Do you say yes to business opportunities that aren’t quite aligned with your current priorities? Feel pulled in a million different directions, overwhelmed, and run down? Do your clients constantly ping you outside of work hours or request work above and beyond your capacity? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be entitled to the following two cents and work to set boundaries with your clients.
If you don’t establish boundaries in the workplace from the beginning, it may morph into negative effects when you attempt to reestablish your standards later on. When you start setting boundaries or changing existing ones, you may expect a range of negative responses or reactions such as resistance, pushback, and sometimes hostility. Guilt and shame are distinct emotions of implementing borders that aren’t well received. A great way to avoid this is to set a standard right off the bat and make sure you and your clients are both aware of each other’s expectations.
When you respect your personal boundaries, others typically will too. Remember: you teach people how to treat you.
Setting Boundaries with Clients
1. Respect Yourself
First, you need to think about what you want. In order to communicate your guidelines to others, you need to know what they are. Take the time to decide what your working hours will be, when and how often clients can contact you, and what is included in the scope of work with those clients.
Understanding your personal values helps you determine where you’d like to set boundaries with clients. By first knowing your values, you’re able to set up systems to help you get your needs met. For example, if there is a hobby outside of work that you are passionate about, you will want to make time for that and have limits about working overtime too often or being available on the weekends. Don’t think about what you can do, but what you really want to do in your work.
2. Standards & Expectations
It’s important to identify what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Creating a structure or agenda for you and your clients or coworkers positions you as a professional and shows that you take your work seriously.
That being said, it’s also important for you to set boundaries at home. Once you log out for the day, do not go back online. Spending time with your family or loved ones, watching TV, and/or dedicating some time to self-care is necessary. If you are not replenishing your mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves, then you won’t be able to perform at your best the next day. Make a daily and weekly checklist with your top 3-5 priorities, then get comfortable turning down requests that don’t align with your list.
3. Communicate Clearly
Yes, you need a contract. Contracts communicate your guidelines to clients. They should detail what’s included in your work, and also what is expected from your client. Layout your limits very clearly to both your colleagues (if applicable) and clients. Make sure to address the repercussions if the contract is not followed or if the scope of work changes.
It’s also important to address the hours you are available for work-related conversations, and what constitutes as an emergency. This will help avoid disputes, misunderstandings, and the need for difficult conversations. It also allows for you and your clients to engage in more positive communication in the future. Commit to clear, open, direct conversations with your clients and ask them to do the same.
4. Prepare for Violations
Let’s face it- violations are inevitable. When they happen, make sure you bring them up right away. When boundaries with clients are violated, it is not uncommon for people to get upset or muse about the situation for days or weeks after. This is another great reason why you should set boundaries with clients right off the bat. If it is never addressed, this lays a great foundation for resentment. By addressing them in real time, it allows for an opportunity to be instructive, gain insight, and improve on your communication skills. By being assertive, you claim respect for yourself and gain back time and energy to do things that nourish your business and bring joy to your mind, body and spirit.