I got this question from a client today:
How do you hold boundaries with your clients?
Ooooh boy! Is this a good one!
It’s something we often struggle with as heart-centered entrepreneurs because we are naturally sensitive, empathetic, and really CARE.
When in balance, these strengths will help you connect so DEEPLY with your clients. They will feel heard and seen, and get SO much out of working with you.
But when we don’t have healthy boundaries and that natural desire to give and serve is OUT OF balance we can over-give, care-take our clients excessively, go over on session times, spend hours creating notes after a session, or being available at all hours of the day and night.
This inevitably will have you feeling depleted, exhausted by your work and clients, and even resentful.
And the real kicker is… and I really want you to have this sink in… it can end up taking the power AWAY from your clients because they feel dependent on you all the time.
We don’t want this!
As aligned Female Entrepreneurs we want our clients to feel held, loved, heard, respected, and well taken care of, but also powerful, purposeful, with the ability to trust themselves and see what it’s like to have healthy boundaries modeled for them… because they will bring this into their own lives, work, and relationships in a way that will benefit them for years to come.
So how do you get started creating strong boundaries with your clients?
Here are some simple tips you can start implementing TODAY so that your clients feel empowered and YOU have more time and energy to focus on YOU.
The key takeaway is to think about 3 things:
- How you can PRE-FRAME rather than RE-FRAME – in other words, you want to think of ways to set expectations at the beginning of a coaching container or client session rather than going back and setting the boundary later.
- How can you help the client get their needs met without self-sacrificing or violating your own boundary?
- What feels right to you?
#1 Is to have a client contract
You want to share in your client contract when you are available via phone or email, when you are on vacation, what support looks like from you, how to get in touch for support, when their program will start and end by, basically what your client can expect from you.
You can blatantly say in your contract what you will or will not do. For example, I share that it is not mental health counseling or nutrition advice.
Sometimes we overcompensate because we want to be all things to all people. It is OK to share your scope of work and refer out for the rest so that you are legally protected and you don’t try to care-take ALL of your clients’ needs in your work.
I will also share that they are ultimately responsible for the results they are creating in our work together. This helps you shift out of over responsibility for your client so that they can step up and into their power – which will ultimately serve them better in the long run.
We have done-for-you contracts that have been vetted by a small business lawyer in The Aligned Female Entrepreneur that you can take and tweak. These are so good and probably worth the entire investment in the program. You can learn more at https://krissyleonard.com/aligned-female-entrepreneur.
But here is an example of setting the boundary with a contract:
Client: can we move our last session a week or two? I am just swamped and want to get the most out of it.
You: I hear you and absolutely want to make sure you get everything you need from your last session! Unfortunately, I’m not able to extend your sessions past the 6-month program end date of December 30th. Is there a day that would work best for you next week?
#2 Share Your Hours and Availability Up Front
I share in our contract and welcome email that I am not available before 10am or after 6pm, as well as weekends and when I am on vacation.
In our group programs, I share the turnaround time that people can expect to get a response in our Facebook group as well.
It is SO easy as entrepreneurs to feel like we need to be working ALL THE TIME and getting back to every email as soon as it comes through.
I LOVE pre-framing my availability in this way because when I’m off work I can feel totally OFF… and rest and rejuvenate so that I can be of greater service to my clients.
But I will be honest, in the past I would CONSTANTLY worry I wasn’t giving my clients enough or that they would get mad at me if I didn’t respond in a certain timeframe… it was SO stressful NOT working during that phase of my business!
But by sharing what my client can expect, I put the power in their hands and know they are OK without me… often just that little space gives them time to think about their question and see if they can handle it themselves.
Example of setting boundary with availability:
Client: sends you a Voxer message or email and then follows up a few hours later to see if you saw it.
You: (when you respond the next time you are available) Hi NAME, I got your message and will get back to you in the next hour. As a reminder, I am not available on email after 6pm and before 10am.
Client: I really want to do Monday mornings for our sessions. That just feels so much better as a start to my week.
You: I do not currently have availability on Monday mornings. I could do OPTION 1, 2, 3… which works best for you?
#3 Share How They Can Ask Questions and Get Support
This is especially true of group programs where people are not paying for your 100% undivided attention. Share how they can get help with the program content, also billing and payments, etc. if that is not all being processed through you.
BONUS TIP: If you have a VA (Virtual Assistant) or even if you don’t yet! Set up an info email, a personal email JUST FOR YOU so that all general biz inquiries can be filtered out by a member of your team and ONLY the things you need to look at go to you.
Example setting boundary with where they are trying to access support:
Client: DMs you a question on Instagram instead of posting in the Facebook Group
You: Hi NAME! Thanks for reaching out, this is a GREAT question – would you please post it in the Facebook group so that everyone can benefit from the response? I’ll be sure to answer it over there by the end of the day.
Or even… as a reminder, this program offers support through Facebook and weekly calls, not direct access to me via email or DMs. I just don’t have the capacity to support everyone in the group that way.
#4 Stick to The Time You Set for Your Sessions
I will admit, this has been the hardest one for me to stick to but it has improved SO much over the last few years.
I have had women come to me and tell me they had a 30 minute free connection call turn into a TWO HOUR coaching call – without a paying client at the end of it!
I’ve personally gone over 15, 20, 30 or more minutes myself and here’s the deal…
This is NOT serving your client, and it makes us sloppy as practitioners because we are not being in integrity with our time and commitments, we are also taking advantage of the client’s time, and not forcing ourselves to get better at getting our clients to a result QUICKER.
If this is an issue for you, keep an eye on your clock or even set a TIMER – which I have totally done – especially with clients who push your boundaries and start wrapping up 5-10 minutes before the end of the session.
Sometimes there WILL be a moment where your client is in tears 5 minutes before the call should be ending, or in a sales call you are at the end of time before you can invite them to work together, or you just need a little more time to wrap things up.
Here is what I suggest saying to set a boundary there: FIRST NAME, I just want to pause for a moment because we are just about at time. Would it be ok with you if we went 5-10 more minutes longer? Then end it there. If you STILL need more time, suggest moving their next session up, or if it is a potential client, put some time on the books for a followup call in the next day or two. Often, this will allow your client to integrate and digest and get clear on their own as well.
You can also suggest they put their remaining questions in an email that you can get back to between now and your next session.
#5 Become “Unavailable” for Undercharging
You will have at least one or two clients or friends who push to have a reduced rate, want to do a trade or push against they way we structure our services to get a deal… or this can show up as asking for “free” advice regularly.
I am always open to a quick question from a past client, colleague, or friend… but if you find yourself counseling or coaching someone regularly and are not getting paid for it, this is another place to set a boundary.
Here’s an example of setting a boundary on pricing:
Client: that is just out of my price range right now. Could we just do 1 session every other month?
You: I’ve structured my programs and pricing to reflect the value and inspire the financial and energetic commitment needed to get the results you want. I am happy to explore other options (share your lower prices option) but don’t feel comfortable offering you something I can’t say with certainty will get you results.
Here’s an example of setting a boundary on free advice:
Client: starts talking your ear off about their problem or asking a bunch of questions in your expertise.
You: I know this is something you’ve brought up before, curious is this something that you are interested in hiring me to help you solve?
Was this helpful?
What are you taking form today’s episode?
I’d love to hear in the comments on the blog or send me a DM with what you are taking.
Remember, insight without action is useless, so take what you learned today and start implementing it… and notice what transpires as a result.
Talk to you next week!
P.S. Do you want to set up your profitable business foundation to bring in consistent $5-10K months? I’ve put together a free in-depth training for you! You can register HERE.