The best time to set boundaries with a client is at the beginning of your business relationship. But how do you handle the situation where you need to make some changes in the dynamics of an existing client relationship? Let’s look at why you might need to establish boundaries with your current clients and the best way to approach that.
Do you currently feel overworked in your business?
There can be several reasons for this. For example,
1. You may not have structured your offer properly.
2. You might be undervaluing your services, which means your clients are also undervaluing your services! (And this can be the case even if you’re already charging 5K or more for your offerings. It’s a question of whether you’re being compensated for the value you’re providing.)
Let’s go into a bit more detail on this second point. A key sign that you might be undervaluing your services is feeling completely overworked in your business. And one reason for being overworked in your business is not sticking to the boundaries in your business relationships or not having any boundaries to start with.
Maybe you have noticed that you have been overworking yourself. This is an excellent starting point because it’s only when you acknowledge the situation that you can change it.
If you feel that it might be time to set some client boundaries in your business, then keep reading.
Why do you need boundaries in your business?
Having boundaries is not only good for you, it benefits your clients as well. Boundaries set the expectations and tone for your business relationships, which gives clarity. And clarity creates happy clients.
So if your relationship with a client is not ideal, don’t panic. See the situation as an opportunity to act as the leader that you are. And as a chance to uplevel your business.
As business owners, we love helping our clients. We are fully invested in helping them achieve the transformation or results they desire. If you have high-ticket coaching, consultancy or service offers, you may feel even more obliged to fulfill all your clients’ wishes.
However, if we don’t make sure that there is a balance between what our clients ask of us and the value that we give in relation to the money we receive, we can end up feeling overworked and even resentful towards our clients. It can feel like they are not valuing the service that we are providing.
It’s clear that being overworked is not good for you. But it’s not good for your clients either. Why? Because you might start making mistakes or the quality of your work could suffer.
If we want our customers to value our services, respect our time and honor the agreement that we have, we need to be really clear about what is and is not acceptable in our business relationship.
Remember those days when we could hop on a plane without a second thought? At the beginning of the flight, the security information tells you that in the event of an emergency, you should put on your own mask first before helping anyone else, even your children.
You need to look after yourself first before you can look after others. This applies in both your personal and your business life. I don’t mean this in a selfish way. But it’s only when we are happy with the relationship we have with our clients that we can do our best work together. By putting yourself first, you help others too.
How to put boundaries in place in your business
Once you start taking care of your business needs first, your clients will treat you differently. They’ll have more aligned expectations from your service and place a higher value on the work you’re doing together.
If you set those expectations upfront, then it’s pretty easy. First, you tell each person that works with you how important they are to you as a client. Then you lay out your guidelines in a clear and friendly way, emphasizing that they’re essential for you to deliver high-quality service. (If you’d like further advice on setting boundaries with your new clients – you can read my post on that here.) But if you haven’t set any expectations at the beginning, don’t worry. The next step is to think about what is not going so well within the client relationship. Jot down a couple of things that you would like to change.
Keep a little perspective here and assume that you have at least 20% responsibility in each case. What boundary could you have set from the beginning to avoid the current situation? Do this for each one of the topics in the list that you have created.
Let’s say you’re a designer. To avoid delays creeping into your project timeline, you’ll need to let your clients know that when you send them their color palette for approval, they must get back to you within 48 hours.
Or, if you are a life coach, to avoid last-minute no-shows, make it clear to your clients how much notice they must give to cancel a session.
Once you’re clear on the guidelines you want to introduce, then schedule an appointment with your client to discuss the changes.
It’s important for you to take charge of the situation. You could start the conversation by saying,
“First of all, I want you to know how important our business relationship is for me. You know, I have been considering our work together, and I feel that I could have been clearer about the expectations for us to have a better working relationship. I’m sorry about that. Now, I would like to improve that situation. And would love to go over a couple of points with you that will help ensure we work in the best possible way to achieve >>the results you help your clients achieve<<.”
And that’s it! Then you state exactly what your client can expect from you and what you expect from your client in return. Be very clear about those expectations and how things will work going forward.
Setting expectations and guidelines for clients in your business forms the basis for healthy boundaries. Because then you always have a framework to refer back to and remind your client what you agreed at the beginning, should you need to.
Once you are clear on your guidelines, you just need that straightforward conversation to discuss them with your client. A simple tweak – but it could make a huge difference to your business.
Have you come across a situation recently where you needed to set boundaries with an existing client? How did you handle it?