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How to Set Boundaries When Clients and Contractors Are Taking Advantage

Updated on January 17th, 2022

Setting business boundaries is one of the hardest things for business owners to do.

Our work-life balance can take a severe hit when we’re not careful to set limits with clients and contractors we hire. No one benefits if you’re tired and frustrated because you have too much on your plate and your time isn’t being respected.

I believe that people are inherently good. People don’t maliciously try to take advantage of one another. Instead, they feel you out to see what you will and won’t stand for.

If you’re easygoing and lax with boundaries, it leads to a cycle where they get used to asking a lot of you, possibly more than you’re comfortable with doing. Here’s how to set boundaries:

Make Call Limits Clear at the Beginning of a Conversation

Setting boundaries for calls is something I do when on the phone with prospective coaching clients or current clients. Phone calls have a tendency to get off track when there are not clear boundaries which makes them unproductive. Some people will even try to take advantage of you by extending the call beyond your agreement.

At the beginning of a call, I remind the client of how long the call will last. I also explain that because of the time constraint we should dig right into the meat and potatoes. Using this approach helps me end idle chit-chat which benefits me and the client.

Choose Times That You Do and Don’t Respond

One of the very best things I did about a year ago was set office hours for my business. I’ll be honest — I usually work past my office hours. But the purpose of setting them is to let others know that I won’t be answering calls, texts, or emails after that time.

Setting office hours lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. I didn’t feel like I needed to be working all of the time anymore because people knew I would be off the clock in the evenings and on the weekends. I’m also not a morning person. If you run your own business, you set your own rules. I choose not to do work early in the morning as well.

Up the Price if You Work Overtime

Clients love to ask for a little more than what you agree on until they find out it costs extra money. There are some unique cases where you may have such a high rapport with a client that you don’t charge for favors.

In most other cases, you should be asking for more money if a job is going beyond the scope of the work that you agreed on. You should also be asking for money if you have to do something in a rush because it can mess up your schedule.

I can guarantee you one thing, if you keep taking on more work with a smile on your face, the client will get more and more demanding. I’m someone who’s conflict averse and prefer not to ruffle any feathers. But to be treated fairly, you need to draw the line in the sand and let it be known what your conditions are for doing extra work. Otherwise, people will take advantage of you.

Get Clear on What You Will and Won’t Accept from Contractors

Contractors need to know what you expect as well. They need to know you’re serious about deadlines and you’re serious about quality. If you’re lax with guidelines and expectations, they also can become lax with the execution. 

I made the mistake of being easygoing when I hired a contractor recently. Emails with instructions weren’t checked, deadlines were missed, and errors were found in the work. I’m not just talking about a few things. I can handle a few mistakes. It was glaring problems with the work. But I kept ignoring the issues and fixing the work myself until the project was over without directly voicing my feedback.

I could easily blame the contractor, but it was my fault as well. I could have better managed the process and fired them early on. Instead, I got subpar work and paid the full price for it anyway.

Speaking up for yourself in all areas — with clients and contractors — is crucial. We’re all adults here so you setting boundaries shouldn’t be taken personally.

Taylor Gordon

Taylor Gordon

Taylor K. Gordon is a personal finance writer and founder of Tay Talks Money, a personal finance and productivity blog on hacking your way to a happier savings account. Taylor has contributed to MagnifyMoney, The Huffington Post, GoGirl Finance, Madame Noire, and The Write Life.

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