Boundary Setting – Why It’s Critical to Your Sanity
Setting boundaries with my clients and sticking to those boundaries when things get busy is a constant challenge for me. Sometimes I find that if I give in just once to handle a client issue it then becomes a trend and an expected behavior. Granted, there will always be urgent matters that need my immediate attention, but they should be few and far between and not a consistent occurrence. So what should you do if you find yourself in a situation where a client is asking more of you than what was agreed upon at the beginning of the business relationship? In this blog you will find some tips on how to set, communicate, and address boundaries with clients.
“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life
and the people you allow in it.” ― Mandy Hale
Developing Your Boundaries
Developing your boundaries is a crucial step to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with your clients. This was a difficult lesson for me to learn, and I learned it the hard way. When I first started out as a Virtual Assistant, I didn’t have boundaries established and I quickly became frustrated with my clients. I thought I needed as much experience as I could get as quickly as I could get it. Well, that backfired on me. I took on too much work and too many clients. I worked crazy long hours and neglected myself and my family. Clients contacted me at all hours with requests, continuously assigned last minute projects, and asked me to perform higher level services that were not listed in their contract. (At least I had a contract!) Finally, I realized the problem was not with my clients, it was with me and my lack of setting and communicating my boundaries!!! (Sunray from the sky shines down upon me.) So, I performed a simple task and asked myself, “What do I want my typical ideal day to look like?”.
What are my office hours? Will I work with clients in different time zones? How will that impact my work hours? Will I work weekends or holidays?
After creating your ideal day – – – – Communicate and share your boundaries to potential and current clients. How else will they know when to call and how quickly you will respond to an email or text? Your clients will appreciate knowing in advance how you work and when. A welcome letter from you to your client with your contact information, working hours, billing and payment information is a great way to get the relationship started on the right foot.
What about those times when a client is constantly overstepping the boundaries? Are they emailing you with questions and expecting immediate responses or sending you a project at 5 pm Friday and needing it by 8:00am Monday, or worse over the weekend?
You will need to address the situation ASAP, but not when you are frustrated or upset. Write down your concerns and what is happening. Then write down what your boundaries are for those occurrences. For example, if your client is sending you last minute projects and expecting a quick turnaround you may need to reiterate your working hours and how far in advance they should send you project work. These discussions are best to do over the phone but I find that writing it down helps you stay on track and ensures you discuss everything that is a concern. It won’t hurt to type up an email with your concerns and suggestions and send it to your client. They will appreciate being able to read and digest the information before discussing it with you. If your client is not willing to follow your boundaries then you may need to examine that relationship closely and possibly make some difficult decisions.
Action steps to implement:
- Develop your ideal day.
- Set your boundaries based on your ideal day.
- Communicate those boundaries to potential and current clients
- Address any issues immediately before it gets out of hand and becomes a strain on the relationship.
For more information about setting boundaries with clients check out How to Set Healthy Business Boundaries by Allison Braun.
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