In the wedding industry, your standard workday is someone’s big day. It’s easy to get swept up in helping make that magical. While it’s good to work hard to make every event special, it’s important that it doesn’t lead to an unhealthy working relationship. For this reason, we’re covering how to set healthy boundaries with your clients — and why that’s important.
WHY YOU NEED HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WITH CLIENTS
Boundaries are a key part of all healthy relationships — that includes working relationships.
Are you wondering whether or not you have effective, healthy boundaries with clients?
Questions to ask yourself about client boundaries —
- Do you spend so much time fielding client requests that you don’t actually spend much time doing the important work?
- Do you feel like you’re constantly pulled in too many directions at once?
- Do you just say yes to client requests because it’s much easier than telling them no?
- Do you find yourself saying you’ll only do this one more time and fix the issue with the next client?
If more than one of these sound like you, it’s time to set up better work boundaries.
A lack of healthy client boundaries leads to —
- Creative burnout.
- Disgruntled clients.
- Unmet expectations.
- Anger and even resentment towards the client.
The good news is that the benefits of healthy boundaries means having more delighted customers, a more enjoyable working experience for you, and less creative burnout.
HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WITH CLIENTS
Now that we’ve covered why healthy work boundaries are important, let’s talk about how to set good boundaries with your clients.
1. Do an audit and find out what’s not working to determine what your boundaries are.
You have to take the time to see which boundaries are important to you. That may actually be different things at different phases in your career.
A easy way to determine which boundaries are important to you is to make a list of what isn’t working for you right now or what you wish you could change.
2. Have respect for your time if you want the client to do the same.
Your time is your most valuable asset. Resources can be replenished, but time cannot. Healthy boundaries with clients starts with understanding this — and valuing your time.
If you don’t have respect for your time, your clients won’t either. That means calls, texts, and emails at all hours. Well-meaning clients may not even realize they are encroaching on your time or crossing a boundary, so it’s up to you to make it clear when and how your client has access to you.
3. Having healthy boundaries means learning to say no.
Small business owners and solopreneurs often struggle most with this boundary. The concern is always that saying no might mean losing a client or an opportunity.
How to say “No” —
- Be polite, but definitive.
- Decline the request, but offer an alternative — even if that means pointing them in the direction of someone who does that kind of work.
When to say “No’ —
- The client is asking you to do something that cannot or should not be done.
- It’s out of your area of interest.
- You don’t have the time.
As much as you may wish to say yes, a polite, but definitive “no” is the kindest and best route for everyone involved. Find ways to be helpful without stringing the client along or getting their hopes up.
Pro-Tip: Collaborations are common in this industry and necessary to get your service seen by a larger audience. Be sure to think of your parameters and healthy boundaries for when you say yes and no to collaborations.
4. Set client expectations early and consistently.
From your initial consultations to all your contracts and anything in print, be sure to set expectations early and consistently. This is another way to set healthy boundaries with clients.
Again, most people don’t want to add stress to your day, but if you’re not clear about what you do and don’t offer, unmet expectations will cause tension. This tension usually results in a vendor having to eat extra cost or time in order to keep the client happy. This is avoidable with clear expectations.
It’s not rude to be consistent. It’s not in bad taste to be clear. In fact, it’s the opposite. Thoughtful, clear communication allows both parties to come to the table on equal footing.
Do yourself a favor and make sure your “boundaries” are documented in every part of your communication. Your website, your emails, your contracts, etc., everything should establish clear expectations.
5. Be aware of “scope creep” with clients and plan ahead for when it happens.
Now let’s talk about one of the biggest boundary issues — scope creep. You know what that means. It’s when a client’s originally approved project scope starts to creep outside the boundaries.
One or two little requests isn’t that bad, but if you’re not careful, clients will have you tackling projects or planning for details that aren’t part of the agreed-upon contract.
Having those clear expectations should help stop most of this, however, you need to have check-points in place to stop the creep that naturally happens on any project like a wedding.
Pro-Tips for preventing scope creep —
- Be clear on what has been approved to move forward.
- Document original project scope clearly.
- Have a schedule — and try to stick to it.
- Create a protocol for changing or expanding the scope officially.
6. Create consequences for breaching those boundaries.
Even with all these boundaries in place, you may still need one further step. That step is having consequences for the client. As a busy small business owner, you don’t need to add more work to your plate by having to address each case with a new plan.
Next, determine what consequences need to be added. Take the guesswork out by creating a template. This could range from added costs to having to (in rare cases) break-up with troublesome clients.
MOVING FORWARD WITH HEALTHY CLIENT BOUNDARIES
Now that we’ve covered a lot here, let’s do a quick recap.
To establish healthy boundaries with your clients it’s important to —
- Do an audit and determine what your boundaries are.
- Remember to respect your time, so your clients will know to do the same.
- Learn to say no.
- Watch out for “scope creep” and have a protocol in place.
- Create real consequences for when clients breach those boundaries.
If healthy boundaries is something you struggle with, just remember that boundaries help you serve more people, better. It’s not about limiting yourself, but using your resources wisely.
This task may come more naturally to some than others. If you think you need professional help, try the resources from Dr. Henry Cloud from workplace boundaries to boundaries in relationships.
Ultimately, it will make you a better business owner and a better wedding vendor.
Written by Corrie McGee