5

excuse me for my not good English

I work as a freelance web developer for small to medium local companies and I work alone.

Sometimes it happens that I have too much works and projects going on at the same time, or maybe I gave my availability to a specific client for a week because they have a trade fair or something like that. So I must work hard and produce results as expected and planned.

Meanwhile, I receive new requests for meetings or new jobs from other established clients, I always answer the phone or by emails saying "I am sorry but I can't meet you this week because I have a mandatory project to finish which I have planned since months. I can meet you the next week by this date... etc".

Some clients seems not understanding at all what I say and they start to call two or three times a day, send requests by email and so on. Just to answer them on the phone or to send a reply by email takes me time and distract me, when I restart to work I need to refocus etc.

So, sometimes I literally turn off the telephone and close the email client so I don't get emails, calls or messages by any means. That can be for half day to one full day, then maybe I recontact them when I am less busy the day after or as soon as I can.

But while doing that I feel "guilty" in some way that I maybe can be rude or unpolite to clients.

How is your behaviour in these cases, are you available 100% of the time or you go "offline" when you are busy?

4

You should not feel guilty.

Sometimes work requires you to shut out the world and focus. And as a sole proprietor or single member business clients should somewhat expect that they can't always gain immediate access to you.

I often let emails sit, ignore the phone, etc. while I'm in the middle of something.

Unless you have a contract with a client that states you are to be "on call and available" during specific hours, you aren't doing anything wrong.

2

Scott gave a good answer. I'd like to add on to that with a few different ways to handle this so your clients don't feel like they're getting shafted. Many of us who do similar work deal with the same problem.

  1. Create an availability calendar for people to schedule phone calls, meetings, etc. If you use Google, you can create appointment slots directly in your Google calendar and share that with clients. There are other free and paid options available.
  2. Have a policy in your contracts about phone calls and availability. For example, I have set business hours and don't answer the phone outside those hours, though I do check voicemails. I also bill clients when calls are longer than 10 minutes or become excessive, and my contracts explicitly state this. People are less likely to bother you all the time if you charge every time they call.
  3. Allow yourself some quiet hours each day where you don't answer the phone or emails. Doesn't have to be all day, but for projects that require focus, the world won't end if you don't answer a message within an hour or two. You can also always set up an automated email response or message that says you are working on a project and will respond after 3pm or something similar.

Setting boundaries for clients can be tricky if you've been readily available to them in the past, but it's an important step for keeping organized and avoiding getting overwhelmed. Good luck!

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