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How One Line in My Email Signature Gets Me More High-Paying Clients and More Time With My Family

How One Line in My Email Signature Gets Me More High-Paying Clients and More Time With My FamilyBy Sarah Clachar

Okay, you’ve seen this kind of promise before. An unbelievably simple solution that offers oodles of payback.

One line in an email signature? That’s it? And I’ll have clients lining up at my virtual door?

Let’s be honest. Nothing is that simple. And this one isn’t either. But it does indeed start with this one email line.

And it’s been one of the key elements that has helped me build my natural health copywriting business into what is now my family’s only source of income – and a good one at that.

Better yet, it’s also the element that has allowed me to build my business to this solid position without sacrificing family.

So what is this magical line? Here it is:

Office Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30am – 3:30pm or by appointment

Are you disappointed?

Don’t be because it’s a lot more powerful than it looks.

Here’s why:

I just finished a coaching class with master copywriter, Dan Kennedy. He’s probably one of the most highly paid copywriters in the world, commanding $18,800 for a single day of consulting. And that’s even before he puts pen to paper! (Then his fees are in the millions.)

In his class, Dan told us about an interesting discovery made by Cleveland State University researchers.

The researchers created two fictitious job candidates, Dave and John.

These two candidates had identical resumes and almost identical letters of reference.  Almost identical  . . .

The only difference was that John’s letter included the line: “Sometimes John can be difficult to get along with.”

Which candidate did more personnel directors want to interview?

Now Dan told us this story for a reason. He makes his money by his reputation. And he’s made his reputation very carefully. He’s carefully developed an image of someone who is not very accessible, but worth getting through to.  He schedules one day a month that he speaks to people on the phone. And that’s it. He’s adamant about it.

In fact, even Karl Rove had trouble getting him on the phone!

Now, I’m no Dan Kennedy and Karl Rove hasn’t called – yet. But very early on – even when I was desperately looking for clients – I set up office hours at my husband’s recommendation.

I did this for two simple reasons:

  1. It gave me some structure, so I could be focused on my kids when the bus stopped at the end of the driveway.
  2. It made me look more professional.

Many a day, the phone would ring after 3:30pm, the caller ID hinting of a potential big catch. I’d stand there rustling up all my will power to keep my hand from snatching the receiver up and answering.

How One Line in My Email Signature Gets Me More High-Paying Clients and More Time With My FamilyIt wasn’t easy. But it paid off.

Because the power of this act goes a lot deeper when it comes to getting clients who pay well – as Dan Kennedy, the Cleveland State University researchers and I have discovered . . .

When it comes down to it, you’re the one who tells people how to value you. And one of the biggest ways you do that is by setting limits and boundaries.

You tell people, I value my skills, knowledge, and my time to such an extent that I carefully dole it out to only worthy recipients.

It’s an ancient practice. In high school, this was called playing hard to get.

Similarly, in business, when you tell your clients you’ve got limits it tells them you’re worth something. Including what you charge.

Setting office hours and limiting your availability makes it clear to people that you are worth seeking out.

The personnel directors who preferred to interview the job candidate who was “difficult to get along with” were looking for this kind of self-worth.

They intuited that someone who is difficult to get along with, but still well-qualified might be someone who values his or her ideas and skills enough to defend them and stick behind them.

They may have experienced frustration with employees who say “yes” to everything but only because they don’t have enough confidence in their skills to say “No, I don’t think that will work.”

They may have had experience hiring people who after things fell apart on a project let everyone know that they thought it was the wrong approach from the beginning. But didn’t make a peep when it could have made a difference.

Now I’m not outright advocating that you become a curmudgeon in order to earn more. And I’m not saying that every difficult person is competent.

But I want you to look hard at how you present yourself and the messages you send your potential clients about what they’re getting when they contract for your services.

As girls and women, especially, we’re often conditioned to smile and make people comfortable. We focus on accommodation. At the expense of our own agenda and interests. And often enough at the expense of serving our clients well, too.

I point this out because it’s been one of my hardest struggles personally.

But you’ll find that when you set limits – starting with office hours – you’ll gain tremendously.

To wrap things up, here are a few more suggestions for making the most out of this one line in your email:

1. Put it Everywhere

Email signature, website, contact page, voicemail message – so there is no confusion when clients call you up at dinnertime. Make sure you indicate your time zone as well.

2. When to Budge

If you have clients who insists they need to talk outside of those times, you can occasionally make an exception for a very good reason i.e. you’re in the midst of a launch or you live on opposite sides of the globe. However, have them make an appointment. And emphasize at the beginning of the conversation that you’re making this exception to your office hours for XYZ reason.

3. Flip It

Talk to your children and husband about helping you keep these office hours and encourage them to give you quiet time when you need to work.

4. This Means No Digital Talk Either

Office hours means no phone calls, no tweets, emails, or text messages. Keep yourself incommunicado during this time when it comes to clients and prospects. That doesn’t mean you have to stay off Twitter, etc. It just means you’re not engaging with clients at that time.

Put these tactics to work. As you give your time more value, others will value it more too.

Natural health copywriter, family fitness expert and organic farmer, Sarah Clachar is always on the hunt for ideas on smart ways to live well. If you’re looking for more healthy tips for running your home business without running yourself into the ground, go sign up and get a free ebook on How To Sneak Exercise Into Your Workday And Get More Done at www.yourhealthyhomebiz.com.

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20 Responses to “How One Line in My Email Signature Gets Me More High-Paying Clients and More Time With My Family”

  1. 1

    That is a great tip Sarah. It also lets people know that you are accessible to talk. You remove the barrier of accessibility by stating that you expect people to call you at those times. Your clients don’t have to feel like they are interrupting you.

  2. 2
    Sarah says:

    Fred, you’re right. It also adds an element of smoothing the communication road. As with most things in business the clearer you can be up front about access, boundaries, expectations, communication, etc., the less hard feelings and tension in the end. Nonetheless, I would caution getting too focused on accessibility and losing your value with your clients. I usually go beyond office hours to sticking pretty strictly with appointments rather than ad-hoc phone calls. Even with prospects. (I get more work done that way too!)

  3. 3
    MedicastGuy says:

    While posting business hours is not a bad idea, playing hard to get is not smart. Those of us who have been around the block a few times can smell the strategy a mile away. When I sense someone playing games while I’m prepared to do business, I move on. Maybe I’m just not your ideal client. This technique has been around for ages and has been touted by multitudes of consultants (now called coaches.)

  4. 4
    Sarah says:

    Playing hard to get is the oldest strategy in the book because it works. It’s dismissed as a game, but in reality it’s an important way to set your own self-worth and establish boundaries that denote this. I’m not advocating games but when you put out a clear message that you value your time and value yourself – even when clients aren’t quite knocking down your door – you are valued more by others. Interestingly enough, when I slow down my response time to potential clients and exercise more choice in the matter, I’ve found I get more of my ideal clients and jobs.

  5. 5

    Sara, you brought up a very important point: our actions and our view of our self worth (as individuals and business owners) affect the way that others, in particular our clients, see us.

    The difficult to get along with person conveys someone who is in control and a (unfortunately ) as someone who possesses leadership qualities. (Incidentally, if those “candidates” had been a women, I think the researchers would have gotten different results).

    And as you mentioned, by associating those office hours with you and your business, you convey that you are not desparate for work. The assumption is that you are being kept busy and crowds always attract even more people.

  6. 6

    This is the best “one liner” that I’ve seen in a while. And, it is based upon sound psychology that is as old as (or older than) the story of Adam and Eve. It is human nature to want, even crave, what you can’t have.
    More than a game or a ploy, however, setting a limit is a reflection of self-respect. You either understand that or you don’t. It’s a topic for a whole article by itself.
    Finally, setting a limit is a reflection of the respect that you have for your client. A client who calls at an unexpected of inopportune time will likely reach you when you are NOT at your best. Your client deserves to reach you at a time when you can give the best that you have to offer.
    In short, I agree with you and with your inspiration for the article, Dan Kennedy.

  7. 7
    Jean says:

    I don’t think this is a game of “playing hard to get.” If I say my office hours are from x to y, and then let my answering machine take all calls, and I screen calls with caller ID, that would be playing hard to get game. I think I learned this the hard way when I first started the practice, and had Google Voice # as my office #, which was connected to my cell phone. I had very few (thank God) clients who called at night and left message, and I felt bad about not calling back in the beginning. Once I started calling them back right away, they kept calling after 6pm since that’s when they have time. Now, I strictly use my real office #, no Google Voice, and I don’t even reply emails after my office hours. It lets me focus on work during my regular business hours, and I don’t make a mistake if I accidentally forward an email on my phone to wrong client, etc.

    Thanks for the great article.

  8. 8
    Kathleen says:

    Hi Sarah –

    Thanks so much for #1 – the wonderful advice, #2 such a well written article. Not only did you convince me that I should do the very same thing, you have completely changed my way of thinking. As a consultant we have been “brain-washed” into believing we should be readily available for clients when they call; no matter when they call. As you stated this has somewhat diminished our “value” in their eyes. This is exactly the opposite of what we are hoping to accomplish.

    What we do is certainly not brain surgery, and therefore (in most cases) not even an emergency. We even have Emails forwarded to cell phones! So clients now know they can send us an Email and then head home for the night, knowing it will be taken care of (auto-magically!!). I like the idea that clients have confidence, but I do not like feeling like we are grunts.

    Thanks for making me see the light! This will be implemented in my company right away.

    All the best,
    Kathleen

  9. 9
    Lisa Kanarek says:

    This is great advice. I’m going to share this with my clients who complain that THEIR clients call them at all hours. They don’t realize that they’ve trained their clients to do that because they answer their phone at all hours. Would someone in a corporate office be sitting at their desk at 11pm? It shouldn’t be any different for someone who works from home. Time is money, but personal time with family is priceless.

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach says:

    I really appreciate your emphasis on the importance of setting boundaries.

    I’ve found for myself and my time coaching clients that we teach people how to treat us.

    If we exhibit self restraint and act with self respect, others naturally start to see us as more valuable.

    To your brilliance!
    Elizabeth Saunders
    http://www.ScheduleMakeover.com

  11. 11

    Hi, Sarah.

    I love this because I have always operated under the assumption of accommodation (as you state) pays off. I have given everything to employers and clients … going that extra mile, so to speak … with little regard for boundaries on time or energy.

    But you know what? I can’t really see how that has “paid off.”

    So, thanks, for this instructive reminder about the benefits of boundaries. ;)

    • 11.1
      Jacki says:

      Mary, You are right. I bent over backward for many years and succeeded only in having people take advantage of me.
      Thanks, Sarah. This is an eye-opening article. However, to me, “difficult to get along with” means that he/she always wants everything their own way. I would not even consider interviewing anyone who had that phrase on their letter of reference.

  12. 12

    This is the bravest thing I ever seen! haha! Congrats! Its a great idea! As I work on a Sunday, I have a problem turning it off. I do make a point not to answer a Saturday email or phone call until Monday morning but still! Thanks for sharing!

  13. 13
    Golda Smith says:

    Thank you Sarah for confirming what I believe and that is you teach people to treat you. I have my office hours on my website and on my voice mail I let people know when they can expect to hear back from me and my email automatically let’s them know that I check it 2x a day. Now, I’ll add your suggestion, which I love and the fact that you got it from Dan Kennedy, who’s content I’m just delving into is the icing on the cake!

    It does show people that you’re professional and that you value your time…at least I do.

  14. 14
    Christina says:

    Incredible tip! I did not even finish reading it before I went and updated my signature lines, FB page & web site with that. Thanks Sarah!

  15. 15

    Hi Sarah – I love this tip and wonder what your thoughts are for someone who only gets to work on her business in the evenings and on weekends (for now….).

  16. 16
    Leiann Lynn Rose Spontaneo says:

    Neat idea, however, I think I should use posted hours for my personal life! :)

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