One thing that can be tough whether you’re just getting started with freelancing or if you’ve been doing it for a while already is setting boundaries with clients. You know, how they email you at midnight and expect a response? Or maybe you gave out your personal cell number and they text you every time they have a problem?
Setting boundaries with your clients is such an important part of running a successful freelance business, so here are some tips on how I set and maintain my boundaries.
Start off with them
When you’re starting work with a new client, right away start with your boundaries in place. If you wait until you’re midway through a project and then stop emailing back on the weekend or after a certain time at night, they may feel something is wrong with the project or the relationship. For me, this means if I get an inquiry email on Friday or Saturday night, I’m not responding until Monday. It means keeping the expectations clear of when they will hear from me so later in the project they don’t expect me to be working or replying to emails late on the weekend.
Keep them clear
You have to know what your own boundaries are to be able to keep them clear with clients, so make sure you know how you want to work. Once you know, make sure they’re clear to your clients. For me, this means keeping my office hours in my email signature so people know when I’m working, thus when they can safely expect an email response to me. It also means I clearly state on my contact pages that it might take me up to 48 hours to respond to their email. If you work in any unusual way (like – working Tuesday through Saturday, or only focusing on your business one day of the week), you should make that clear so that your clients know that it’s not that you’re just ignoring them.
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Stick to your guns
I do occasionally work later into the evening than 5PM; however, I will not work on the weekend or respond to emails after 5PM unless it’s urgent or that I missed a deadline. If your clients see that every now and then you’ll respond on the weekend, or you’ll be willing to work right this second on a project, they’ll begin to expect it. You really have to make sure you’re sticking to your boundaries, even if you know you’re working a little late or working on a quick turnaround. If you have a hard time sticking to the email boundary, try things like Right Inbox to schedule your email so that it’ll go out during your office hours!
Know the line you won’t cross
Lastly, it’s important to know the line you won’t cross when it comes to boundaries. For me, this means letting client work invade personal space or into my social media. So, I never give out my cell number to clients. If they need to reach me, they email, and if it’s urgent, I let them know they can use “URGENT” in their subject line so that I get to it faster. This also means I won’t work through social media. If something’s going on, it’s so hard to respond on social media plus, it’s just not something I want to do. So, if it’s more than just a few quick words, I ask them to email me. Plain and simple.
Setting boundaries with anyone can be difficult, but clients even more so, since they’re paying you and you can sometimes feel like you owe them every second of your life. However, I’ve found that I maintain my sanity and my life outside of work by setting these boundaries and sticking to them with every client.
Do you have boundaries with your clients? What do they look like?