“Sure, you can call me on the weekend.” I told my client, trying to sound perky.
I swallowed hard as my husband mouthed “what the f*ck” at me. I turned away from him, blushing. My eyes were dry, scratchy, from spending over 50 hours staring at a computer screen that week. I was over-caffeinated, under-rested (is that a thing? It HAS to be a thing) and at the end of my rope … but this was one of my only clients.
I had to please her. There was no other way.
This, my lovely lady boss, is a true story from my early days a graphic designer running her own biz. I was young, bright-eyed and wildly idealistic about trusting my clients with my time and talent.
It took many years for the wool to fall from my eyes (and for me to grow some cahoonies) but today I wouldn’t even dream of telling a client this. No matter what the situation. Heck, I wouldn’t ever let them think they could ask that of me.
Why? Because I have boundaries.
Boundaries that – lovingly – set expectations for how my clients and I interact with each other. Boundaries that – kindly – set the ground rules for what behaviour is acceptable … and what behaviour is not. Which is why you’re here today.
If you’re running your own biz, you will get people trying to take advantage of your time and kindness. Fact. But that doesn’t mean you have to let them.
(pre-ps: there is a boundaries video at the end too!)
Your mini guide to Client Boundaries >
1. Set ‘em!
Sounds pretty obvious, but if you want boundaries, you have to figure out what they are and then decide to stick to them. For me, I’m a stickler about wasteful phone calls (probably a reaction to my early nightmare experiences). I also have a strict payment process and take every Friday off work.
2. Make your boundaries clear.
Don’t set boundaries and then whisper them once. Set boundaries and then make them crystal clear! Put your office hours on every single email. Have a section of your site devoted to educating your clients on your boundaries. Share your boundaries in your client welcome kit. Tell them your boundaries when you speak on the phone. Set them. Make them clear. Repeat them if necessary.
3. Specify whom you work with.
… And whom you DON’T work with. It’s okay to have favourites. Your peeps. The guys and gals that light you up and that you’re ALL about working with. In fact, it’s encouraged. So list whom your ‘peeps’ are on your site … and then sit back and enjoy when all of those dream clients start knocking on your door (and the time-wasters and tyre-kickers look for someone else to bother).
4. Make your design process crystal clear.
We each have our own preferred ways of working, which means that even if your new client has worked with a graphic designer before, they haven’t worked with you before. This is new to them. So make things easier – for the both of you – by providing clarity around your design process early on. I send each of my new clients a ‘welcome kit’, which is a type of induction that introduces them to my working style and what they can expect the design process to look like.
5. Turn your price list into a download.
This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but by making your price list readily available to download, you’re actually dissuading any time-wasters. You’ll also cut down on those annoying ‘bargaining’ conversations (i.e. the people that want discounts or special offers) as your prices are transparent and professionally set in stone.
Wanna see these boundaries in action on my website?