Most of my clients know that my husband and I are raising a large family—7 kids ranging from 20 months to 17 years. We currently have kids in all the ranges of childhood: 1-year-old getting into everything dangerous, 5-year-old ready to start kindergarten, 8-year-old in the midst of reading, writing, and arithmetic, 11-year-old dealing with all the angst that comes with middle school society, 14-year-old entering high school, 16-year-old learning to drive, and a 17-year-old who will soon be the first child out of the ‘nest’.
How do I maintain a relationship with clients in the midst of all this? Bottom line, I keep it simple and focus on what I can manage.
Simple and Slow
My clients have come to me through word-of-mouth. I’m not in a position now to market myself beyond the workload I currently have. This happens naturally—business owners find me through referrals or direct knowledge or my current work. So the websites I build tend to be on the simpler and smaller side, but they are done with great care and attention to detail.
Patience and Faith
Some days I struggle with how to meet an upcoming deadline when I am needed to get my 15-year-old to Violin, my 13-year-old to her EOG test, volunteer for the 2nd grade school field trip, drive my 17-year-old to his lifeguarding shift, and keeping my 1-year-old supervised by someone older than my preschooler. All this while hoping that my 8-year-old manages to get something to eat other than Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and my 1-year-old does not lose her eyesight from staring 24/7 at her iPod. On these days I try my best to remember that the logistics of managing a busy household schedule will not always be so complicated.
It is also important to realize that the creative process is a process. Sometimes it requires faith that taking a step back will be beneficial for the solution. There is definitely something to ‘sleeping on it’ that enables a higher quality outcome than just pushing through.
Gaps in the schedule will come. A new way of looking at a solution will come. They will come in time to meet the needs of my clients. They will come in time to meet the needs of the project. And if not, there is always coffee and early-morning stillness to buckle down on a deadline that can’t be put off.
Be Upfront with your Clients
For those times that a deadline just cannot be met, I have found it best to just be honest. Clients appreciate knowing when and what to expect from me on their project. I give them a thoughtful assessment of when I can start and finish, if there is a delay, or if an unexpected cost creeps up. If I’ve built the relationship on a solid foundation, which is a priority with every client, this goes without any problems.
Ask for Help when you Need it
Many times I’ve asked for help—whether from my husband to take the kids to the pool so I can have some focused, quiet time, from my 15-year-old daughter to cut the grass, from my 13-year-old daughter to plan and prepare dinner, or from my 17-year-old son who knows quite a bit more about computer hardware than I do. I don’t try to be that mom who handles all the child care, housework, and taxi services while also running a web design business. And my children benefit from learning those skills on their own. All of my children know full well how to operate a washing machine!
Take Time for the Mundane
Everyone needs an escape from the brain. Some ways to stop focusing on academic and stress-ridden thought is through exercise or good old-fashioned work. I like to dig dirt and weed; our yard provides plenty of opportunities. No thought involved. No worry involved. And dirt gets moved where it needs to be.