Setting boundaries with your clients

One of the most exciting parts about working with a client is when they trust you to do a lot of things. If this is your business model, it’s great because you might become that one stop shop for them. But in most cases, you don’t want to be that one stop shop. And more often than not, you want to be your own boss and not someone else’s employee.

When you begin working with a client, it’s super easy to get sucked down into a rabbit hole of losing your boundaries with them. This goes for anything from communication all the way to the work that you’re doing. I remember when I did a lot of web development and design, it was a natural for a client to expect that I would know a lot about SEO or email marketing. In fact, neither one of those were my specialties. I usually had someone that I was able to easily refer to them.

Had I actually tried to do SEO, it’s likely they would have paid well and possibly been happy. But there’s a good chance they would have had not-so-stellar results with me, versus paying someone who knew what they were doing.

So how do you set good boundaries with your clients?

The easiest way, is to make sure you’re setting boundaries up front. It’s always easier to set a boundary from the beginning instead of halfway through or towards the end of a project.

I also like to get my boundaries in writing. I usually include some verbiage in my contracts or in my retainers for this. This includes my work schedule. It’s important to let a client know when you’re available and when you aren’t. For most of us, it usually means a common work day of 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. You might take some holidays off. Or you might take some time off during other periods where there isn’t a natural holiday going on. We all need vacations every now and then.

But let them know when you’re available and when you aren’t. There’s nothing more horrible than getting an unexpected phone call at 3:00am. You’re not likely going to answer it and it leads to dealing with an angry client at 9:01am.

This leads into the next part I include: my preferred methods of contact.

I’m one of those people who prefers email for almost everything. I can tolerate a phone call from time to time, and I’m willing to be flexible if the client prefers that. But there’s one thing that I don’t enjoy, and that’s getting text messages from clients. 

For me, text messages or something that I do with my friends and not something that works for a professional business relationship. You might have some specific things that you prefer or prefer that a client doesn’t when they’re communicating with you. It’s always good to have these spelled out for them in some way, shape or form to help reduce some of the frustration should they need to get ahold of you.

Last, make sure that you spell out what you are doing, and if necessary, what you’re not doing for the client.

Going back to my web example here, I like to spell out what I’m specifically doing. If I was doing any kind of retainer work that involve maintenance, I would include things like backups, website updates, or minor tweaks and adjustments. I would also add that I’m not offering SEO or marketing services. I leave those to the experts, and it’s good to make this clear to a client. I don’t mind if they ask me for a referral. That’s actually a good thing, because it shows they understand where my expertise ends. 

By setting boundaries, it helps cement your relationship with a client. When they don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing (or not), it can turn into a mess. Being clear and upfront with them that so that they know what to expect can also position you as an expert in what you are providing to them.

So those are my tips for setting boundaries for clients. These are pretty simple, basic ones. But if you go through and set these for any of your future projects or clients, you’ll notice a difference in the relationship that you have with them.

Sign up for Finally Friday

Get weekly updates from me, as well as a free sample copy of my typeface Harvest Stout!

Daniel Nisbet will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. You acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.