If you're a coach, freelancer, or creator, and you run a service-based business, you're probably working with clients.
My guess is you have probably already experienced how difficult it can be to set boundaries with clients, manage expectations, and deal with cancellations.
Sure, working with clients and running a service-based business can be a lot of fun and extremely satisfying, but it can also make you want to strangle someone when things are not going the way you want them to (please don't get violent).
Perhaps you're drowning in messages from clients, emails, voice notes, and the midnight WhatsApp messages make you go nuts.
That ends today!
I will teach you a few techniques that you can start applying to take back your power, set the right boundaries from the get-go, and prevent cancellations and no-shows.
It's time you take back control of your business instead of letting your business control you.
Let's get to it!
#1 Prevent overcommunication
Be really, really clear about what channels you use for communication in your business, and be clear about this from the get-go with all of your clients.
For instance, don't hand out your phone number to all people, and don't put it online unless you have to, of course.
If you're a real estate agent or a doctor, a phone number is critical for customers or patients to get in touch quickly. But in your industry, it might not be necessary. If so, then don't give your phone number and stick to other channels.
If you're determined to do everything through email, make sure you reply fast through email. You want to avoid that clients start contacting you through other channels to get a faster response.
Especially, you want to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of suddenly starting to use yet another channel for client communication.
RECAP: pick one channel for client communication, stick to it, and be consistent in replying to your clients in time.
#2 Be reliable and stick to your promises
Being trustworthy is everything, no matter if you run a service or product business, this trust can manifest itself in many ways in your business. Let's look at few examples.
Don't reschedule appointments
Unless you're very sick or something tragic happened, don't reschedule your appointments or meetings with clients. If you do, you're teaching your clients that it's OK to reschedule, and before you know it, your calendar is going to be a real mess!
If you tell a client you will send something over by 8 pm; then do it. Set a good example, and practice what you preach. If you want clients to respect deadlines, you need to do the same. Remember, clients are like kids sometimes: monkey see, monkey do!
#3 Improve as you grow
Let's make this clear: there's always room to grow. I'm still learning and f*cking this up in dealing with clients, but I'm improving.
Therefore, don't beat yourself up. When you're trying to set boundaries with clients, manage expectations and prevent cancellations, you will f*ck up.
Perhaps you have been communicating the wrong way, replying to messages at 11 pm, but it's OK. Once you're aware of what needs to change, you can improve your communication step by step.
Maybe you're also interested in this: The 5 Love Languages to Connect with Clients
#4 Plan ahead
Always plan the next two appointments.
This way, when your client cancels the next appointment or something comes up, you always have a second appointment that's already scheduled. This method is not only convenient for you but for your clients as well, and you avoid overcommunication.
You can, of course, plan even more ahead, but two appointments or meetings should be the minimum, so you have a fail-safe in case something unexpected happens.
#5 Make communication easy
We already talked about managing your communication with clients. Next up, we need to make communication easy. You can do that in multiple ways.
Provide simple options and put a deadline
Too many options make most people feel overwhelmed. As a result, they freeze and don't take action. Instead of giving your clients free rein when choosing a moment to meet, provide simple options and put a deadline on when you expect an answer. For instance, “Hey, let's meet Friday at 10 am, or Saturday at 9 am. Please let me know before tonight at 8 pm.”
Use question marks
Make it very clear in your communication if you're
- sharing information or
- asking a question.
Simply using question marks can resolve a lot of confusion in your client communication.
While you want to help your clients, you need to give them autonomy and make sure they can proceed without you in the future. For example, show them where they can find specific files or graphics, so they don't have to cling to you for every single thing.
Use an online appointment planner
Last up, start using an online appointment scheduler to limit some of the back and forth communication with clients. This will make your communication so much easier and faster. And please, if you're open for business, make sure that people actually CAN book an appointment with you. Don't make them jump through seven hoops of fire in order to get to you.
#6 Work with a cancellation limit
This one can be quite confronting at first, but you need to put on your big girl pants and implement a cancellation limit for your clients.
A cancellation limit can look something like this: if your clients cancel within 24 hours of the appointment, they will be charged a fee or a percentage of the original price.
When you work with cancellation limits, be very clear with your clients about this upfront, and don't hide it somewhere in invisible letters that no one reads anyway.
The same goes if you work with an hourly rate, and you're suddenly exceeding the time you've spent on a project. Give your client a heads up before you start charging them extra and surprise them.
RECAP: be super transparent about your cancellation limit. Don't assume your clients know. To limit the number of potential cancellations, consider working with weekly or monthly appointment reminders or work updates.
#7 Use autoresponders
To manage expectations, start using autoresponders in emails or messages.
If clients or potential clients contact you through a channel that's not your preferred channel for business communication, set up an autoresponder, and include the following:
- Tell them which channel they should use to reach you (if you want to redirect them)
- Tell them within what time frame they can expect an answer.
Needless to say, but whatever you put in your autoresponder, STICK to your word (remember what we talked about earlier… keep your promises!).
#8 Repeat, repeat, repeat
Last but not least: whatever you do to set boundaries and manage client expectations, repeat.
A happy business comes from happy clients, and that starts with you delivering an excellent service and being clear in your communication.
- Repeat how clients can reach you, don't put up an insurmountable wall.
- Repeat where to book appointments.
- Repeat which channel clients should use.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat…
Remember, any sort of digital communication is a one-way street. When you send a message or email, you can never be sure it arrived, even if you get a delivery notification.
Therefore, try to turn most of your communication into a two-way street whenever possible. For example, when you see clients, book the following appointments already. Or, if you speak on the phone, get clear on the next deadline.
This is going to take some practice, I know, but you can do this. I'm still learning, too.
PS If you're ready to take back control of your business, you'll need the right systems to work for you. That's why I'm sharing our Online Business Systems Bible with you. It contains all the systems we are currently using and some tips on how you can use them, too.
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