How To Set Boundaries With Clients

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fenceLast week, I wrote a post about mastering the challenges of working from home, and one of the most common challenges is creating boundaries that separate work and home life. In my experience, this is an integral part of successfully working from home.

A major element of boundary setting is consistently managing your work relationships. Here are some ways you can do that.

Develop Policies

By creating policies that govern your client relationships, and being consistent with them, your boundaries will become second nature. Some areas in which you may want to create business-wide policies include:

  • Rates, pricing and discounts
  • Availability and work hours
  • Billing practices
  • General turnaround time
  • Meeting requests

You may even want to incorporate some of these areas into your contract.

Make Sure Your Clients Understand Your Policies

It’s not enough to create policies. You need to be able to convey those policies to your clients and ensure they understand the terms. If you don’t opt to include your policies in your contract, you can draft a document outlining your policies and procedures. Give this document to new clients as part of your welcome package.

You can also relay your policies on a more informal basis verbally as the need arises. This approach can be gentler to convey but it can be more challenging to keep track of who knows about which policies.

Limit Exceptions

There are always exceptions, even when you have very clear and defined boundaries. For a long-term client, for example, you may decide to be a little more lenient with your availability and turnaround time when a situation warrants.

To avoid letting your exceptions overrun you, you may want to consider building exceptions into your overall planning. This information won’t be public knowledge, but it can help you make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Communicate Clearly

Just as effective communication is vital in other areas of your business, it is also vital in discussing and informing clients of your boundaries. It’s up to you to create the boundaries and then ensure you are not only letting your clients know, but being willing to respond to concerns that may develop from your policies. Answering questions and providing a general idea of why you have that policy (without justifying it) can make your clients more willing to accept the rules you’ve laid out.

Respect Your Clients and Their Boundaries

Just as you teach your clients how you want to be treated, you should also provide the same respect you are asking them to give you. Ask your clients their processes for the same areas where you are setting limits. If your clients have certain requests that are vital for them, be willing to consider adopting their policies in your day-to-day relationship.

Keep in mind that all relationships are based on give and take, so by clear communication and compromise, you are on your way to building healthy and reciprocal relationships with your clients.

How do you set boundaries in your work? How do you let your clients know what your boundaries are?

Image credit: Kym McLeod

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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