Today’s on-demand digital workspace gives our clients the impression we’re available 24/7. If you’re answering messages and emails after hours, or working on projects while the rest of your household is enjoying breakfast or dinner, it might be time to establish some boundaries with your clients and customers.
Not doing so will eventually leave you feeling burnt out and exploited. Setting boundaries can be tough. If you’ve spent any time working in the administrative support space, you know that saying “no” can have repercussions. Ingrained habits can be hard to break, even as a business owner. Let’s take a look at some key areas that need solid boundaries. By setting boundaries early in the business relationship, your clients will respect you and your time.
Boundaries For Office Hours
While you want to be available to clients and customers, you do need time to work uninterrupted. Establish set office hours where clients and customers can reach you. Any messages or emails sent outside of your office hours can be handled the next business day.
Communicate these hours in your contract: “Office hours are 9-6 PDT, M-F. Any communications received outside of office hours will receive a reply the following business day.” Clients will know not to expect a response at 2:00 PM on a Saturday.
The digital workspace means you have a full menu of options when it comes to communication preferences: phone, email, messaging app, voicemail and so forth. As a business owner, you have the option of establishing your preferred method of communication.
Establish this boundary early with your clients with a clause in your contract: “My team and I utilize Slack for all client/team communications. I will send you a link for accessing the account, along wth a Loom video introducing you to the basics of Slack.”
The goal is to avoid the ringing phone that disrupted so many of your corporate workdays. Select a communication method that works best for you, and stick with it.
As a business owner, you’ll be dealing with a wide range of clients. Some clients will be laid back and will only want an update at key project milestones, or if an issue arises that requires their input.
Other clients may want a daily check-in, which may or may not be practical for you.
Address this early with your clients, and address it in writing in your contract: “Client and I agree to a once-weekly check-in call to assess progress and milestones.” Arrive at a mutual agreement with your client regarding check-ins, but make sure it’s in line with the rest of your business demands.
Establishing boundaries around money has never been easy for most of us. Money has been a taboo subject in many households and workplaces, so it makes sense the issue of payment is thorny at best, especially when discussing late payment or non-payment for services.
Establish a payment policy in writing and stick to it. Assessing late fees for past due payments is acceptable and within professional standards for all businesses. Your contract or service agreement should clearly outline payment due dates (or auto-draft dates for Stripe users), late payment fees/interest, and the consequences of non-payment.
Scope Of Services
Suppose you are a life coach who works with new college grads and career-changers. Your services are focused on establishing career goals, aptitudes, and clarifying personal and professional values as they relate to your client’s eventual career. Establishing a scope of services early in the business relationship will help you avoid the dreaded “scope creep.” Scope creep occurs when a consultant or business owner finds themselves performing services not previously agreed upon when the agreement was signed.
Some clients will test boundaries by asking for services outside of your regular scope of services. If you feel the additional services are outside your scope of expertise, politely decline. Remind your client of the initial agreement that was signed.
Boundaries are essential to a successful business. Your client agreement or contract is the ideal tool for creating and establishing boundaries around availability, communication preferences, and other key elements. Creating boundaries allows you to remain focused on your business while preserving your personal time and peace of mind.