Setting limits with clients may be immensely challenging for small business owners and freelancers. On the one hand, you want to draw customers and keep them satisfied. The clients will, however, only be useful (and simple to work with) if they respect your boundaries.
Consider this: If a client doesn’t pay on time, what good are they doing? If one client requires so much of you that you find it difficult to focus on your other clients, is that client really worth it?
And how are you going to achieve a healthy work-life balance if a client keeps calling you after business hours? Setting boundaries with clients is crucial for this reason. And when these boundaries are overstepped, actions need to be taken.
You must impose rigorous boundaries in order to prevent these problems. But how can you accomplish it while still satisfying your customers?
Tips for setting boundaries with clients
Ask questions before committing to a contract
Some independent contractors fail to conduct their research before signing a contract because they are too enthused about getting a new customer. The majority of independent contractors just focus on the scope and the payment terms, omitting anything else. When rules are not discussed, this creates a bad precedent that makes it simpler for either side to violate the contract.
Discussions with your client should be open and honest before any contracts are signed. Additionally, while attempting to be transparent about your boundaries, list client expectations.
Before you begin working together, these dialogues will ensure that you are on the same page. Additionally, it offers a way to resolve any problems before it’s too late. For instance, if the client’s required weekly hours bother you, you can find a solution before the job begins.
Use official channels of communication
The methods of communication are one of the important topics you should go through in advance. Email is quite common, but for efficient client communication, you also need a second channel like Zoom, Skype, or Slack.
Make sure to adhere to the choices you decide on at all times. Don’t, for instance, text your client using WhatsApp. When poor habits are formed, it may seem harmless to do something once, but before you realise it, there will be no difference between how you speak to clients and your best friend.
Enforce your boundaries consistently
Consistently maintaining your boundaries will help to ensure that they are respected. Don’t break the rule tomorrow by telling your client you aren’t accessible for after-hours calls today. Your customers find it unclear, and it makes you appear foolish. Respect your limits at all times throughout the partnership.
Understand your priorities
You must first recognise what’s important in your life before you can create and follow through on your boundaries. What are the week’s, month’s, or quarter’s top priorities? How many hours a week do you set aside for yourself or your family?
Knowing your priorities makes it simpler to spot customer requests that conflict with your objectives.
Respect your clients’ boundaries
Just as you would expect them to respect your boundaries, respect those of your clients. After all, respect is a two-way street.
Ask the customer if they have any additional stipulations before outlining your expectations. If they do, make a note of them.
Be prepared to walk away
Although it may not seem appropriate to turn down a business opportunity, let’s face it: not every client is beneficial to you and your final objective. Clients are likely to cause more harm than benefit if they are unable to respect clearly set boundaries.
As a result, don’t be scared to decline proposals if they don’t fit with your objectives; just be sure to do so nicely and respectfully. Have an honest discussion with the client and let them know you are unable to complete the assignment. The majority of clients will value your candour and won’t hold it against you going ahead.
The idea is to decline the client without actually saying “No.” Additionally, you don’t want to go into too much detail. Please feel free to suggest a colleague who you think can help your client with the work. That’s an additional technique for keeping your limits while assisting a customer in need.
When clients overstep your boundaries…
No matter how strongly you set limits, clients will inevitably breach them, sometimes repeatedly. Whether a client knowingly crossed our lines or not, it is our responsibility to let them know what works best for us and to make clear what is acceptable or not. Here are some pointers on how to let a client know that they are going too far.
Restate your boundary if someone is consistently stepping over it or if their behaviour somehow feels disrespectful to you. Imagine a client who keeps on complaining about everything from the design to the color scheme (which, by the way, is in fact made of the company colors!). Make sure to include information about working hours, precise deliverables needed, and how quickly clients may expect a response from you in your email signature or footer, for instance. Inform the client as needed while standing your ground.
Suppose that client calls you after business hours to inform you that your deadline has been pushed back for whatever reason. You should inform them that it is after business hours, you have taken notice of the revised deadline and will resume work on the project the following working day. Reiterate that you only work for them during specific hours of the day and that any other time after that is personal. For extreme cases, you can either start late or stay late. Avoid letting clients take advantage of you to fit their schedules.
When you say no, mean it! Although it can be challenging to acquire, this ability is crucial for life and coaching clients. Say no to pursuits that demand excessive amounts of your time or energy. Refuse to engage in conversations that are too intimate.
Never feel bad about the restrictions you impose or the choices you make. A client who doesn’t like your boundaries might try to change them by manipulation or guilt, in which case a different coach might be more beneficial.
Before you go…
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