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’s 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 time.
So what is this magical line? Here it is:
Office Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 3:30 pm or by appointment
Are you disappointed?
Don’t be because it’s a lot more powerful than it looks.
I just finished a coaching class with the 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 me – 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:
- It gave me some structure, so I could be focused on my kids when the bus stopped at the end of the driveway.
- It made me look more professional.
Many a day, the phone would ring after 3:30 pm, the caller ID hinting of a potential big catch. I’d stand there rustling up all my willpower to keep my hand from snatching the receiver up and answering.
It 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 insist 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.
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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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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!
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.
Darlyn @The Little Blog Dress
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!
Darlynn @The Little Blog Dress
well, now my autospell spelled my own name wrong!
Mary Bernard @ Look In Your House
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. ;)
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.
Holly - The Work at Home Woman
Glad you enjoyed Sarah’s article!
Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach
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!
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.
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,