Impatient texts, late payments, and inappropriate advances. These are all examples of clients who needed set boundaries (or a quick firing).
Boundaries aren't always top of mind when you're working on a client management plan, but they're essential. They help keep professional connections healthy and productive. The trick is to make sure everyone feels respected without pushing your clients away.
You want to provide top-notch customer service, right? Boundaries help you do that. Just remember that boundaries aren't only about looking out for yourself, they also help you help your clients.
Setting limits with clients doesn't have to mean losing business—here are 9 tips to help as you set boundaries for your clients.
1. Define your boundaries
Figuring out what your boundaries are is the first step to setting them. Work out what you need in your life to get the right mix of work and play.
Putting a cap on the number of hours you work, the projects you take on, or abstaining from communication during non-business hours could be helpful. Don't forget to consider your personal life and the time you need to rest and look after yourself.
After you've established what your boundaries are for yourself, it's easier to make them clear to your clients.
2. Communicate your boundaries
Once you’ve defined your boundaries, communicate them clearly to your clients.
Be specific and direct about what you are and are not willing to do. For example, if you don’t work on weekends, let your clients know you're unavailable during those times.
It’s important to cleary state your boundaries early in your professional relationship, even before you work together, to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that your clients respect your limits.
I’ve created a client onboarding packet I personalize and send to every client. Making sure we understand one another from the start creates an atmosphere of respect.
3. Be consistent
Being consistent is the key to successful boundary setting. Stick to the limits you have set, and don’t make exceptions unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your clients will have a greater appreciation for you when they know what to expect from you.
Establishing and maintaining boundaries is not a one-time job, it’s an ongoing process. You need to be consistent in enforcing your limits to maintain a healthy and productive professional relationship.
4. Offer alternatives
If a client wants something that is beyond your capabilities, recommend a different option that meets their needs without overstepping your limitations. If a client requests a meeting outside business hours, suggest a time that fits both of you. It’s important to find a compromise that works for both you and your client, so they don’t feel you’re not willing to work with them.
5. Focus on the benefits
When defining your limits, think of how everyone benefits. Demonstrate how defining limits will improve your work and make you more successful in the long run. Clients will be more likely to respect your boundaries if they get what's in it for them. Don't forget you need boundaries for your own good and for your client's sake.
6. Use technology to help enforce boundaries
Tech can give you extra support for setting boundaries. You could use an email autoresponder to let people know you're not available and a scheduling tool to help manage your time better. You can also take advantage of communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to set communication limits and make sure work-related conversations happen during business hours.
7. Evaluate your boundaries regularly
It’s important to evaluate your boundaries regularly to ensure ’re still working for you. As your business grows and develops, your boundaries may need to be adjusted. Take a few minutes to think about what's going well and what isn't, then adjust as necessary.
8. Be confident in your boundaries
Establishing limits can be tough, especially if you're in the habit of doing way more than you can manage comfortably in order to make people happy. Make sure you stay true to your boundaries and don't waver. Don't forget that setting boundaries isn't about missing out on business, it's about setting up a healthy and productive professional relationship that works for both you and your clients.
9. Say “no” when necessary
It's hard to say “no” to a client, but sometimes it’s necessary to protect your boundaries. If a request is outside of your limits and you can’t find an alternative solution, it’s okay to say “no”. Be respectful but clear and let them know why you can't do it. Clients will respect you more if you are honest and upfront with them.
It's hard to draw lines with clients, but it's crucial for a balanced life and to dodge burnout. By defining your limits, communicating them clearly, and offering alternatives when necessary, you can set boundaries without losing business.
Keep the advantages for both sides in mind, be consistent in setting limits, and have faith in your limits. Setting limits isn't about turning away business, it’s about having positive, successful relationships that help everyone.