If you feel like your clients are killing you, YOU — and your lack of boundaries — could be the problem.
Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a critical part of being a business owner and building a sustainable, scaleable business. However, if you’re a people-pleaser, struggle with feeling loved and worthy, or are insecure about your skills and abilities, you may have flimsy or nonexistent boundaries — and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Today I’m sharing 7 tips to help you set, communicate and enforce boundaries with your clients. Although you may not be able to implement all of these tips and strategies right away, you’ll walk away with a roadmap for success that you can refer back to as you continue your journey in business.
1. Set Clear Boundaries Around Client-Coach Communication
As a service provider, you obviously need to be reachable, but not TOO reachable.
When you begin working with a client, make sure they understand a few things regarding your communication policy, including:
- Where they should send messages requesting help, assistance, etc. — otherwise, you’ll likely be bombarded with work messages on all of your platforms, which means you’re also likely to miss an important question and/or fail to respond in a timely manner.
- Your availability — for example, do you not work after 6:00 PM? Are you not reachable before 9:00 AM? If you don’t specify your working hours, your clients may think you’re available 24/7 and be disappointed when that’s not the case.
- Your typical response time — is it 1 hour? 12 hours? 24 hours? Set yourself and your clients up for success by making them aware that you won’t always be in a position to get back to them right away, but you WILL respond within a particular timeframe.
2. Ensure Your Clients Understand Your Rules and Policies
This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Giving your clients a heads-up when it comes to your rules, policies and procedures is very important when it comes to building a healthy working relationship.
For example, what is your cancellation policy? Do your clients get one “whoopsie” where they can cancel a session on short notice without a penalty? Going forward, what is the penalty for a late cancellation, and what constitutes a late cancellation? All of these questions should be answered in a clear, direct way (and don’t forget to put it in writing).
Transparency is key — don’t hide your rules, and explain the “why” behind them so your clients can understand your thought process. Not only will this help them see where you’re coming from, but it will also increase the likelihood that they will respect and adhere to your policies.
3. Establish a Primary Communication System/Platform
Let your clients know where they should communicate with you regarding your work together, whether that’s email, Slack, or another platform or channel of your choosing.
In my business, I do not answer questions from clients via Instagram DMs; instead, I direct them to the correct support communication platform that I’ve previously specified and answer their question there, NOT in my DMs. This way, my clients are still getting their needs met, but I am also able to uphold my boundary — it’s a win-win.
Remember: It’s up to YOU to teach your clients what is appropriate and what’s not when it comes to your communication. If you ask them to message you via email but you promptly respond to them when they ask a question on WhatsApp, you’re essentially rewarding bad behavior — and as a result, they’re probably not going to change it.
4. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t (or Won’t) Keep
Avoid overpromising and underdelivering as often as possible (I’m still working on this one!).
Rather than immediately agreeing to something a client asks, take a breath, slow down and consider when you can actually tend to their request. If you aren’t sure at the moment, you can say something like: “I’ll look at my schedule tonight and let you know by [DATE/TIME] when I can help you with that.”
This tip applies to communication, too. For example, if you don’t want to work on weekends, do NOT tell clients they can expect a response from you on Saturdays and Sundays — even if that disappoints them.
Be transparent and upfront with your clients, and do your best to stick to your word. Honesty is the best policy.
5. Understand That Your Clients Are NOT Your Besties
Clients can turn into friends, but first and foremost: When you are coaching a client, the two of you are in a working, professional relationship.
In other words, your clients don’t need to love you. You obviously want them to LIKE you (and they probably do if they’ve chosen to work with you), however, what’s most important is that your clients respect and trust you.
To generate and earn respect and trust, you must have healthy boundaries in place. When you set the right boundaries and commit to doing certain things and follow through, you prove to your clients that you are dependable and are going to show up for them as a service provider — that’s what matters (also: it’s what they’re paying you for).
6. Ask for Feedback and Make Improvements Accordingly
If you’re struggling to uphold your boundaries, you may feel like your programs and services are lackluster and that you need to “make up” for it by showering your clients with love and attention in ways that exhaust you or drain your energy.
You can remedy this by requesting feedback from your current and/or past clients and using their suggestions to make improvements or enhancements to your offerings, which will help you feel more confident as a coach or service provider.
The more secure you are in what you’re delivering as a business owner, the less you’ll feel as if you need to bypass your boundaries to bend over backwards for your clients.
Of course, you DO still want to make sure your clients feel taken care of and appreciated! To help with that, I’ve created the 5 Love Languages Guide — a FREE resource to help you use the 5 love languages to build stronger, more meaningful connections with your clients. Download the guide HERE.
7. Set the Right Example
Ultimately, it’s in the best interest of your clients that you set and stick to your boundaries consistently.
You are your best self — and the best coach you can be — when you are taking care of yourself and managing your time and energy in the correct ways. A tired, stressed, overwhelmed coach is of little or no use to clients, and it isn't what they signed up for when they chose to work with you.
Plus, by upholding your boundaries, you are demonstrating healthy behaviors and habits to your clients. Lead by example, showing your clients what it means to commit to your priorities while staying true to your word.
I hope these tips and strategies help you set boundaries with your clients!
I’ve included a quick recap of all the advice right here, so you can screenshot this article and bring these tips along as you focus on upholding healthy boundaries as you serve your clients.
- Set Clear Boundaries Around Client-Coach Communication
- Ensure Your Clients Understand Your Rules and Policies
- Establish a Primary Communication System/Platform
- Don’t Make Promises You Can’t (or Won’t) Keep
- Understand That Your Clients Are NOT Your Besties
- Ask for Feedback and Make Improvements Accordingly
- Set the Right Example
PS: For more on using love languages to enhance your coaching, go back and listen to episode 86: The 5 Love Languages to Connect with Clients (or read the article here), and don’t forget to grab your FREE 5 Love Languages Guide that will help you learn how to use each of the 5 love languages to better serve your clients! Download it here!