One of the most common themes that comes up in The Freelance Lifestylers group is boundaries. Whether it’s setting them with clients or with family and friends. The problems usually arise when boundaries haven’t been set – it’s much harder to push back if you haven’t set a standard from the beginning. If you’re just starting out, or looking to update your approach before starting work with a new client, here are three ways to set boundaries:
Terms and Conditions
When it comes to working with clients, creating and confirming Terms And Conditions is an essential part of making sure everyone is on the same page and setting expectations. They’ll also cover you if anything does go off plan, like late payments or a client contacting you repeatedly out of the set hours. You can find an example set of Terms And Conditions on my blog here. Make sure you email them to the client before you start work, and don’t start work until they’ve confirmed (in writing) that they’re happy to move forward. This means you can always refer back to them. So, for example, if you’re chasing a payment, you can mention that your terms and conditions state that you need to be paid within X days of receiving the invoice, or fees will be incurred.
Stick To Your Hours
It’s a hard one to do, but if a client contacts you outside your hours, don’t respond until it is your work time. If they’ve agreed to your terms, it shouldn’t be a problem. Once you slip into working outside your hours, it’s tricky to reverse, so being proactive from the start and setting that boundary is important. Obviously there are occasional reasons why you have to, for example if you work in social media and there’s an emergency issue that needs dealing with. But these should be charged as additional hours, or deducted from your set hours. It may be worth including your work hours in your email signature too, as a subtle reminder to your clients.
Set boundaries with family and friends
It’s not just clients you need to set boundaries with. When you start out as a freelancer, especially if you’re working from home, there’s a good chance you’ll have to tackle some challenges around friends and family respecting your hours and work. Partners expecting you to do chores during the day, friends expecting you to drop everything to go for lunch with them or a well meaning parent calling you up for a chat in the middle of the day when you’re up against a deadline. This is another area where being firm from the start really helps. And the secret is, this is as much about how YOU see yourself working from home, as how others see it. If a friend wants you to drop everything for lunch, either explain you have a deadline to hit or go but during your lunch hour (unless you actually do fancy going for lunch, in which case, go!) I’d advise against inviting them round for lunch – two hours later you’ll be glancing at your laptop and they’re not getting the hint.
Do you struggle with setting boundaries as a freelancer?
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