How to Draw Boundaries Legally with Your Clients

 

Whether or not you consider yourself an expert at having boundaries, you can’t deny that they are critical for your long-term business’s success. We need to stop working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so that there’s time to rest, practice self-care and avoid burnout. Being more thoughtful and diligent about setting boundaries within your business can help you accomplish your goals. Here are a few crucial steps to draw boundaries legally with your clients: 

Determine What Boundaries You Want to Set With Your Clients

Think about what gives you the most anxiety when dealing with your clients and ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is it necessary for you to have interactions with people on a project who are not your clients?  For example, for wedding professionals, this could mean having calls with and answering emails from the parents instead of the people getting married who signed your contract.

 

  • Do you mind getting emails on the weekend that requires a quick reply or would you prefer to deal with this correspondence once you’re back in the office on Monday??

 

  • Do you have clients that disregard the scope of work agreed to and are constantly asking for more than you’ve been contracted to do?

 

  • Do your clients ignore your emails and calls for weeks and then pop up with a time-sensitive request?

Whatever it is that makes you feel uneasy when it comes to your clients, that’s what you need to protect yourself against. And one of the best ways to draw boundaries for those things is to do it in your online contract. Let’s take the above scenarios one by and one and see how you can address it contractually: 

  • Interacting with someone who isn’t your actual client. Include a provision in your contract that states that the individual(s) listed as the “client” will be the only person/people with whom you communicate during your time working together and that they will be the person/people you look to for any decisions that need to be made.

 

  • An email on the weekend expecting a prompt reply. In your contract, state what your office hours are and reiterate that emails will be answered only during those office hours. 

 

  • Disregard your agreed-upon scope of work. Make sure that your contract clearly and in detail sets forth what you are providing to your client. In addition,  state how much you will charge for anything outside of scope. 

 

  • Unscheduled phone calls or requests for in-person meetings. It is 100% acceptable for your contract to state that all phone meetings must be scheduled and that you aren’t agreeing to any in-person meetings. You can take this a step further by stating what your preferred method of communication is in your contract. Hint: for most, email. 

 

  • Following up with a client about a late payment. When your contract is clear on payment due dates, any fees or interest for late payments and what happens if the non-payment continues, then all you have to do is point to your contract. It may still feel uncomfortable, but at least a solid contract provision should make it easier. 

 

  • Ignored emails and calls for weeks with a time-sensitive request. You can make it an event of default in your contract for a client to go “x” numbers of days without responding to communication from you. You have to be reasonable here, but if a client goes radio silent for three weeks after repeated attempts to get in touch, that could be grounds for terminating your relationship. 

Not only are having these contractual boundaries in place are going to help you and your business, but they will also be beneficial for your client. Think of these contract provisions as your way of communicating how your clients can expect to interact with you. It’s an important step to protect not only your boundaries but also create a strong foundation for a great relationship with your clients. When everyone is on the same page from the onset, there are fewer opportunities for miscommunications. 

Evaluate Your Boundaries

Once you have your boundaries in place, the things you should be saying “yes” to and the things you should be saying “no” to will become more obvious than ever. Here are some of the questions I ask myself when taking on new legal clients:

  • Is the help this client needs in my wheelhouse or will I have to spend extra time getting up to speed on their particular issue?

Is the amount I am being paid for this project enough to make it worthwhile to take on? 

  • Is the timeline for this project reasonable for the workload required to get it done. In other words, will taking on this project require me to work overtime?
  • Is this client someone who I will enjoy working with?

In a perfect world, all of our clients would respect these contractual boundaries, but in the event they don’t, communication is the best tool in your toolkit. Make sure to discuss the breached boundaries immediately and make an effort to enforce them consistently. . Don’t let it go even once. Because the second you don’t enforce one of your boundaries, you’re essentially telling your client that you’re never going to enforce those boundaries and that it’s ok to break them. 

Remember, protecting your boundaries is important for you and for the relationship you’re creating with your clients. Never feel guilty for enforcing your boundaries. 

Above all, do not feel bad about doing what you must to protect your time, money and energy. Your contract provisions are to your benefit so honor them accordingly. Are you looking for more tips to help you navigate the legal landscape? Head on over to legallyset.com and let’s connect! 


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Kunbi Odubogun

Kunbi Odubogun is a Business Attorney, Speaker and Publisher with over 12 years of professional experience. She’s passionate about working with talented and enthusiastic entrepreneurs and she’s dedicated to helping creative people build their dream businesses and navigate the legal landscape. As the CEO of Legally Set, Kunbi offers a wide selection of professional, attorney-drafted contract templates, all ready-made for you. She’s also the host of the podcast “Launch That Ish”, where she encourages and assists aspiring entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.