Setting boundaries is one of the best things you can do for your freelance business. When you set freelance client boundaries, everyone knows where they stand. There is no room for confusion.
Why are freelance client boundaries important?
Any client that cannot respect these boundaries and is consistently trying to push you to do more for less will soon show themselves. And as I’ve mentioned in my previous post about how to build the best client list, you want to focus on the clients that fully respect your freelance-client boundaries.
So, what should you add to your list?
Email response times
How long can your clients expect to wait for a response? 1 hour? 12 hours? 1 day?
Decide what you’re comfortable with and then stick to it. You can also set your “opening hours” so that clients know when you’ll be checking your emails. I try to limit my email time as I find it too distracting when I’m getting stuck into a copywriting project. I’ll check my email accounts once in the morning and once in the evening before I sign off for the day.
I have to admit that I’m pretty terrible at responding to emails. So this is a boundary that benefits me, too.
Your payment terms should be set out on your independent contractor agreement. And you should expect every client to respect this important aspect of your working relationship. But there is another important factor that you need to include in your contracts.
Work should be invoiced once the work is completed, not when the client finally decides to get back to you. It’s incredibly frustrating when you have scheduled work for one month that is then pushed into the next month. It can leave you with a financial shortfall that is incredibly difficult to keep on top of. This is why large projects should always have work deadlines and payment deadlines.
Out of hours requests
Responding to and actioning emails outside of office hours is all a matter of personal choice. Many experts will tell you that you should avoid it at all costs. While you might be able to accommodate this once or twice, if you allow your clients to think that this is okay, you’ll struggle to say no in the future.
When you first start working with a new client you can let them know your working hours to help avoid any confusion.
Eliminate scope creep
Perhaps the hardest freelance client boundary to implement is one that eliminates scope creep. Scope creep is what happens when a client asks for a quote for one piece of work and then keeps asking for extra freebies until you suddenly realise you’re rewriting their whole website for the price of a blog post.
The best way to maintain this boundary is to kick off every new project with a clear and defined brief.
Have you ever done so many revisions on a piece of work that you soon realise nothing of the original remains? To avoid this, decide how many rounds of revisions each project is allowed. I used to fall into the trap of stating that clients could have unlimited revisions, because I thought it made me look confident. Removing all mentions of this from my website and proposals helped me immensely.
Introduce a rush fee
How do you handle last minute requests? When fitting in a project, no matter how small, is going to mess up your day, the client should really be paying a premium. Adding a rush fee to jobs is an easy way to make up for lost time and help you to decide if it’s worth losing another evening.
And remember that this works both ways. Just as you make more money when a job is rushed through, clients should also get a discount if you can’t deliver on time.
Over to you
What freelance client boundaries do you have in place? And what do you wish you had implemented from the start?