You’ve told me time and time again: You want to be nice to your clients, make them feel supported, and help them get great results…
… but some of your clients are a little too needy. They’re doing things like:
- Emailing you at all hours
- Texting on weekends
- And wanting a little more of your time and energy than they paid for
But you don’t want to say no, piss them off, or shout “enough’s enough!” You care about them and you care about their results, but you can’t figure out the right balance between solid boundaries and stellar support.
I hear you. I’ve been there. And it’s totally, absolutely, completely fixable… without any stress, worry, or freaking out. In fact, it’s essential for you to fix (fast!) if you want to take your business to the next level without working so freaking hard.
I’ve learned to set solid, loving boundaries with clients, knowing when to hold firm and when to bend my own rules. I’m excited to share it all with you today.
Plus you’ll get a boundary-setting email script straight from my private vault (one you can steal!) to help you set and hold healthy boundaries with your clients, ensuring you can give them the stellar support you’re known for without killing your sanity.
Let’s dive in.
First, Your Fears
The reasons most women business owners I know have shitty boundaries to begin with are:
A. They’re afraid of not being liked, or worse, being publicly badmouthed by their clients.
B. They’re afraid that if they don’t give their clients 24×7 access, their clients won’t get results.
Let me tell you this:
Business decisions rooted in fear will never create the results you want. In fact, it’ll hurt your business.
Not Being Liked
At some point or another, pretty much everyone worries about not being liked. (Truth be told, I fret over this almost daily. #recoveringapprovaladdict)
As you know, big problems arise when you try to bend every which way to ensure everyone likes you. And truthfully, even if you could bend to meet everyone’s needs, you’d still never make everyone like you.
Worrying About Your Clients’ Results
If you have a client who is constantly leeching your time and energy (and you’re letting her), it’s likely because you’re afraid she might not get great results or become a raving fan.
However, the worst thing a business owner can have is a client depending on you to meet their every single need. As coaches and other service providers, we know that our most successful clients are the ones who are willing to do their own work, experiment with the ideas we teach, and strive to become self-sufficient. Anyone who expects you to do it all isn’t the kind of client you want to work with!
Even the neediest of clients can learn, with the gentle boundaries you set, that they can work through their challenges between sessions, learn to depend on themselves, and become self-sufficient. This means that boundary-setting helps create more successful clients, which is what you want anyway!
Steal This! How to Set Boundaries with Clients
Now that I’ve called BS on your fears around establishing boundaries, it’s time to talk about how to set and hold them. I’m going to give you my step-by-step approach plus an actual script you can steal when anyone pushes past your limits.
Step 1: Determine Your Policies in Advance
Even if you haven’t set boundaries (or held them) so far, it’s never too late to put rules into place. The perfect time to start is right now!
The policies you need to establish depend a lot on your business and how you work with clients. However, here are some basic ones almost everyone will need to consider:
- appointment rescheduling
- email access, including how much, how often, turn-around time on responses, etc. (FYI, I always tell my clients that “unlimited email access” is a terrible idea. Just don’t do it!)
- how long prepaid sessions are good for
- general response time and overall availability
Although we can identify several areas where we need policies, we can’t always pinpoint every single one in advance. This means that when a “situation” with a client triggers us, it’s a sign that we have somewhere new where a policy is needed. Your challenging clients are showing you, and this is perfect.
Step 2: Clearly Communicate (in Writing) Your Policies with All Clients
For the policies you have established before starting work with a new client, have them clearly laid out in your new client welcome packet. This ensures they have a reference guide to all of your policies and procedures, and it’s something you can easily reference in boundary-setting emails if needed.
Also, where possible, make the policies redundantly stated. In the case of refund policies, make your policy very clear before a client pays. (I have mine clearly stated on a pre-sale page plus in the Terms of Service section of my shopping cart.) This is a little CYA for clients who want to back out of their contracts.
In the case of appointment rescheduling policies, include the specifics in your online scheduler’s reminders emails. It’s easy to do this in most online schedulers. (I personally love Acuity which allows me to customize the email for each different appointment type.)
Sometimes you’ll realize mid-relationship with a client that a new policy needs to be created or changed. That’s okay! When it happens, simply review the new policies with your clients and be available to address questions. This may require a contract review or modification, and you may want to consult your attorney for that.
Step 3: Stick to Your Plan!
The tricky thing about being a service-based professional is, well, we like to be of service!
When a client is constantly complaining, threatening to quit, or going through an intense period with your work together, we often want to double down and be there every step of the way. That’s good…. as long as you remain mindful of your pre-established boundaries.
If you vary from your policies even once, the client will notice and then expect exceptions all of the time, and that’s a predicament you don’t want to get into.
Keep in mind that if you’re feeling frustrated with your client because of their consistent invasions of your personal time, the quality of your work will start to decline. That’s why holding to your policies not only helps keep you sane, it also ensures your work is top notch!
When I first started implementing boundaries on my time, I would remind myself that most clients don’t want to be a pain in the ass. Most want to be good clients! So kindly and clearly telling them what the rules are will actually help them be a good client, which is good for both you and for them!
Your Steal This! Boundary-Setting Script
Use this template when a client needs a gentle boundary reset.Click to TweetIs a client taking too much of your time? Use this template from Jenny Shih to set a gentle boundary.
This is specifically for a coaching (or other service) client who is excessively emailing between sessions and needs a gentle reminder to ease off the between-session communication, though you can tweak it for your specific needs.
I hope you enjoyed a nice long weekend. [or other kind greeting]
Thanks so much for your last email about [topic]. It’s good to get a between-session update from you.
It looks like this one is a biggie and would be best saved for our session together.
If you’d like to move up your next session so we can talk sooner, feel free to reschedule your appointment. [Only use this option if it works for you as the business owner!] Otherwise, let’s save this for our session so we have enough time and attention to dive into it fully.
More Steal This! Scripts
Of course, needy clients are just one boundary that you’ll need to set. This is why I created a bonus free download with 5 total scripts you can steal for your business. (To include them here would make for a ridiculously long blog post. Plus it would be hard for you to keep close at hand on your desktop.)
In this bonus free download, you’ll get scripts on how to handle…
- a client who cancels a session without the required notice
- a past or current client who owes you money
- a former client who is looking for support after your work together is complete
- a non-client is excessively emailing you for free advice
Grab yours (it’s free), and you’ll quickly be setting kind, loving boundaries where they’re most needed.Click to DownloadFree Scripts! 5 Scripts to Help You Keep Client Boundaries
Let’s Get Personal!
Of course the situations you may be facing probably have their nuances and variations, so I want to help and have some fun!
First, tell me what struggles and successes you’ve had with boundary-setting with clients.
Second, tell me where you still get tripped up around boundaries in your business (or in life!).
And third, if there’s an additional boundary-setting script you need for a specific scenario in your business, fill me in on the details, and I’ll help you finesse the perfect one for your situation… all in the comments below.
I can’t wait to dive into this with you! It’s going to be fun, helpful, and liberating!