Do you feel obligated to check work emails, texts, and voicemails at all hours?
Do you often work weekends and holidays, even after you promised yourself you wouldn’t?
Do you feel pressured to say yes to pushy clients because it’s easier than saying no?
Do you feel resentful of clients for placing unreasonable demands on your time?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to check your boundaries. Establishing and enforcing professional boundaries with your clients is critical for all business owners, but especially if you work from home, where the lines between work and home life are easily blurred.
Unless you set effective boundaries, rather than you controlling your business, your business will control you, which can quickly lead to overwhelm and burnout. Conversely, creating healthy boundaries allows you to take charge of your day, your business, and your life.
If you are ready to set professional boundaries with your clients, here are 5 strategies to facilitate the process.
1. Define your boundaries: When it comes to setting boundaries with clients, you first need to decide how you want your relationship structured and how that relationship relates to the delivery of your product or service. From there, prepare a clear agreement that outlines and clarifies the expectations of both parties.
Although the boundaries you set will be determined by your specific business and your personal preferences for how you want to interact with clients, some common things all business owners need to consider include the following:
2. Incorporate your boundaries in formal legal agreements: To ensure your clients are aware of your boundaries—and the consequences for breaching them—incorporate your boundaries in the terms and conditions of your legal agreements. Then, make sure your client agreement is part of your sales process. Every client or customer must sign off on your legal agreement, even if they are a close friend or family member.
For example, in your client-service agreement or product-purchase agreement, you should specifically detail the scope of your work, what’s expected of the client, and what happens if the agreement is not followed or the scope of work changes. You should similarly outline your payment terms in these documents: how much you get paid, how and when you expect to be paid, along with how late payments and non-payment will be handled.
A Family Business Lawyer™ can assist you in creating legally binding agreements that clearly define your boundaries and outline exactly how they will be enforced.
3. Communicate your boundaries ahead of time: It’s important that you discuss these expectations with your clients, answer any questions they have, and get them to sign off before you start working. With a written policy in place, you won’t have to waste time and energy figuring out how to handle things if a client fails to show up for an appointment or pays their invoice late—you’ll simply follow your established protocol.
4. Be consistent with enforcement: Overly demanding clients often don’t realize they’re overstepping boundaries—and this is particularly true if you’ve let them cross your boundaries already without clarification. If you answer a client phone call during your off-hours or perform extra work that’s beyond the scope of your agreement without getting paid for it or without at least clarifying your boundaries, you’ve set a precedent that your time doesn’t really matter, and such behavior is likely to continue.
Setting boundaries is all about creating habits, and the most effective way to create a habit is by doing something consistently. If you don’t consistently enforce your boundaries, you are setting yourself up to have your boundaries crossed again and again. If this is happening, it’s not your clients’ issue to solve, it’s yours. And clear enforcement of boundaries and consistent upholding of your agreements will solve the problem.
5. Get comfortable saying “no” and cutting ties with problem clients: When establishing boundaries, don’t think just about what you can do, but what you really want to do with your work. This is your business after all, so align your boundaries with your priorities and passion, so you have the freedom to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t.
This means being comfortable saying no to clients and projects that are not in line with the vision you’ve set for your business. This may even require you to end relationships with clients who refuse to honor your boundaries. While you may feel anxious about turning down work or severing ties with problem clients, you’ll be better off in the long run.
You aren’t going to lose any clients worth having by setting boundaries. In fact, most clients will respect you more for clearly defining the terms of the business relationship—it shows you are a professional who takes the job seriously. In the end, not every client is a good fit for your business, and establishing firm boundaries is one way to weed out the bad ones before they cause problems.
Take control of your business
If you need support establishing professional boundaries, consult with a Family Business Lawyer™. Whether it’s developing boundaries that comply with local laws, putting your boundaries in legally binding agreements, or taking the appropriate actions to enforce your boundaries with problem clients, they’re there for you. Schedule a visit with one today to get started.