When you are beginning freelance work, some of the worst mistakes can come from the learning curve. You are all the sudden responsible for managing AND doing all the work. It can feel overwhelming and frustrating trying to nail down what works for you as a business owner and a creator. One of the best lessons I have ever learned was that energy, while it is a renewable resource, does have a finite end.
Expending your energy in a way that doesn’t leave you completely uninspired, is really important if you want to be ‘in it to win it’. You have to know where the boundaries are and stick to them for your own health and wellness. The last thing you want is to look at your phone and see this…
Since we are all about empowering freelance website designers and content creators, we thought we would share some of our best tips for setting client boundaries that make everyone involved feel like they are #winning
Before you can set really awesome boundaries, you have to know what they are going to be. I find that oftentimes we can answer some fairly simple questions and avoid getting frustrated if we just take a moment to think about what our process really is!
Kristen, our resident design expert, has a saying that i love… 1,2,3 work with me. The premise is that you have to define your process to make it easier for people to say yes to you. A confused mind always says “no”, soif you want a yes, you have to clarify the process boo!
I get it, if you are new you might be thinking “I don’t have a process or boundaries, I just need to make some money dude.”
I fully feel that pain! I have been there, but I have to say it wasn’t until my process was clearly defined and my systems and organization was in place that my website design and marketing business really started to flourish.
Here is a list of questions to answer for your business. The answers will help you set boundaries that feel healthy and maintainable.
- What days do you work each week?
- What holidays are you off?
- How do you prefer to get communications from clients?
- Do you reply to them if they are late on payments?
- Do you have specific working hours?
- If you are out for an emergency or out sick what is the process
- Do you only check incoming communications (email, slack, skype, text, etc….) certain times of the day?
- Do you have weekly meetings or touch points they should use for communication?
Let clients know your boundaries clearly
Now that you have decided what your process and boundaries look like, you need to go ahead and fill in the rest of the world, because we aren’t mind readers, peeps! Make sure the process is clearly understood on the client’s end and send it to them in writing before your project starts so they are aware of it and you have something to reference later.
When I was first starting out I felt like boundaries would make me unattractive to clients, NOT TRUE! Boundaries are sexy, and they keep a little air of mystery about the relationship that helps the client keep an appreciation for you and what you do. Enforcing your boundaries will not make clients shy away from working with you, it will give them confidence in you as a service provider. Remember this is not emotional, it’s good business.
Contracts are your friend
If you are not sending contracts, let us just encourage you, ALWAYS send a contract. Dont make the noob mistake I did when I was starting out by avoiding contracts because they felt too stiff. It is your insurance policy. As awkward as it might feel to send, it will be way more awkward if you get stiffed over $3k on your first job as a freelancer, true story! #neveragain
Contract templates are everywhere online and we use the ones from AIGA. These are standard designer contracts that will help you get your business protected and keep you from experiencing issues with non-payments! This is also a great place to put in all the information you put together in the first section!
What to do if a client crosses a boundary
It happens, a client gets your phone number and next thing you know they are blowing you up with texts at 11:59 pm asking for something at midnight. It’s a real thing yo! The key to letting clients know how and when to communicate with you is that YOU have to be the one to stick to it.
You have to set a standard of not rewarding bad behavior or incorrect request processes. That is where you are the boss and need to be kind to yourself as an employee. Any job in the corporate world where your boss asked you to work late without extra pay all the time is not one you would stay at. Don’t allow that to happen to your business either. Sometimes people think of freelancers as side hustlers, rather than legitimate businesses. It is up to us to correct that perception by sticking to the rules we lay down! When a client crosses the line, simply clearly communicate that it was over the boundary and to please refrain from doing it again. If it happens again, do not respond the next time until they submit the request in the right time and place as you have laid out. Don’t allow them to stress you out with bad communication.
We hope these tips helped you feel more confident in setting boundaries for your clients. Check out the full reply on Facebook Live that we did on this topic!