Setting Good Client Boundaries

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!

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”  Brené Brown

setting client boundariesConsider 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 complementary practitioner or therapist.  They demonstrate clearly that you have the courage to respect yourself and value your work.  Even if clients aren’t always 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.

Money can be a really challenging topic.  Decide what your ‘rules’ are before you are put on the spot and find yourself flustered around friends or family wanting to book your services.  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 work, there was often a queue of people wanting free advice, but not many were prepared to pay for an appointment.

Boundaries work the other way too!  When you are passionate about what you do, you can find yourself trying to help people, when they haven’t asked for it.  I had a client recently who gave me a lecture about the dangers of drinking diet coke.  Now, I know it isn’t the healthiest choice of beverage, but I enjoy the occasional bottle, so hey!  I remember feeling really 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.

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 time keeping 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 twins 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.

Point of reference

If you have difficulty in articulating boundaries with your clients, sit down and write them out.  Having a point of reference for what is acceptable will help you to communicate your boundaries when you are talking to people.

Compassion and respect

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.

Clients who respect and honour your boundaries will help you to thrive as a complementary practitioner or therapist.  If you need help setting your boundaries, contact me to find out how I can help you.