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How to Set Boundaries With Clients as a Business Owner

You’ve worked hard to get your business up and running. However, you’re starting to notice that, while you’re eternally grateful for your steady flow of clients, not every single one is a client you get excited to work with.

This is quite natural to experience, especially at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey because you often have to take clients just to keep your business alive. But if you’re noticing that some clients don’t value your time as much as others and it’s leading to feelings of resentment toward them (or even your business), it might be time to rethink how you’re communicating your boundaries with your clients.

I know that saying yes to every client’s demand can be tempting because you want to leave a good impression, but it’s not a great long-term strategy because overworking yourself just to please can quickly lead to burnout.

Not to mention, setting boundaries can be uncomfortable! But it’s necessary if you want your business to be sustainable.

So if you’re at a stage where you’re feeling this way, read on to learn some tips on how to set boundaries as a business owner!

Step 1: Set clear expectations from the start

One of the best things you can do for your sanity is to set some clear expectations with your clients right from the get-go! Being clear about what they can expect when working with you and therefore the type of client that will benefit most from your services can help you avoid working with clients who were never a great fit for your services.

Not setting clear and explicit expectations from the beginning can quickly backfire because you might end up working longer hours, feeling obligated to do favors, and taking projects that don’t align with what you want for your company long term. (AKA, it’s a quick path to burnout.)

But how does one set clear expectations without jumping on tons of lengthy consultation calls?

You need to create targeted messaging on your website that will explain what kind of client you love to work with and your process (more about that in Step 2) at the very least.

To touch more on having targeted messaging on your website, here’s what you can keep in mind:

  • Establishing a strong brand personality so you’re attracting clients who appreciate your views about your industry
  • Clearly stating your services + your pricing to weed out anyone who is simply price shopping 
  • Communicate the emotional benefits you aim to provide your clients

These details may seem small or even silly, but they can help you communicate how you run your business and the types of clients you love to work with!

If you’re not sure how to do this, you’ll want to hire a copywriter to help you out. Read this blog post for more information on what a copywriter is and how they can help you craft website copy that sets your expectations in a seamless manner!

Step 2: Communicate your process

Another great way to set boundaries with your clients is to be transparent about the steps you take when working with them. You could define how often you like to touch base with clients, how you like to communicate with them, and what your communication style is like.

For example, you might decide that following up with clients via email every two weeks is the best way to communicate with your clients. Or you might decide you’re most comfortable with one-on-one phone calls every week. 

Being clear about your process can help you avoid letting clients step on your boundaries and help you take on more clients who value the way you manage projects.

It can also help clear up any confusion with clients on when they should expect to see work from you, avoid letting them rush you, and can help you feel more confident in your work process!

Step 3: Get your contracts in order

Star this, write this on Post-Its all over your desk, make this your phone’s wallpaper — anything to remind you how important it is to have solid contracts in place!

Contracts are critical as a business owner because they help you set legal boundaries. They help protect you from being taken advantage of because a contract will outline important situations such as if the client cancels, when/how you should get paid, communication policies, project start and end date, revisions, etc.

For example, if a client asks for extra revisions after you’ve already delivered the final product but you’ve agreed to no revisions in your contract, you can confidently stick to your boundaries since you have the documentation to back them up.

Step 4: Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Most of us entrepreneurs live to serve, so it can be really difficult to say “no,” even when we know it’s the right thing to do. But I encourage you to practice it the next time a client asks you to do something that you don’t want to do or goes against your business’s values.

After all, when it comes to your own business and how you want to operate it, you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Not to mention, you’re the expert the client is hiring to do a certain job they don’t know how to do, so trust your expertise and intuition if a situation doesn’t feel right.

Saying no can also help you avoid setting a bad precedent by working with a client who doesn’t respect your boundaries. For example, if a client asks you to do a deliverable outside of the contract you agreed to, you should have the confidence to say no because it will help you avoid setting a precedent that you’ll go outside of the contract.

Instead of viewing “no” as a lost opportunity or a defiant act, think about the long-term benefits for both you and that client.

Step 5: Learn to recognize red flags

One way to be able to set boundaries with clients better is to learn to recognize red flags. Red flags are signs that act as warnings that something is likely not going to end well.

Ok, a little #storytime about recognizing red flags.

A lead had reached out to me with an enticing offer when I was getting my business off the ground: to stay at her gorgeous B&B property in exchange for my services. This was a great deal for me because I was looking to add projects to my portfolio. However, when we started discussing details, I realized she was asking me for a lot more than just website services.

What she really needed was a business coach, SEO expert, social media manager, and a whole team to help her sort out everything that she felt was going south in her business. Our messages got lost because there were so many separate messages being sent to me that it ended in a big mess.

The red flag? Being relied upon for much more than what you feel comfortable doing. While I’m all for adding surprises and complimentary small services to my clients for a five-star experience, there’s still a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed.

Now you’re ready to set boundaries in your business with confidence!

Setting boundaries with your clients is an important part of running a sustainable business. Setting boundaries will help reduce your stress levels and help you attract the type of clients you want to work with.

In order to set effective boundaries with your clients, you need to set clear expectations from the start, communicate your process, get your contracts in order, and be confident enough to say no when the situation calls for it. In addition, you should also be sure to recognize red flags because they can help you identify clients who aren’t a good fit for your business.

Finally, remember that you’re in charge of your business, and you have the right to set boundaries with your clients!

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