I recently came across this interesting question in an online forum (edited slightly):
I do most of my work live and online, but independently instead of through a cam site so I don’t have “regular hours” that clients can get used to. I receive messages asking for content and sessions 24/7 and feel like I “have to” take every call that I possibly can, otherwise money’s being wasted. However, I hate hate HATE working in the morning! Waking up and immediately having to go through the emotional work of getting myself ready and interacting with clients for the first few hours of my day just really sucks. So, do you turn down clients? Delay them? Just not respond until you’re ready? I don’t know what I should be doing.
This is such an overwhelming issue that seems to impact all people in all types of independent contractor-type jobs: setting boundaries and knowing when to say “When!”
There is no such thing as job security. Some people just are farther removed from the hustle. A person who works as a bank teller, for instance, isn’t necessarily in a “secure” occupation. It just seems secure because that person is not out looking for clients or new business directly. The point is, when you are directly tied to “getting new business” — the hustle, if you will — you can see the ebb and flow of money and (perceived) stability more closely. Which makes it harder to step away — to put limits on demands that also feel like opportunity or create boundaries.
But you must.
The internet was super helpful in responding to the initial question.
One person offered the simple and elegant “set your hours,” but in reverse. Establish when you are not available.
Maybe instead of having regular hours that you’ll definitely be online for, set aside regular hours that you definitely won’t be able to take any calls? Don’t feel bad for not responding to every one!
Another involved a little bit of data mining: “Track what hours are busiest and then adjust your schedule accordingly.”
Finally, another person really laid it down in terms of setting boundaries and expecting clients and friends online to act accordingly
I just let people know when I’m available and how much notice I need. I don’t work nights or weekends. [Clients] can try [their] luck during the day, but if you really want me, you line up a window the previous day. I have little clips and photos I can sell regular clients who really want to see me when I’m not available. It isn’t a full-time job for me so perhaps I’m less focused on how much money I make but I find most people are happy to wait if you’re reasonable and consistent.
Regardless your approach, you must establish boundaries in your work, especially as an independent contractor. Like the vampire it is, the internet will bleed you dry if you let it. Set your terms, even slowly at first if that helps, and work to maintain them. Don’t beat yourself up if you make an adjustment, though. Everything is a process, and you are working through yours.
Got something you want to share? Tips or rage-inducing incidents other models may benefit from? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!