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Tips for setting client boundaries from a creative studio owner

What your boundaries mean to you

There are times when you’ll be offered work outside of your boundaries, and it can be hard to know how to respond. For example, if someone asks you to create content for their website but they don’t want to pay you, should you still do it? This article explains what boundaries are and what they mean to you as an online freelancer. It also teaches you how to enforce those boundaries in a way that doesn’t feel too pushy but still lets clients know that you need to get paid or that some jobs aren’t worth doing for free.

Setting boundaries

What is a boundary? It’s a line that someone draws in order to control his or her behavior or relationships. If you don’t set boundaries, there are those who will set them for you—usually those who see your weak spots as exploitable opportunities. As a freelancer, it’s critical that you develop and enforce clear boundaries with clients from day one—especially if your services include something as sensitive as their personal stories. Here are a few steps to help get you started:

You have a duty of care, but so does your client: When developing your terms of service (ToS), keep in mind that you have an obligation to provide quality work and meet certain standards—that means not only taking steps to protect yourself from legal liability but also trying your best never to break promises when it comes to delivery dates or handoff times. If you can establish common ground on these basic principles before you start working together, your relationship will get off on a good foot and make future changes much easier to navigate. The last thing either party wants is for one person’s perception of reality to clash with another’s; if they don’t line up, try talking things through until they do before problems arise.

black flat screen tv turned on near green plant

Why have them?

We all have boundaries, whether we realize it or not. We may also realize that they don’t mean much in practice, because we’re hesitant to enforce them. This is a mistake. Boundaries are more than just a way of ensuring our comfort and security; they’re a vital part of who we are as people. By better understanding what makes us uncomfortable—and enforcing these boundaries when necessary—we can stand up for ourselves while also setting an example for others to follow. Read on for some ways to do just that!

When should I enforce them? 

There are lots of reasons why you might want to consider standing up for yourself: taking a personal day off work due to illness instead of simply making yourself work through it, bringing your children into your bed with you so you can get one last night of sleep before getting out of bed at 6 AM… It really doesn’t matter! It comes down to respecting your needs above anyone else’s. And if other people don’t respect those needs? That’s their problem. If someone tries to put undue pressure on you or dismisses your boundaries entirely, take a step back and reevaluate things—but don’t be afraid to confront them about their behavior if necessary.

How can I set them?

First, you need to understand what your boundaries are. Boundaries are essential for every person. However, since they differ for each individual, it’s necessary that you take some time and really think about what yours are. If you don’t know where they stand currently, how can you possibly enforce them? Understanding your boundaries is important so that you can start working on implementing them in your daily life. Once you’ve identified what your boundaries are, it’s time to actually set them! While setting boundaries may feel weird at first, it will eventually feel like second nature. The idea of setting boundaries isn’t a very common practice—but once you do begin doing so, a sense of relief will likely come over you. It does get easier with practice!

Applying this info practically

It’s important that you know your boundaries, which means you need to consider what they are. For starters, you should consider exactly how much time you’re willing to commit before backing out. Is it okay for a project to take up all of your free time for six months? Six years? A lifetime? Consider how far away from home you’re willing to travel for work, how many clients or projects can occupy your schedule at one time, and which resources must be yours alone. Once you have a working knowledge of your personal limitations, put them into practice when accepting new work. If a potential client asks for something outside of your stated limits, politely decline by offering an alternative solution. This helps set boundaries without hurting relationships with established clients or potential employers in future ventures. But make sure to establish these limits—and stick to them—early on; if not, there’s nothing stopping someone else from taking control over every aspect of your career.

Larionne Mariah

Larionne Mariah is the founder of Elle Vue Agency. She has had an extensive career in design, branding, and digital strategy that spans many industries including healthcare, e-commerce, manufacturing and more. Larionne started her own company because she found herself frustrated with working for other companies — where they would tell her how to do her job instead of listening to what she knew was best for the client. Follow her on Instagram @larionnemariah & visit her website ellevueco.com


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