After being bed ridden due to a nasty flu and receiving an email that made me cry, I’ve had some time to reflect on where things just went so wrong with my schedule in the last 3 months. Here are 5 things that broke down my boundaries and effectively killed my schedule.
1. Fear of disappointment
I am normally pretty good at saying no, but occasionally I can be easily manipulated by a dire cause.
This one instance I had never initially agreed to do anything, I had taken time to give advice and strategy for a not for profit. Suddenly I was receiving content and emails asking when my suggested strategy would be implemented. It was to coincide for the launch of a specific event, and the request came only a few weeks before I was due to fly out of the country.
I had a wait list of 3 months and was juggling 3 projects. Normally I have a bit of buffer in my schedule but at that time I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get it done. I just pushed it in because I feared disappointing the client. Stupid huh, don’t disappoint the one that isn’t paying you, but end up disappointing everyone else who has been patiently waiting in line. In the end I worked 2 weeks straight (bye bye weekends) with my average day being 18 hours.
My fear of disappointment totally backfired, and what was supposed to be a ‘good deed’ ended up disappointing three very patient clients, losing over 30 hours of billable time (hello overdraft) and getting really sick as working 18 hours a day is destined to end in burn out.
Lesson: just say no.
2. Super woman complex
For some reason I thought I was super woman for the first 6 months of this year. I think about how long things will take but I didn’t factor in the constant disruptions. Overcommitment is the best way to burn out or kill your schedule.
The phone rings, someone breaks their website and I need to attend to it URGENTLY, the power goes off or the internet goes down! Oh and of course the unexpected, something that you thought would only take a couple of minutes ends up taking you a couple of hours.
Lesson: triple the amount of time you think it will really take.
3. Changing minds
This is something I am faced with every single day. Generally it’s OK, a few content tweaks here and there, but after the 10th revision it definitely starts adding up. I’ve built complete plugins only to have the way they work totally re done because of a management decision, I’ve had business direction changed after the site is completed which has consequently made me have to redo entire templates. You have a website ready to go, then a client will show their husband or their best friends teenage kid and then suddenly everything needs to be reworked.
When I get a website project that just keeps changing direction it costs me, money and also my schedule is affected.
Lesson: Lock it down before you start.
4. The MIA client
I started a project about four years ago, it was for a not for profit organisation who had low resources. The job was completed and ready to launch – they even paid their final invoice. They just needed to finalise their content. No one was assigned to that job in their organisation so it just sat there. After about 6 months I stopped with the follow up emails, four years later a new person from the same organisation contacts me wanting to go live, the only problem is the site now needs an upgrade to mobile response, basically I have to do it again.
Another instance then a client disappears without giving me everything I need to get started at the crucial time, resurfaces after I bumped their project to the end of the queue when they didn’t get back to me then stamps their feet and wants their project done right away. It was my fault for not following up constantly, nothing you can do will save this.
Lesson: If a client goes missing, send automated reminder emails every day until they show up.
The hardest thing about being a solo business owner is when something comes up you don’t have someone to pick up the slack. Whether it sickness or a family emergency, theres no contingency plan for this.
This year my grandmother passed away. This is something you can’t plan for and there is nothing you can do when you are grief stricken except wack up an auto responder and send a few quick emails. Most people are understanding about delays, but you always have that one asshole who will stamp their feet. It’s honestly soul shattering at a time like this and the resentment ends up burning deep.
Lesson: Life gets in the way sometimes, choose your clients wisely.
At the end of the day, the state of my schedule is a consequence of some poor choices around boundaries and communication. It’s some tough lessons to learn, but it will allow me to put some measures in place to avoid it in the future. I hope my lessons will help you avoid making the same mistakes.