For business owners, setting limits with clients is a difficult process. On the one hand, you want to recruit customers and keep them satisfied. Clients, on the other hand, will be valuable only if they respect your boundaries.
Consider this: what good is a client who does not pay on time? Is one client truly worth it if they keep asking for more and more from you till you can’t focus on your other clients? And how are you going to strike a healthy work-life balance if a client phones you frequently during your off-hours? This is why it’s crucial to establish boundaries with clients.
Setting limits may take some time to become comfortable with. However, with practice, it will become easier, and it will benefit both you and your clients in the long run.
BOUNDARIES TO SET
SETTING OFFICE HOURS: Stay consistent! Office hours are such a big deal and to not change from the start, no expectations should be made. We are not saying you have to stop at 5:00PM, but client communication needs to be finished and wrapped up before that 5:00PM mark, anything past that can wait till the next following day at 9:00AM or even Monday morning depending on the day of the week. When you leave the office, we suggest having an auto response email that says you’ve left for the day, and you’ll return at opening hours and will respond then. That way it lets your clients know you aren’t ignoring them and also is another reminder of your work boundaries.
SETTING COMMUNICATION LINES: First and foremost, you need to give clients a clear line of communication on how to get in touch with you. It could be work, email, office number, work cell phone and outline those preferred methods of communication and don’t reply to anything else. Now, you’re probably reading this thinking “Well, that sounds obvious”, but it’s not to a lot of clients. They will find you on all channels of communication and will try to push those boundaries. If this happens, don’t respond. Coach them in a friendly redirecting manner to the agreement of your boundaries. Let them know they are crossing a line.
HOW TO AGREE WITH YOUR CLIENTS: Taking on a brand-new client, make sure you make it your top priority to make a point of outlining your office working hours and lines of communication and make them agree to it. Sometimes, it’s even worth having them sign an agreement stating that they are aware of rules and have them sign it. This allows you to keep them accountable. They shouldn’t have a problem signing this agreement. It’s always worth it to start off with this to see how they react and will act in the long run.
HOW TO SAY THE WORD “NO”: It is inevitable that some clients will disregard your boundaries, despite your best efforts. Clients will even try to bother you outside of your set office hours, ask or demand for something that will eventually end up taking too much of your time, could even make comments that are borderline too personal or even offensive. This leads to the word “NO”. You will have to be firm, but always remain respectful. You have to always consider the fact most people/clients are super reasonable and will most likely respect your boundaries.
Now, there are the few that won’t. They will push the envelope and walk the fine line to disregard your boundaries, making you have no choice but to warn them that they are breaching your agreement and could eventually be dropped entirely. Leave the ball in their court. Coach them and give them the chances to change.
ALWAYS STAY CONSISTENT: One of the biggest challenges is setting professional boundaries and not breaking them for any client. Once you break it the first time, they will continue in that pattern and know it’s okay to go around those boundaries. It’s essential for you to stick with your boundaries going into it the first time around if you want to make it work long term. If you allow your client to be pushy and allow outside of work hours to happen, they’ll keep doing it. Learn to guide them back to your set work boundaries.
Eventually, people will learn to respect your rules if you are consistent with them. Your clients will learn that you’ll only respond within certain times, which will result in them being more likely to get in touch within those times.
REMEMBER TO ALLOW YOURSELF A BREAK, YOU NEED ONE: The ability to contact clients at any time during the day makes it difficult to switch off. Maintaining your professional boundaries does not have to make you feel guilty. Even though it’s impossible to avoid feeling something, trying to avoid feeling this way with remembering the following:
- This break is well deserved for you. Constant work will lead to a burnout, which will be counterproductive in the long run
- Keeping work within working hours, this will lead to a more productive workday
- Maintaining a professional relationship with your customers will result in better service overall. You’ll be better prepared to assist them, and they’ll be happier with the results, resulting in recurring business from satisfied customers.
EXAMPLE: WHEN SHOULD YOU SET BOUNDARIES
So, what precisely do I mean when I say “boundaries”?
Boundaries help you protect your time (and your sanity) during each endeavor. Because the truth is that you and your client collaborate rather than work for them. Let’s think about that essential component of the equation because it will help you build and maintain boundaries more effectively. Keeping track of why you went independent in the first place is an important aspect of creating company goals. You probably intended to work freelance full time for the independence from unjust overlords, so don’t trade a devilish customer for a diabolical boss. It’s best to define these expectations up front to avoid any weak footing and to develop a healthy connection from the outset. Some consultants include these restrictions in their contracts, while others include them as part of their onboarding process. Whatever method you use, make sure to explain them clearly and professionally right away so the client understands.
Boundaries and limits are there for a reason. Make sure to work effortlessly to keep your relationship with clients healthy and productive. If that relationship starts to go in another direction, despite working on boundaries, know you can walk away and find other clients who will and are willing to work with you and your boundaries.
Here and MCDA CCG we offer one-on-one coaching sessions on even this one topic in depth. Learning this will allow you to be a better business partner, owner or employee. Reach out if you are having trouble with setting these boundaries with your clients now or in the future.
CALL TODAY (657) 258 – 0577 OR email us at [email protected]!
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