost time is well worth the effort. Good luck with it!

Use your words and time wisely!