Podcast 63: How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Clients

business ethical business podcast Apr 29, 2021
How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Clients

Do you make yourself available anytime a client wants you?  It’s so tempting especially if you are struggling to get enough clients, or just starting out.

We’ve all been there.  Offering a late, last-minute evening appointment, when we really want to be winding down and having dinner with our family.  But no, we’re in the office or clinic, with a cold coffee and regretting our decision.

Setting boundaries was a lesson I learnt the hard way, as a new practitioner.  I was already setting up my practice alongside working full time and found myself working ridiculous hours.  To fit people in, I was overly flexible around appointment times.  I started to feel like I was missing out on my life and a little resentful.  Yet it was my own doing!

Consider the opportunity cost

Saying yes can be the automatic response, especially for caring professionals.  You have a choice whether you say yes to a client request.  Consider, there is always a ‘cost’ for a yes, you are automatically saying ‘no’ to something, or someone else.  You have a finite amount of time and resources and you don’t want to be in a situation where you regret it later.

Boundaries will keep you sane

I believe setting good boundaries will help to keep you sane as a practitioner.  They demonstrate clearly that you have the courage to respect yourself and value your work.  Even if clients aren’t impressed, or happy with the situation, if they want to work with you, they will be flexible.

Setting boundaries helps your clients to understand the rules of engagement with you.  It will set the expectations of what is appropriate in your relationship.

Respect the boundaries you set

If you say you don’t work weekends, avoid responding to emails or texts on a Sunday night.  This tells your clients you work at the times you say you don’t, which sends them mixed messages.

This includes the prices you charge, and money can be a really challenging topic.  Decide what your rates are and any concessions before you’re put on the spot and find yourself flustered.  This is especially important if it’s appropriate for you to work with family and friends within your discipline.

When I worked in a multi-discipline clinic, we agreed we would pay each other full price for appointments.  This avoided awkward conversations and we fully respected each other’s skills.

Separate work and home

Whilst we all love the work we do; you need to have space away from it.

If people ask you for your ‘expert’ advice outside of work, gently divert them towards how they can work with you or find out more information.  A friend was working part-time in an office whilst setting up their practice.  They found when they were at the office, there was often a queue of people expecting free advice, but not many were prepared to pay for an appointment.

Boundaries work the other way too!  When you’re passionate about what you do, you can find yourself trying to help people, when they haven’t asked for it.  I had a client who was a nutritionist who gave me a lecture about the dangers of drinking diet coke.  Now, I know it isn’t the healthiest option, but I enjoy the occasional glass - so hey!  I remember feeling irritated by advice that was being forced upon me.  Sometimes people don’t need you to have the solutions, they just want you to be a friend, or whatever your relationship.

Limit personal information shared

For most practitioners, the way you build relationships and connect with your audience is to share some of the behind the scenes with them.  Knowing your boundaries and what topics you’re comfortable sharing in advance will help you to keep your private life, private.

Depending on the work you do with your clients, it may not be appropriate to share any personal information.

On this topic, make sure you’re not oversharing by being friends on social media with clients.  It is critical to client confidentiality that you don’t engage in any conversations online that could identify them as having worked with you or having any clinical discussions in an open forum.

Client agreement

I have a client agreement for all my coaching clients.  It outlines clearly what a client can expect from working with me and what I expect from them.  I cover everything about how we will manage our relationship from preparation, to timekeeping and payment.  Everything is clear and agreed in advance of us working together.

Advertise boundaries

Depending on how and where you work, consider ways you can advertise your boundaries.

Include them on your website, they will also act as a filter for people deciding if you are the right practitioner for them.

If you have a clinic, display a notice outlining your opening times, your rates, payment methods and your cancellation policy.

A practitioner friend who works part-time and is a busy mum to young children has to be very clear around her availability.  She has the days she works displayed on her website and in her email signature.  Her clients fit in with her schedule knowing they are their only options because she’s great at what she does.

Create your boundaries reference list

If you have difficulty articulating boundaries with your clients, sit down and write them out.  This will help you get your boundaries clear in your head and provide a point of reference for what is acceptable and make communicating them easy.

 

It is so much easier to feel compassionate towards your clients when you feel respected.  If you feel people are taking advantage of your good nature, it can make working with them more challenging.

Boundaries are important as they create a healthy relationship for you and your clients.   They protect you both and provide a safe space to thrive.

If you struggle with this and finding clients for your business, book a discovery call and find out how I can help you.

Podcast 63 show notes:

  • (02:38) Consider the opportunity cost
  • (03:05) Boundaries will keep you sane
  • (03:56) Respect the boundaries you set
  • (05:27) Separate work and home
  • (08:15) Limit personal information
  • (10:27) Client agreement
  • (11:07) Advertise boundaries
  • (12:41) Create your boundaries reference list

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