How One Line In My Email Signature Gets Me More High-Paying Clients And More Time With My Family

by Sarah on September 21, 2011

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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 has 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.

So what is this magical line? Here it is:

Office Hours: M-F 8:30-3:30 or by appointment

Are you disappointed?

Don’t be because it’s a lot more powerful than it looks.

Here’s why:

I just finished a coaching class with 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 – 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:

1.    It gave me some structure so I could be focused on my kids when the bus stopped at the end of the driveway.
2.    It made me look more professional.

Many a day, the phone would ring after 3:30, the caller ID hinting of a potential big catch. I’d stand there rustling up all my will power 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.    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.    Office hours means not only no phone calls, but no tweets, emails, etc. 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 w/ 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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