Recently, I wrote a piece for Southern and Mid-America Jewelry News about The Importance of Having Patience and Compassion in Your Jewelry Business. In that piece, I outlined how essential it is to be sensitive and flexible to clients going through challenging times, especially through the holidays. However, I also wrote that it’s important to set boundaries and remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. While it may seem that compassion and boundaries are in conflict with one another, they really go hand-in-hand. Without some form of boundary, you will find yourself burning out, which doesn’t serve you, your clients, or your loved ones.
Here are my tips for setting boundaries with your clients, while still leaving plenty of room for patience and compassion:
Announce Deadlines Early
As early as October 1st, I send out an email to my mailing list detailing my holiday schedule. This includes fun things like trunk shows and promotions, but also deadlines such as the last day to book me for a commission piece and the last day for guaranteed shipping in time for Christmas. I also post these dates on Instagram and Facebook with a fun holiday reel and make sure they’re clearly visible on my website. Clients may not be thinking about holiday shopping yet, but getting this information out early will give them a timeline for when they should start thinking about it. I also post regular reminders when key dates are coming up, and expect a flood of requests to come in at the last minute.
Plan Ahead for Exceptions
Even with clear and frequent communication, people are going to miss deadlines. This is why I often have a second internal set of deadlines for exceptions. Especially with commission projects, it’s difficult to have a clear sense of what my capacity is until after the deadline has passed and I know exactly what I’m working on. Once I assess that capacity, I can make an allowance for a few smaller projects to come in, provided the request comes before my internal deadline. People are human and mistakes happen, so plan ahead for a few stragglers.
Streamline Client Communication
Back in the early days of my business, I would have ongoing discussions with clients via text, Instagram messenger, Facebook comments, email, and phone calls. Talk about a mess!
Inevitably, details would get lost and potential business could slip through the cracks. Now, no matter how a conversation is initiated, I’m always quick to move it to email. If design details are discussed via text, I restate those details in the email and continue there.
That said, there is almost always someone who is unable to stick to email, often due to stress in his or her own life. If you still have one client texting you ideas at odd hours of the night, knowing that the other 99% are in your regular inbox makes this much easier to manage.
Don’t Skip the Contract
This is probably the most important item on this list, and it is also one of the most difficult to keep during the busy holiday season. We all know how essential contracts are, but during the holiday crunch, it can be tempting to skip over this step in an effort to speed things up. Don’t give in to this temptation. Skipping the contract stage or neglecting to clearly lay out the budget and design expectations inevitably leads to aggravation. Make sure that all the back-and-forth of planning a design takes place prior to the contract, so you can refer to it if a client requests sudden and expensive changes. This time of year is why best business practices exist, so don’t let them slide now.
Provide Limited Last-Minute Options
We’re all familiar with the frantic phone call a week (or a day!) before Christmas begging for a last-minute gift. While the deadline for custom pieces will be long past, it is possible to accommodate these requests without driving yourself crazy. In the final days before Christmas, I put together a list of only those items that I have in my studio and ready to ship immediately.
This limited last-minute collection is a huge relief to clients who may have dropped the ball this holiday season and to myself. It’s as easy as popping a piece into a package and shipping it out!
When You’re Closed, You’re Closed
The holidays are for family and loved ones. This goes for jewelry designers and store-owners as well. Once you set up that away message and turn off the lights in your studio, you’re closed.
Go ahead, enjoy the holidays, and bask in the knowledge that you went above and beyond for your clients. Now is the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy those Christmas morning text messages telling you how much everyone loves their gifts. That makes it all worthwhile!