Today I’m going to talk about a very important aspect of keeping yourself sane & happy in your work life. Client Boundaries. We all need ‘em, and we all need to enforce ‘em.
During my first year as a freelancer I was very lax with client boundaries. I’d be the one firing off emails after 6pm, letting my clients push me into burning the midnight oil because of their new deadlines, and lulling myself into the false idea that this was “just how it is when you work for yourself”.
One particular client of mine who was in the USA at the time (and was well aware of the time differences), pressured me into working well into the night. I felt deflated, unproductive, and down right pushed around. My work suffered, my home life suffered, and I got sick. Yeha.. that client relationship didn’t last very long.
It shouldn’t be like this, and here is where client boundaries come into play.
Setting your client boundaries
When you start working with a new client it’s important to communicate your boundaries, or at least have them set in your own mind so you can act upon them during the course of the project. You might even want to add your boundaries into your contract.
Here’re my current client boundaries:
- No communication or enforced work after 6pm and before 8.30am.
- No communication or enforced work on weekends.
- No Facebook communication regarding projects.
- If a client comes to me with a tight deadline, I’ll tell them my schedule and when I could realistically (within work hours of 8.30am-6pm) have the project completed.
Client boundaries do not mean that you can’t occasionally play catch up on weekends and evenings, but keep that to yourself else it’ll become expected.
Enforcing your client boundaries
So, you’ve got your boundaries set-up, how do you enforce them? Here are some lines, and responses, you can expect to get from clients in order to get you to flaunt your boundaries.
- “This is an exceptional circumstance” “I appreciate that, but please see it from my point of view – if I pushed myself with each of my clients’ exceptional circumstances, I wouldn’t have any personal time!” I’d then go on to organise an acceptable schedule for the work.
- “Just this one time…” “Sorry, I have family and personal commitments that just won’t accommodate working out of hours… let’s get this scheduled within my working hours.”
- “This is an important deadline for me” (if this was a deadline you knew about then unfortunately you’re gonna have to pull out all the stops to get the work delivered on time, otherwise…) “I totally understand! However, had I/we known about it in advance we could have scheduled the work to meet the deadline. Right now all we can do is get this delivered ASAP without compromising on quality.”
Without setting and enforcing your boundaries, you’ll become a slave to your clients and your work will suffer. Don’t let that happen. You need to live a happy, stress-free life in order to create awesome work. Be consistent, be brave, and be honest.
Boomerang is an effective tool for Gmail that lets you send email hour after you’ve actually hit send.