Guest Post By Amy-Lynn Denham

Setting boundaries is difficult for a lot of people, whether in business or in their personal lives.  If it’s something you find difficult, take a few deep breaths and work your way through this blog post with an open mind.  Try to begin with this one thought clearly in your mind, “You deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.”

Good Boundaries Start with Positive Self-Image

I know what a lot of you are thinking, “Just because I deserve it doesn’t mean it’ll happen.”  And, yes, that’s true. I actually took to Facebook a few years ago to write a lengthy post about how I think the word “deserve” needs to be removed from our vocabulary.  

If we go through life thinking we deserve this or that we may only end up hurt, confused, and frustrated. But, in your business, you get to make the rules, and being treated fairly and respectfully should be rule #1.

I’ve talked to a lot of freelancers over time who have struggled with this thought.  Actually stepping into believing that they are worthy of setting strong boundaries with clients has been difficult for them.  

Especially when they are first starting out, they think things like, “Who am I to tell this big shot client what I will and will not accept from them?” and “What if I lose the job if I refuse to work weekends?”

Sometimes these concerns are valid.  

There are clients out there who will walk away from you and take their business with them because they are looking for someone they can take advantage of.  

But do you really want those clients?  

Do you really want someone to continually ask more of you than you can reasonably deliver?  

Do you want clients who make you feel small, who hold you hostage with their threats and your need for an income?

When running a freelancing business you wear all the hats, right?  You’re the marketer, the accountant, and the customer service representative.  That also means you are, essentially, the CEO.

Think about that for a minute.

You are the CEO of your business.

Now think about the way that CEOs are often viewed.  

Aren’t they seen as confident, powerful, deserving of respect?  I mean, hey, I think all people are deserving of respect, but if you’re really struggling with your own worth, I think this analogy is important for you.

What Will Your Allow in Your Relationships?

That is as simple as it is.  Just figure out what you will and will not allow in relationships with clients.  And make a list!

I like to start with different areas of the working relationship and the general working atmosphere.  After I’ve made a list of those, I start making a list of specific boundaries I should have in each of those areas.

Here’s an example:

Topics

  • Communication
  • Interviews, etc.
  • Refunds
  • Complaints
  • Work hours

Specific Boundaries for Communication

  • I will not allow clients to yell at me, speak down to me, call me names, etc.
  • If communication is to be done over the phone the client must call me if it is long distance.
  • Clients are not to contact me through my personal social media.
  • I will not make “small talk” by speaking about personal affairs of my own or the clients.

Now, you may have more or fewer communication boundaries than those listed above and may not even use those ones in particular.  That’s just an example (trust me, I have a lot more than what was listed).  

What matters is that you create lists that make sense to you.

Boundaries Can Grow and Change

Check in with your boundaries list from time to time.  Make sure that everything still applies. Maybe, over time, you will find that your boundaries were a little too rigid – you were a little too much of a hard-ass.  However, you might find (as many freelancers do) that your boundaries just weren’t strong enough.

There is no shame in creating new boundaries, even for old clients!  Juts make sure you have a conversation with the old clients first so they can anticipate and understand the changes coming to the relationship.

Recently, I was talking to someone in a Facebook group and got the awesome experience of watching her develop a new boundary.  She was setting up a relationship with a new client who wanted references. After giving her references the new client proceeded to email an old client multiple times asking very specific questions that went above and beyond the regular vetting process.  She didn’t like that the new client was wasting so much of the old client’s time and felt that it made her look unprofessional.

I had an “ah-ha” moment.  

“Looks like you found a new boundary,” I told her, excitedly.  She was surprised that I thought it was a good thing. But it was.  

Though getting the new client to lay off the old one may not be a fun experience for her, she had learned about something she wouldn’t allow in future working relationships.  

She discovered that it was necessary to tell future clients to limit their communications with reference clients to one or two emails before giving them the contact information.

It’s OK to add more and more boundaries to your list as time goes on.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to predict every odd, weird, awkward, or downright terrible situation your career may bring.  

What you can do, though, is to learn from them!

Communicate and Maintain Boundaries with Contracts

Once you know what your boundaries are, consider putting some of them in your contracts.  You don’t necessarily need to put them all in there (that could be overwhelming for the client).

For example, what if the client wants you to do more work before paying you for the last work you did?  

What if they ask for a discount?

Are there situations in which either of these requests is reasonable to you?

But ensuring the most important and most common boundary issues are accounted for is very important.

Amy-Lynn Denham is a business coach for freelancers.  

Her work focused on helping new freelancers learn the ropes of the industry without getting caught in the overwhelm that often goes along with the business.  She strives to help each of her clients achieve a positive work-life balance, even in extenuating circumstances. To be the best coach she can be, Amy-Lynn engages in daily meditation and self-reflection, holding herself accountable for her own emotions, thought patterns, and mindset.  

To learn more about Amy-Lynn and her services visit http://www.amylynnwriting.com


Haylee Galloway

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