Working for a corporation there are already rules in place for how business is done. However, in working for self, you are the one responsible for setting said rules. As an entrepreneur, setting clear expectations and boundaries with clients is the primary way to eliminate misunderstandings and stress. This is something that I have struggled with in the past, especially if the client was a friend or family member. I thought it would be great to share what I’ve learned thus far.
1. Set expectations up front. It is very important that you speak with your clients about their expectations of you. Likewise, you should share your expectations of them as a client. These expectations should cover things like when and how you will communicate. Your expectations should also include payment terms and deadlines. Setting these expectations up front will mitigate the challenges that arise with uncommunicated and unmet expectations.
2. Define a beginning and end. When setting up your work with a client, it is important that you identify a specific beginning and ending. We will begin the project on specific date. The project will be considered complete on a specific date or once specific deliverable has been completed. Doing this eliminates lingering projects and frees up your time for additional project work later.
3. Use the word “No”. Somehow, we have gained the notion that saying no in business is bad. We over extend ourselves or commit to things that we really had no interest in or business doing in the first place. Many times the frustrations that come with our client interactions could have been avoided altogether with a simple no.
4. Accept that you may not be able to work with everyone. Yes, you want to help your cousin. Yes, your cousin needs the help. No, you may not be the best source of assistance for your cousin. Be okay with knowing that your family and friends may not be your clients. Also recognize that you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you. Recognizing this helps you to stay in your lane and keep your personal relationships intact.
I will admit, these did not come easy or quickly for me. In fact, I continue to evolve in these areas. I have to define what the boundaries are that serve the contexts of my work and desired outcomes. What I have realized is that I offer better customer service and have more productive outcomes for my clients when the boundaries and expectations are clear.
How do you set expectations and boundaries with your clients?