How to Set Boundaries With Demanding Clients
The need to set boundaries.
It’s something every business owner needs, but not every business owner understands.
I admit that I’ve had trouble with boundaries in the past. I had this false belief that the client, no matter how off base they were, was always right. Fortunately, I had an old boss who showed me how not true this is.
The reality is there’s a difference between catering to clients and being taken advantage of. The ability to set boundaries with clients – particularly the demanding ones – will help you avoid the latter.
Here are some of the ways to set boundaries in your business so that you get paid on time, don’t waste your time and avoid headaches.
Remember that you have control over how your business runs.
Often times it’s not the client who has a problem – it’s you.
Hear me out.
We teach clients how to treat us. That means we need to remember that we have control in our business and we have every right to exercise that control. Additionally, how is a client supposed to know what’s appropriate if we’re not the ones setting the boundaries?
For example, I used to have a client who would call whenever they felt like it (one of the many reasons I don’t give clients my cell phone number). It’s not that they were overly demanding – they were actually sweet as pie – it’s just that’s how they roll.
So what did I do? I didn’t pick up and I sent them an email saying I was booked (because I was) and asked them to set up a formal meeting at my next availability. I also asked if there was a way they could send stuff via email instead of speaking on the phone.
The client didn’t have a problem with this at all. They responded with some information via email and set up a meeting for the next week to discuss a project.
Set clear expectations.
Setting boundaries come up a lot during sessions with my private coaching clients. One problem I see often as they try to set boundaries is the lack of setting clear expectations.
For example, I have one coaching client who was telling me how her meetings would often run over an hour and would cause her to be late to other business engagements.
I asked her if she’d set a clear expectation with her client about how long meetings are. She said no.
So the fix, in this case, would be to be very clear with your clients about expectations. And then you have to actually stick to those expectations. In my client’s case, that would look like telling clients that session are only an hour and then she’d have to keep her eye on the clock.
Put “Boundary Bumpers” in place.
It’s no secret that boundaries get pushed when it comes to getting paid. How many times have checks gotten lost in the mail? Or clients ghost on you when you need to get paid?
The best way to avoid this is by a) setting clear expectations as mentioned above and b) putting what I like to call “Boundary Bumpers” in place.
For example, I put my coaching clients on auto billing. That means their cards get charged automatically when payments are due. For writing clients, I have late fees in place. These two little actions alone save me lots of headaches.
The ability to set boundaries with demanding clients comes with experience and practice. Most of us are not born knowing how to do this. The good news is you can start changing that by implementing the tips mentioned in this article.