Have you ever worked with a client who asked you to do something that is completely out of your original scope of project? Or what about those clients who just can’t seem to grasp the concept of office hours? Been there, done that! It can be challenging to navigate a positive relationship with a client who can’t seem to stay within your boundaries, but it’s so important to navigate these types of situations with integrity and purpose.
Today’s conversation we’re diving back into the Mental Health Series with professional licensed counselor and my big brother, Josh Berger. The last few episodes of this series we talked a lot about fear of failure and fear of success, defining your identity + sense of balance, and how to navigate rejection and diffuse negative self-talk as an entrepreneur.
And today we’re diving into setting clear clear boundaries and handling difficult clients. This subject is one that I believe is SO important. So let’s dive right on in!
SETTING CLEAR BOUNDARIES
One of the first places to start when working with difficult (or not so ideal clients) is to identify the reason you’re experiencing the level of stress you are with this relationship.
Mapping out the different types of talent and people we encounter and work with can help us understand why a relationship is causing us stress. In this episode, Josh explains the three types of clients we most often face and why their personal traits and past can impact the relationship they have with us.
Then we need to identify what a good job well done looks like for the job we are hired to do. Set perfectionism aside and look at how you can serve this project or person well. From there, set boundaries based on what a good job well done looks like.
There are two types of boundaries to be aware of: 1) external boundaries and, 2) internal boundaries.
External boundaries are those the client is aware of. For example, at the beginning of your work together, you let your client know your typical email response time is between 24-36 hours. That’s a range you’ve identified as a job well done so that’s an external boundary you’ve set.
Internal boundaries are what Josh likes to call “the thoughts”. These are the boundaries that you think about when you think of this client. A sign of an unhealthy relationship is when you think, worry, or are concerned about one client more often than the others. Set aside specific time to focus on just that client in order to set your internal boundary. After that time, be disciplined about not running yourself ragged and worrying.
Tune in using the media player above for a few internal exercises from Josh to not let difficult clients dictate your day to day.
BOUNDARIES WHEN RESPONDING TO HARSH EMAILS
There’s a lot of possibility and opportunity for us as creative entrepreneurs to understand that by simply drawing some boundaries, it allows you to lean into your biggest gifts. When we lean into our gifts we produce more life giving work.
And that is so important because I think that’s one of the most important things that will protect ourselves from burnout.
I’m sure we’ve all gotten emails from clients that are super sweet and kind, and then a few days later another email that feels a bit passive aggressive or outright hurtful. How do we navigate through how these emails make us feel?
Josh explains it’s so important to give yourself time to process and reframe what could be going on in your client’s life and then move forward. In my own experience, I allow myself to feel all the feelings the first time I read through a hurtful email, and then I take the emotion out of it completely. Not to be heartless or cold, but just to take emotion out of it and look at the facts of why my client feels the way they do. I try to really focus on the facts and then I reply in a way where I am only focusing only on the facts and serving them well without bending over backwards.
Also don’t forget to lean on your external boundaries! If you have a client asking you to deliver assets that are outside of your scope of project within your client agreement gently point them back to the contract and what you will deliver to them with so much heart and value.
Let your contract be the bad guy, not you!
CHOOSE TO LIVE IN LIFE
Josh has made a life rule that I think we all can live by: “I won’t worry about something that has less than a 2% chance of happening because I can run myself ragged with fears and concerns. But very rarely are those things going to actually occur.”
Instead choose to live in life.
It’s better to draw the boundary and get the bad review if that boundary is setting you up for more success with future clients.
As entrepreneurs, if we’re filling our cups first, we are caring for ourselves and empowering others to be the happiest, healthiest, most wholehearted humans. And that overflows to those around you.
If there is one piece of encouragement you walk away with we hope it’s this: we all struggle with this. We all have someone in our life who is difficult or toxic but we can use that struggle to learn something about ourselves. Learn to set boundaries and navigate those interactions better each time.
CATCH THE SHOW NOTE BREAKDOWN:
3:00 – The first place to start when working with a difficult client
7:30 – Identify what a good job well done looks like
14:00 – Being empathetic without crossing the boundaries you’ve set
15:15 – The difference between external and internal boundaries
19:30 – Understanding your skill set and how you serve best
22:00 – Protecting yourself from burnout
24:00 – How to get a professional relationship back on track
24:45 – Dealing with a harsh email
33:00 – When to pick up the phone
38:00 – Choose to live in LIFE
40:15 – What you can learn from a toxic relationship
If you enjoyed the show, join us next time as we talk all about understanding how you’re wired and how you can build more self care into your routine.
If you want to chat with Josh for encouragement or advice on this topic you can email him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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