There’s nothing more frustrating than working with a client who you feel doesn’t respect you and your business. They might be texting you constantly, adding to the scope of work without asking, expecting immediate responses, and more. When I first started my business, I let these situations get to me because I didn’t understand why these things were happening. But over the years, I realized very clearly that most difficult client situations are due to a lack of setting appropriate boundaries from the get-go.
So if you have a client that seems to be bossing you around, remember this: YOU are the leader on their project. They’ve come to you for help, and it may be their first time working on a project like this, while you do it for a living. You’re in a much better position to lead, so go ahead and do it!
Keep reading for my top tips to be your clients’ leader from day 1, and avoid any difficult situations later on.
The best way to set expectations for your client early on is to send them a welcome guide as soon as they commit to their project. You can create a document that lays everything out there, and they’re able to reference it as needed should they have any questions throughout the project timeline.
I would recommend creating a simple PDF in Canva, or you can create a welcome guide in your chosen CRM platform. To make sure there’s no confusion and your client is reading the guide thoroughly, I think it’s best practice to go over the guide via phone call, Zoom, or in person. This eliminates the chance that they receive the guide with all of your boundaries included, and they don’t take the time to read it. Or they don’t read it carefully (which happens A LOT).
To create a welcome guide that provides enough clarity to your clients, I would include:
These items are super important because you can let them know immediately that you’ll only be available via email, or you only work Monday-Thurday, etc. Then, if the client ignores these boundaries, you can reference your welcome guide and remind them of the expectations set at the beginning of their project.
If you want happy, satisfied clients then it’s important to keep them up to date throughout their project. And if they’re constantly in the know, it will help them respect your boundaries more because they won’t feel the need to reach out as often.
The perfect way to overcommunicate without having to email your clients every other day is to give them access to your project management platform. That way, they can log in to their account and see exactly where their project is at. For example, I use Trello for my project management and it has been a total lifesaver.
I’m able to create a board for each client, and then I can lay out all of the steps in their project, create due dates, check them off as they’re completed, and even send messages. That way, whenever they have a question, they can quickly jump on their Trello board and see the progress that’s been made for themselves.
If you communicate your boundaries with a client when they book their project, you’re doing great! But what’s even more important than communicating your boundaries is sticking to them. You might be a month or so into a project when your client texts you a question because it’s “quick” or they don’t have their computer with them. Instead of responding via text “just this once,” I would encourage you to wait until you can get back to them using your chosen method of communication. In your message, you can also address the text and let them know that it’s easier for you to communicate via email, Trello, etc. For example, a message could look like this:
“Hi [client name]! I received your text asking about your project, so I wanted to reach out! Your project is in [this stage] and we’re expecting to move forward starting next week! Please send me [this homework] so we can ensure that we stick to our timeline. Please continue to communicate all of your questions to my business email. I know that you’re busy and I understand the ease of texting, but messages can get overlooked and I want to provide you with the best service possible. If you ever want to check on your project outside of my working hours, please feel free to access your Trello board where I keep everything up to date!”
A simple message like the one above is still sensitive to your client’s needs but still re-establishes the boundaries set in the beginning. Reasonable clients will receive your message and understand your request! I know it’s scary to ask someone who’s paying you to do something differently, but I promise, it will help you avoid MANY difficult situations in the future. Plus, your clients are NOT your boss. You’re always the boss, which is one of the best perks of being an entrepreneur!
If you missed part 1 of my boundary series, you can check it out here:
For a kickass client relationship manager, sign up for Honeybook here:
To manage your projects (and maintain your boundaries!) with ease, click here: