How Freelancers Can Set Effective Boundaries With Clients
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How Freelancers Can Set Effective Boundaries With Clients

Setting effective boundaries with clients as a freelancer can help you maintain work-life balance and ensure professional success.

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How Freelancers Can Set Effective Boundaries With Clients
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Freelancing offers professionals unparalleled flexibility, autonomy and the potential for creative and financial fulfillment. However, with these freedoms come unique challenges, including establishing clear boundaries with clients.

Unlike traditional employee-employer dynamics, freelancers must manage multiple client relationships, often simultaneously. With distinct boundaries, freelancers can avoid overextending themselves, compromising their work quality and experiencing burnout.

Here's how freelancers can establish effective boundaries and ensure a harmonious working relationship with their clients:

1. Clear Communication From the Start

At the outset, freelancers need to discuss and clarify the scope of the project, deliverables, timelines and payment terms. This sets clear expectations and minimizes the risk of misunderstandings or “scope creep,” where the client keeps adding small tasks or requests that build up over time. A detailed contract or written agreement can solidify these terms.

2. Establish Work Hours

Just because a freelancer doesn't operate within the traditional nine-to-five does not mean they're available 24/7. By setting defined work hours and communicating these to the client, freelancers ensure they won’t receive calls or emails at all hours. It also helps create a good work-life balance for long-term productivity and mental health.

Clients often need help understanding the workload freelancers manage. By being transparent about other commitments and realistic timelines, freelancers can prevent overcommitting and underdelivering. Setting clear and extensive terms and conditions can also help if the freelancer has a dispute with the client on deliverables.

3. Use Professional Communication Channels

While using personal phone numbers or social media for quick communications might be tempting, keeping communication channels professional is crucial.

Freelancers with multiple clients may see the value of using project management tools and a dedicated business phone number and email. Doing so maintains a sense of professionalism and prevents clients from blurring the lines between personal and business interactions.

4. Set Boundaries Around Revisions and Learn to Say No

It’s not uncommon for clients to ask for multiple revisions on a project. However, this can quickly escalate into unpaid and time-consuming work without clear boundaries. Freelancers should specify the number of included revisions in their initial agreement and indicate any charges for additional changes.

Saying no or turning down work or client requests can feel counterintuitive but is essential for maintaining boundaries and ensuring quality work. Freelancers respect their time and the client's expectations by being clear about what is and isn't possible within the scope or timeline.

5. Consistent Check-ins and Feedback

Regular weekly or bi-weekly check-ins can keep the project on track and provide a platform for addressing concerns. This structured communication allows freelancers to update clients about progress, clarify doubts and reiterate boundaries if necessary.

During and after completing projects, freelancers must ask clients for feedback. This provides insights into what went well and where boundaries might need reinforcing or adjusting.

6. Keep Personal and Business Finances Separate

This might seem more of an internal boundary, but it's equally critical. Freelancers must outline their own finances and maintain separate bank accounts to delineate personal expenses from business costs, simplifying invoicing and ensuring they're paid correctly and on time.

How to Push Back

Being personable and accommodating can help maintain good client relationships. However, when they keep making demands beyond the initial agreement, be ready to assertively and professionally decline. Use statements like, "I've noticed the project's direction is shifting from our initial agreement. Let's discuss this." If they persist, refer to the contract and remind them of the stipulated terms. Ensure all communications and changes are well-documented to prevent future disputes.

Adjusting pricing might be necessary for clients who continually require more time and energy. If the demands become unreasonable or strain the professional relationship, consider revising the agreed-upon rates to compensate for the added workload. However, always communicate these changes transparently and explain the reasons behind the decision.

Finally, evaluate the partnership's sustainability if a client's behavior or the freelancer’s working conditions harm the project. Sometimes, ending a collaboration might be the right decision for both parties' best interests. While challenging, mastering the art of setting boundaries and managing expectations is crucial for successful client relationships.

Boundaries Are Important

Like any professional, freelancers must set boundaries to maintain a healthy, productive, respectful working relationship. By being proactive in communication, defining clear terms of engagement and remaining consistent, they can navigate the complexities of the freelance-client relationship with ease and professionalism.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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