Healthy Freelancing Boundaries

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When you are a self-employed as a freelancer or contractor, being on the lookout for potential clients is a way of life.  When we find new potential clients, or when there are new inquiries into our work, it is certainly an exciting thing. This is especially the case when we are just starting out, are experiencing a lull in incoming business, or have recently wrapped up projects and are eager to start more.

However, it is important to not allow your boundaries to be crossed by potential clients, even when you are in need of new ones. There may be traps that we can fall into, such as more work required than was stated at the beginning of the contract and clients who assume you are available most times of the day. If we can set reasonable boundaries from the beginning, from the time the initial contract is made, this can prevent you from falling into any of these traps.  Here are some trade secrets for subtly setting boundaries in this line of work:

  • Set project management meetings
  • Get all documents needed before starting work
  • Consider rush fees, revision fees, and deadline missed fees

Set regular meetings to go over progress and any issues. This not only keeps you on task, but can also be very helpful for the client. All too often we are inundated with emails, texts, and phone calls from clients. If we can limit this correspondence to these meetings, it can cut down on the expectation (and overwhelm) of timely replies.

Gathering everything needed before work starts can eliminate the need to drag projects on past their expected deadline. If you find yourself waiting for necessary documents, this can potentially prevent you from working on other projects, as you are saving space for this client and perhaps have not taken on others. Assert this to avoid this potential set back.

A tight turn around time requires hard work in a short amount of time, with little room for maintaining work-life balance. You may consider raising your prices for this. On the flip side, you might also consider setting fees for projects that drag on due to the client’s delay. At times, you may come across clients who never seem to be satisfied – here you can charge a fee for going beyond a set number of revisions that you deemed to be sufficient from the get-go. Finally as a follow-up to number 2, charging for missing documents and missed deadlines on the client’s part may be helpful.

Pro tips:

Manage expectations with assertiveness

The best way to manage expectations, of course, is to set them at the beginning and be extremely consistent and diligent with these contracted expectations. However, in the case that these expectations aren’t respected or maintained, it is imperative to have assertive and direct conversations with clients about this.  In addition, in the very early stages of project discussion prior to contracts being drawn up, remember that you are under no obligation to take on the project if it’s not a good fit for you.  Just because you’ve entered into a dialogue about the client’s needs and expectations does not mean that you are then obliged to take the job on.

Use your intuition by listening to yourself

If you have a gut feeling about a potential client or an offer, then it may not be for you. Listening to your intuition takes skill, including an ability to listen to what your body and “gut” is telling you, an ability to read body language of others, and, of course, an ability to say no.  Sometimes we ignore these for the sake of incoming business, but the outcome could end up being less than beneficial. Always listen to what your intuition is telling you to avoid potential setbacks, negative outcomes, and individuals who may be trying to take advantage of inexperience or financial need.