Do you know what boundaries are and what you are supposed to do with a boundary?
Think of a fence. This is where you’re saying, “this is what works for me”. And you’re putting up a hard fence: a hard stop, a line in the sand that says, “This is what is acceptable. This is what I will agree to and this is what I cannot agree to.When we step into business, we cannot allow people-pleasing tendencies to burn us out. We can’t say yes when we really need to say no. For every “yes” you say, there is a trade off…always. Sure, we do want to make our clients happy. We do sometimes sacrifice our boundaries to make them happy. This is not about the occasional emergencies. We just do not want to allow them to become the norms of our relationship.
On this blog, we have previously covered calendar boundaries and communication boundaries. This last post in the series is about client boundaries. Most of us have experienced those sticky clients situations. This is where setting expectations upfront will save you a lot of energy.
I see people becoming frustrated and overwhelmed when their clients don’t respect their appointments. Their clients either
- cancel on them
- are no-shows
- constantly reschedule on them at last minute
It is your responsibility to let them know upfront what happens whenever any one of those three things occur. They should be included in your client agreements. If you do not have client agreements, then you need to get on it. Add a section in your agreement saying, “Here is our scheduling policy. Here is what happens if you don’t give us a heads up.”
We tell people we require a 24-hour heads up before they cancel or reschedule an appointment: “If you fail to give us a 24-hour notice, then this session is considered forfeited.” Which means they just don’t get to make it up. And we also state our rescheduling policy. “If you do give us a heads up, no problem. But if you have to reschedule, we have to accommodate you now in our schedule that has been laid out three-months in advance. Which often means you may have to wait a while“.
This encourages our clients to not reschedule because they know that they run the risk of not getting rescheduled quickly. It has to fit in with my calendar—not with their calendar.
Do you have fees associated with cancellations or reschedules? When I book an appointment at my salon to get my roots done, they require my credit card number because, if I just don’t show up for that appointment, they’re going to charge their full fee for the service I scheduled. My hair stylist does this as well as my dentist. Many professionals charge a cancellation fee if you don’t give them a heads up. Just make sure people know that they will be charged a fee to accommodate for your lost time and energy.
You can also reiterate those expectations in your on-boarding. If you run into the very first situation where someone is trying to cancel last minute, you need to address it immediately. If you let it slide the first time, then they start to feel as though it is not a big deal…I guarantee it. Some of us had those situations where we let it slide once and, before you know it, it is happening again and again. You may think, “Oh gosh, now how can I even bring this up?” You have to nip it in the bud.
This is where having an email template ready to go saying, “Hey, you didn’t show up for our appointment today. We sent you a reminder. You confirmed that the appointment was on. I want to give you a heads up that I know emergencies happen; however, we do require 24 hour cancellation. Because you missed this one, I want to let you won’t have a reschedule.” When you have a standard template for that email, you are not emotional about it. Again, remind them what happened, state your policy, state what will happen as a consequence. I find that is really important. That’s one of the biggest headaches I see people have: the cancellations, the reschedules, the no shows.
When a client continues to abuse your schedule, it is okay to fire them as a client. It’s okay to tell them that the relationship is not working out for you. I literally had a client once who, out of a six-month program with me one-on-one, missed half of the sessions and then wanted me to make them up with her. I said, “No, that is not the agreement. I showed up for every single appointment and you did not. I’m sorry. It is not a fit. I’m sorry to see you go. Not really, because this was a pain for me. But when I say these are the appointments I’m serious. You have to show up the days that we agreed upon.” So I think that’s really one of those client things that we all struggle with. But if you set the expectations and you reinforce it immediately the first time it shows as being a problem, you won’t be struggling with it so much.
The next client boundary that I feel can be really challenging is scope creep. Now, this is something I tend to see happen a lot for my clients who are service providers, who are really good at lots of things. They just want to make their clients happy and say, “yes”. Unfortunately, they keep saying yes to too many things. Suddenly when I look at everything they have now created or delivered to that client, I find myself saying, “You have undercharged this client so much. Your hourly rate for what you have created for them is pennies.” This is a huge problem, especially for female entrepreneurs because we want to be people pleasers. They hire us to do one thing and then suddenly they are asking for something more:
- “Well, I hired you to build this website, but could you also make some social media graphics?
- Cause you also design a sales page?
- Could you also format this blog and create a newsletter template?”
Suddenly you look at all the things you’ve created and that package really should have been two or three times what you charged. Oftentimes when I am looking at my clients and what their deliverables are, I find myself telling them that they need to immediately double their because they are over delivering and undercharging.
Scope creep is a real problem. If you don’t want to get into this situation, set clear expectations. Really lay out every single thing you are delivering to them.
I just recently was working with a women who specializes in helping entrepreneurs get more visibility—especially through public speaking and landing podcast interviews. She was offering a one-time session for just $397. Not only was she rewriting their pitch from scratch, but she was also creating a speaking bio helping them craft their top three signature talk topics and giving them templates that they could then use to go pitch themselves. As she started breaking down all of her different deliverables, I pointed out to her that this was not just an hour of her time—this was a lot of deliverables.” And we realized she had just completely undersold what the value of this offer was.
We tripled the price and made it $997 because it was something unlike any other experience. It wasn’t just an hour picking her brain. It was an intensive where you walk away with a custom pitch, signature talk topics, a speaker bio, and a lot of resources to help you get a head start on pitching yourself and getting more visibility.
We realized that she needed to have that ironed out. She needed to increase her prices and change her package around. But she had to get clarity and articulate what was included in that offer. It comes with setting expectations and boundaries. And if something else comes up—if someone requests more than what was agreed upon—have a canned response email that you can send back to your clients and say, “Hey, I would love to do that. For me to do that, it’s an additional $<whatever the fee is to create this>. And you outline what the additional thing is. You just want to document for each thing they’re asking you because this is extra time, energy and effort. And there’s another price because they are asking for an “an “add on” here.
I usually say something on the order of “Hey, that sounds great. I would love to do that for you. It will be an additional XYZ investment in order for me to accomplish ABC. Is that okay? I’ll add it to your next invoice.” If they okay it, then you’re good. Because you are being paid for the extra work. But if not, now they know, “We’re outside of the boundary of this.” And if the client is actually asking for a whole new level of service, which sometimes happens, that is another conversation you need to have with them For example, I have had people purchase a group program when they really should have been at a higher level–a more hands-on level. I said, “Hey, I just want to let you know that it sounds as if you came in on this level and you’ve been asking for things that only clients paying for private time receive that level of work. Are you interested in upgrading your program, or upgrading your package, or upgrading your retainer with me to also include these things?” I am just reinforcing that I am paid more to do what they are asking. They cannot get it more, more, and more for free, right? They have to pay you each time you say yes to another thing.
So we are ready to wrap up our three-part series on boundaries. We have covered a lot of ground.
If you are going to have boundaries, you have to make sure you reinforce the boundaries. Will people push against them? Of course they are going to. People always push against boundaries. It does not mean the boundary isn’t working. It just means you need to now reinforce the boundary until they understand what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to doing business with you.