Do you struggle with keeping business and private lives separate?

Today I had a message from someone who wished for me to act as their mentor on a one to one basis.  We were liaising via email and everything was going well until they sent me a request to befriend them on Facebook.

I have a Facebook business page and of course, also a personal profile.  After they asked why I had not accepted them, I explained that I kept my business and private accounts separate but we could continue to communicate via email, LinkedIn messaging, telephone or Skype.  Whilst I have nothing to hide on my personal page, I see no reason to let a business client have access to my private life and that of my friends and family.

After I refused to accept them as personal friend, the atmosphere turned.  The individual insisted that if I wanted their business, a condition was that I had to accept them as a personal friend.  Now, as this point I became suspicious of their intentions as there is no need whatsoever for anyone to need to be a friend of mine on Facebook in order to do business with me, and they could not explain their need to me.

After I had pointed this out in a very polite manner, and a few emails later, I decided to decline to work with them as, I tried to explain to them, when I work with clients, it is important to be able to communicate effectively with each other and have a mutual trust and respect which I now felt was lacking between us.  I suspect this person had not ever been refused a service before as I was suddenly on the end of a vitriolic attack and warnings of how much money I would lose by refusing to work with them.

This reaction only made me more certain that my decision to keep my business and personal life separate was the correct one.

There can, at times, be a fine line between not wanting to offend a client but also needing to keep them somewhat at arm’s length and getting the balance right can be difficult, particularly in a service industry where personal communication is ongoing.  I admit, I do have a few past clients who I now consider to be friends but this has come about over a period of time and mutual interests.

If keeping business and private lives separate is important to you also, then to overcome potential situations in the future, when you are dealing with clients, I think it is important to establish some boundaries at the outset and let clients know which channels are acceptable for contact and during which times of day.

If you do receive a personal Facebook friend request, a polite message explaining that you use Facebook to keep in touch with close friends and family, but would be happy to connect via LinkedIn or other method should suffice.  If you are unfortunate to receive a response such as the one I had, then it is only evidence that this person is most certainly not your ideal client and one you will not want to be doing business with.