Are your clients driving you crazy with last minute requests? Do you find yourself saying, “Yes” to projects that you really don’t have the time or energy to take on? Are you tired of work demands taking over your personal time?
It’s about time to get tough with your boundaries…
Boundaries. You know, the invisible line you draw in the sand between what you will and won’t do? The problem isn’t just your boundaries – chances are you know exactly the rules you want to play by. Your lack of boundaries is merely a symptom of a different problem: confidence.
The trouble is you lack the confidence to enforce the rules. Instead of standing firm when people get pushy, you bend the rules because you are secretly afraid that if you enforce them, your clients will say no and refuse to work with you (or even worse, not like you).
There’s a difference between polite and pushover…
Don’t tell me that you are just being nice and “doing them a favor this one last time” because we both know it’s always the same people who are asking again and again. There is a huge difference between polite and pushover (and polite ended about four ridiculous requests ago).
Polite is the quiet confidence to smile and say exactly what you want to say, and make the rules of engagement clear. Pushover is when you bend the rules to the point of breaking them – all in the name of ‘customer service’. That’s why boundaries require confidence.
The confidence to politely to let the people around you know that they need to respect the rules. The confidence to decide what is or isn’t a priority starting at 5 o’clock on a Friday. The confidence to enforce the rules without feeling the need to apologize or even explain.
5 Ways to Enforce your Business Boundaries
#1: Last-minute Requests – Sometimes your clients may call on you for last-minute help, which in a service business isn’t a problem. The trouble is when last minute become the norm and you can’t manage your project load because you are constantly rushing for the chronic offenders who just can’t seem to get it together.
The boundary fix: “Just so you know, we normally charge an additional rush fee. I’ll let it go this time, but now you know for next time.” and show the rush charge on their invoice with the amount canceled out.
#2: Managing Client Roster – Sometimes it seems scary to put a new client on hold until you have time in your schedule to take on their project, but it’s critical from a quality (and sanity) control perspective.
The boundary fix: “My client roster is full for the next , but I’d be more than happy to meet with you to discuss your project and get you in our calendar.”
#3: Scope Creep – More often than not as you get into a project, you discover more ways you can help your client. A little extra here, a little bit there and before you know it, you are doing double the work.
The boundary fix: Know when to put on the brakes when it comes to doing extra work. “That is beyond the original scope of work and will require additional fees. I will send over an estimate of the additional amount required to complete those tasks.”
#4: Rules of Engagement – It’s ENTIRELY up to you how you want to work with your clients.
The boundary fix: “Before getting started, we require a signed proposal and a deposit.” and nothing (and I mean NOTHING) gets done until that step is complete.
#5: After Hours Work Calls – Just because your clients work late at night, on the weekends or what seems like 24/7, doesn’t mean you need to. Be clear with what hours you are available to take business calls and respond to email.
The boundary fix: Actions speak louder than words so if you happen to be up at 4 o’clock to catch up on work, save your replies to client emails as a draft and send during your office hours.