How to set boundaries with your clients as a freelancer

By April 29, 2020 Managing Clients

As a freelancer, it can be hard to establish boundaries with your clients as you want to make a good impression so that you can accumulate more work! 

However, it is important to set boundaries. Some of your clients will respect your working hours and boundaries, whilst others will try to push and break your boundaries. They are the most difficult to deal with, but unfortunately sometimes the most profitable, as they could be paying you highly for the services you’re offering. 

With that in mind, here are a few things to consider:

  • What are your working hours? And will you work outside of those hours? 
  • How do you want your clients to get in contact with you? (emails, texts or calls)
  • Will you answer calls and emails outside of your working hours?
  • Will you accept urgent requests and if so will you charge a rush fee?

Set boundaries from the very beginning 

It’s important to set boundaries and establish what works for you and what doesn’t from the very start. Time is a precious resource, particularly when you’re a freelancer, and you want to waste as little as possible working in ways that reduce your efficiency.

Avoid working on weeknights and weekends 

Try not to mix work time with personal time. Easily said, I know. But you need downtime, and if you’re answering emails or messages at weekends/late at night, you’re not giving yourself a chance to switch off. Yes – an exception can be made now and again, but don’t make it a habit that your client can get stuck in.

Don’t be too friendly with your clients

As a freelancer, you’ll work closely with your clients. So much so that the line between colleagues and friends can blur. Being friends with people you work with is, of course, absolutely fine. But protect yourself by spotting the signs of when a friendship may really be a client taking advantage of your good nature.

Set a schedule for checking your emails 

As freelancers, we are constantly bombarded by emails. Let’s be real have you ever seen your inbox empty? 

To deal with this, simply set a schedule for when you check them, my advice would be to check them at the beginning of each working day and then after lunch, that way you have time to yourself and are still keeping on top of your emails. 

To make this even easier for you, if your clients are very impatient (like most are) then it would help to set an average email response time, that way they know when to expect a reply from you.

 Work with people who respect your boundaries 

Often setting boundaries at the very beginning is enough to set the tone for your entire relationship with the client. Although, sometimes, this isn’t the case. 

The great gift of being a freelancer is that you get to decide who you want to work with, so if you’re working with inconsiderate clients, then your time really isn’t worth it. If clients try to cross them consistently then it might be time to remind them of what you’ve agreed to.

On the odd occasion, rush jobs can come in. It happens. We all forget things, right? If it sets you back in your plans, then you’re well within your rights to charge a rush fee. Of course, it’s a judgement call, but if it really pushes your schedule back then you could consider adding a fee.

To summarise – setting boundaries is important when you’re a freelancer. Without them, you won’t get to take advantage of many of the benefits you expect when working as your own boss – and although your clients are important, they’ll understand that they aren’t as important as your family.