Have you heard the saying “good fences make good neighbors”? I like to think the same is true for clients—“good boundaries make good clients.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my clients. I wake up some days and I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to get to work with such incredible entrepreneurs. But that can mean it’s even more important to set up boundaries so we can all find balance and don’t get caught in the hamster wheel of all work and no play.
So how do you set up your relationship right away?
First, set clear expectations up front
Have a welcome packet or document that tell your clients up front what your working hours and days are. Be clear in the turnaround time for responding to messages and emails during working hours and let them know how to reach you in case of an emergency. Also, be sure to let them know the best ways to contact you.
But here comes the harder part—sticking to those boundaries yourself!
This means that even if you are answering emails at 9 pm at night you can use technology and schedule your response to go out at 9 am the next morning. As much as you’re curious about what your dear client has said on a message at 11 pm on a Saturday night, block in time during your next work time to listen to those messages. Did your client just send you 15 files in Facebook Messenger? It’s ok to respond (in the tool that you both agreed to in the beginning) and gently remind them where to send the information so that nothing gets lost.
Not only will you avoid feeling burned-out or resentful—your clients will be grateful too!
This doesn’t mean that we’ll never work odd hours or overtime, but the more those things are planned, like for a launch, the better everyone will feel about them.
Have a plan for scope creep
Have you heard of scope creep? Wikipedia says “in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.”
To prevent scope creep from happening:
Make sure that your roles and expectations are clearly outlined in your contract. If something is outside of your agreement, both parties will know right away.
Have clear guidelines in your contract for things that require a quick turnaround time or outside of your business hours (i.e. weekends, or faster than 24 hours).
Then, if your client asks for something that would be outside of your agreement it’s as simple as reminding them of the extra charge for the turnaround time. In most cases, only the most urgent of tasks cannot wait until Monday.
Travel and time out of the office
It’s important as the business owner that you communicate in advance when you will be taking time out of the office and what your clients can expect.
Will you be working partial hours on your vacation or be totally unreachable?
Will you get your work done for your client before you leave or will someone be filling in for you or be a point of contact while you’re away?
Letting your client know these things well in advance of any travel will ease worry for them and stress for you while you’re away and keep everyone on the same page.
Relationships with our clients are so important and putting some of these ideas in place early will only benefit your partnership and ensure that everyone is happy. Healthy boundaries are a huge part of the recipe for a successful business.
PS I love hanging out with entrepreneurs and having conversations like this one + sharing other business tips and tricks on Facebook. Come say ‘Hi’!