pushingpixels
Member

Business Hours Suggestions

Hi all!

I've been a freelancer on Upwork for almost a year now and thankfully have had great success. I am just hoping I can get some advice from other freelancers.

 

Every once in a while, I get a client that messages me all evening and/or weekend long. They'll ask simple questions or how to do something on their website that I designed. That's fine that they are messaging me, but I don't want them to expect me to answer them right away. I try as best as I can to keep scheduled work hours with myself for work/life balance. 

 

I do wish Upwork had a section to put business hours on our profile. Or a way to add a signature to our messages about work hours or when they should expect to hear back from me.

 

I am looking for advice for what I can do in the future to make it clear that I won't always be available to answer questions right away and when they can expect to hear back from me... Do I put it in my proposal or make it known up front? How do you do it?

 

Thanks!

Lindsey

16 REPLIES 16
petra_r
Member


Lindsey M wrote:

 

I am looking for advice for what I can do in the future to make it clear that I won't always be available to answer questions right away and when they can expect to hear back from me... Do I put it in my proposal or make it known up front? How do you do it?


To be honest, I don't.

If I am available, I respond. If I am not, I respond when I am available.

Freelancing means that there is less of that "set hours" and "set days" stuff.  In my opinion that actually helps the work-life balance, because it means I can work / not work as it suits my work-life balance rather than inside some rigid structure.

 

 

Yeah, the thing is though that I don't want to working from 1am to 9am (my time zone is GMT+8). Other people may want to but I like working during the day time. If you are lucky enough to not need sleep and can respond all hours then that's great for you.

 

And I regularly get not only offers from clients, but also offers from Upwork Talent Specialists for jobs that are FULL TIME and strictly 9am - 5pm PST. It's a waste of time for all of us.

 

Just because @Lindsey M is asking for the ability to set business hours, I really don't think she is asking this to be forced on everyone. Could it not be optional?

 

@Scott B - everyone is different. Generally I don't want to be in my home office after 6pm. The evening is a time for me to make dinner, relax and switch off from the internet. Obviously there are exceptions if there is an emergency or you are on deadline.


Jan H wrote:

Yeah, the thing is though that I don't want to working from 1am to 9am (my time zone is GMT+8). Other people may want to but I like working during the day time. If you are lucky enough to not need sleep and can respond all hours then that's great for you.

 

And I regularly get not only offers from clients, but also offers from Upwork Talent Specialists for jobs that are FULL TIME and strictly 9am - 5pm PST. It's a waste of time for all of us.

 

Just because @Lindsey M is asking for the ability to set business hours, I really don't think she is asking this to be forced on everyone. Could it not be optional?

 

@Scott B - everyone is different. Generally I don't want to be in my home office after 6pm. The evening is a time for me to make dinner, relax and switch off from the internet. Obviously there are exceptions if there is an emergency or you are on deadline.


OP is perfectly free to set her own business hours. As are you. As am I. Any FL who is unable or unwilling to manage client expectations about response time -- which is just one aspect of managing a project -- is not setting themselves up for success.

Why is this so difficult to understand????

 

How do they know my business hours before I have any contact with them? I'm saying it's a complete waste of time for me to receive full time job offers for 9-5 PST time when I am over the other side of the world and do not want to work graveyard shifts. I don't care how much money they offer me, I have no interested in working nights. It's a waste of time for them to invite me and for me to decline the offer. What would make sense is for me to not show up for these sorts of jobs because it just wastes everybody's time.

Hi Jan, 


Nice to meet you here! 

I totally understand where you're coming from, and I see why this would be inefficient for you when managing your freelance business. Hours of work can be decided between you and your client, during the interview process. I would suggest that you incorporate your hours you're available to work on your profile overview, so that any client who sees your profile can decide whether to get in touch with you or not.


~ Avery
Upwork

That's a good work around for the mean time.

Jan - We are talking two different things. I am addressing how to "set" business hours with a client you are already engaged with. That was the basis of the OP's question. You have segued to the topic of potential clients knowing your hours so no one wastes time if they aren't going to work. Again different question. Personally I find most clients understand - during the invite process - what time zone I am in. If there is an expectation of set working hours they tend to indicate that in the post. I can then decline if needed. It's not like this happens so often that I feel a process is needed but perhaps you are being inundated with such circumstances. There isn't a means of heading that off that the pass today and adding it to your profile is hardly ideal (and may be ignored anyway). 

Yup agree on the original query. If you are working as a freelancer, you should be able to work your own hours, unless pre-agreed. Be clear with the client from the get go about your availability. If they try to insist on you working their hours either agree and change your work schedule (perhaps if it's a very rewarding contract) or politely decline.

 

Any client who thinks they can have you at a drop of a hat whenever they feel like it is probably not worth working for. It will just lead to misery down the line.


Jan H wrote:

I'm saying it's a complete waste of time for me to receive full time job offers for 9-5 PST time when I am over the other side of the world and do not want to work graveyard shifts.

 

It's a complete waste of time for me to receive offers to design websites or do data entry, too, since I'm a writer--but, both happen. Fortunately, it takes about three seconds to decline an invitation, so the aggregate time wasted is about 1 minute per month.

If being a writer with no other skills listed isn't enough to keep a person from showing up in web design searches, I doubt very much that something as sophisticated as scraping the job posting for hours and time zone and filtering you out is going to happen.


Jan H wrote:

 

@Scott B - everyone is different. Generally I don't want to be in my home office after 6pm. The evening is a time for me to make dinner, relax and switch off from the internet. Obviously there are exceptions if there is an emergency or you are on deadline.


Of course everyone is different and I am not suggesting otherwise. What I am suggesting is that the way to handle this isn't via explicitly setting business hours. Simply act as if you did. The majority of clients will intuitively get it when you never answer after 6p. Again you can have clients on time zones where it's convenient for them to send you a message after 6p your time but this does not automatically mean they expect a response at that time. What you are doing is conditioning clients to understand your working schedule without ever having to set and then maintain it. If someone does indeed fail to "get it" then yes a conversation is in order. Certainly this can happen. I will tell you that it has never happened to me in the years I have been doing this. YMMV but if 95%+ of your clients get it, the process works. 

I think you are still not getting my problem... I'm talking about full time job offers where I have not had any contact yet. I really would prefer not to receive emails like this:

**edited for Community Guidelines**

 

Accepting this job would mean working full time, 1am to 9am, Monday to Friday which simply does not interest me at all.

 

And the client has paid extra for the post to be featured to me - it's a complete waste of their money when it could have gone to someone else who is open to these terms, because I will automatically decline it. If I was paying for my post to be featured in my client account, I would not be happy if my job was being offered to people who will automatically decline.

 

The Talent Specialists probably need better tools to avoid this happening.

 

Not sure on the ideal solution for this although a couple spring to mind:

 

1. On your availability for work you can OPTIONALLY set hours on an opt-in basis. If you don't want to set hours it's completely fine and nothing changes for you.

 

2. The criteria the client has to specify like hours completed on upwork, minimum job success rate could include a drop down containing One-Time, Part Time or Full Time.

Jan, what field are you in that you are plagued by offers of full-time work? Legitimate full-time offers are quite rare on Upwork.

Mostly US based companies wanting full time website developers for $400-$500 per month and working 9-5 PST (which is 1am - 9am here).

 

It's a basic salary for someone fresh out of college where I am based; with 20 years experience I just automatically decline them.

tlsanders
Member

Like Petra, I respond when it's convenient for me. I assume that the client isn't expecting an immediate answer, unless we're actively collaborating on something on a short deadline. Even if you were keeping regular business hours in an office, you'd get phone calls, work on things for other clients, even not be monitoring your messages because you were working on the client's project. 

 

It's easy enough to let the client know at the outset of your relationship, "I'm usually available from roughly X - Y whatever days," but it isn't usually necessary if you just establish realistic patterns and expectations by suppressing your impulse to feel like you're required to respond at midnight and handle it the next day.

wlyonsatl
Member

When you accept a new assignment, include in your message to the client the days and hours you plan to work, being sure to let them know what time zone you are in.

 

If you don't plan to respond to their messages outside the hours you indicate, tell them upfront something like, "I will answer messages you send me outside these work hours the following business day."

 

If you are willing to answer "emergency" messages - however you define them - outside those hours, let the client know.

 

This would set boundaries and expectations from the outset of each project, which is always a good thing.

browersr
Member

The problem with providing regular business hours is that you then sew yourself in. As was noted, one of the benefits of freelancing is creating your own work schedule which can (and should) vary on a daily basis. If you suggest that you aren't available on Sunday's this just means you are available all the other days. This starts to then look like an FTE type relationship. By not specifically setting hours you leave yourself open to do as you need which includes deciding which client project to work on at what point on any given day. I tend to find clients settle in pretty quickly and I haven't had anyone abuse it. However, if there is a client that is always messaging you at time/day you are not comfortable with, AND there is an expectation of a quick reply, then you need to discuss this with the client. Just remember that with clients in all sort of time zones and countries with different holiday schedules, that they may just be sending you a message when it's convenient for them. That doesn't mean they expect a reply right away. Respond when it works for you, within reason of course, and the vast majority will adjust without thinking about it.