Better Safe

Working With Strangers

Just because you work alone doesn't mean you have to feel vulnerable. Use these tips to build your sense of security, especially when dealing with newcomers:

  • Check the ID of any unknown visitor before opening the door. If the stranger can't present an ID, call his or her employer. If it's a courier and you haven't seen him before, have him leave the parcel on the doorstep.
  • Schedule first-time-and possibly follow-up-meetings off-site at a neutral location, such as a restaurant, coffee shop, executive suite or local library. That gives you time to get a feel for clients' and vendors' characters. If you never quite get the right vibe, but don't necessarily feel threatened, just say your office is not set up to handle meetings.
  • If you must meet on-site with clients, walk them directly to your office and try to limit client access to your home's living areas.
  • If you feel unsure about a client, ask a neighbor or other at-home worker to drop in during the visit to "deliver a proposal you've been working on." Or schedule visits when an adult family member, an employee or intern is in the home. You can also tell the client someone will be stopping by-even if no one really is.
  • Don't record an answering machine greeting that reveals travel plans or extended periods away from the office. Call clients or vendors before you leave and personally tell them you'll be away.
  • If you'll be out of the office for a while, use call forwarding to transfer incoming calls to an associate or employee who can take messages or handle some client requests. Or give a friend your access code, so he or she can check your messages and respond to important calls.
  • Listen to your gut. If someone makes you uneasy after an initial meeting, hold subsequent meetings in public areas or decline to work with that person. Your uneasiness could hinder your ability to work professionally-resulting in bad workmanship and decreased productivity.

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