Creating Clear Boundaries With Your Design Clients

December 27, 2022

Fellow designer, are you finding yourself wondering just how you can create strong, intentional, clear boundaries with your design clients so that you can really serve them all? If so, keep reading! 

Over the 10 years of experience I’ve had as a graphic, brand and web designer I’ve utilized three steps in my own business to create boundaries with my own clients. These are boundaries that truly set both you and your clients up for success!

Now, when we hear the word boundaries, especially in the creative world we are all apart of, I feel like we get a little bit of pushback sometimes with that word, right? Oftentimes we hear that word and we think of something maybe a little bit negative. There’s this weird idea or this weird preconception that we have that boundaries are a bad thing or that they are an aggressive thing. Or maybe that they are more of a defensive, sometimes even kind of territorial thing, in relationships. But, I’ve actually found the exact opposite to be true! 

Creating Clear Boundaries With Your Design Clients

In every relationship, whether it’s with your friends, significant other, business partner, and even with your clients, I really do believe that boundaries are key to any healthy relationship. They are simply tools. They are sometimes emotional tools or sometimes physical tools. Boundaries allow us to communicate the best way that we can engage in an authentic and a caring relationship with somebody else. 

By creating boundaries in any of your relationships, you’re letting somebody know how they can best respect you, how they can best communicate with you, how they can best really engage in a relationship with you. Your boundaries help to let them know really where they can meet you in the space of a relationship that you’re building or that you are deepening. 

In the case with our clients, oftentimes, we are creating those relationships from scratch! So it’s important that we have the tools and the guidelines in place so that we can set those relationships up for success to begin with. 

The Need For Boundaries

When you think about creating boundaries with your design clients, one thing that I keep hearing over and over again is that we all kind of come to a point in our relationships with our clients, where we find that there’s a clear need for boundaries.

And unfortunately, we often find this to be true when we don’t have boundaries in place. 

So most often I see (or hear of) situations where maybe you have a client who is emailing you 20 times a day. Each email is one different thought instead of compiling all of their feedback in one cohesive email. Or maybe you have clients who are contacting you at all hours of the day and night, and they’re expecting immediate responses. Maybe they follow up with you if you don’t or can’t reply within their desired timeframe. 

Do you have clients who have a hard time respecting the boundaries that you set in your original contract or your client agreement, so then they come back to you and ask for services that maybe fall outside of your project scope? Can you resonate with any of these situations? We’ve all been there, or are currently there, and that’s okay! I’ve been here too!

The Positives Of Clear Boundaries

When you think about creating a boundaries for your clients, I want you to really spin it in a positive light. Boundaries are absolutely key to any healthy relationship. Instead of thinking them as a defensive action where you’re drawing a border around you, your business, and your time, I want you to think of it as a gate or a bridge to your client on the other side that allows you to kind of pass over a river. The bridge or gate gives your client the space to cross over into that professional relationship with you. 

Laying down those boundaries within any relationship can feel a little intimidating, especially if it’s something that you maybe aren’t quite familiar with or you haven’t really gotten used to doing that. But that’s why I think it’s so important for us to focus on the intent behind creating boundaries with our client relationships. And it’s not to micromanage people, it’s ultimately to create a system for building relationships with your clients so that you can serve them well and do your best work. 

Ultimately, what’s most important, is how the two of you can come together and build a professional working relationship that helps your clients reach their goals, helps you do the work that you love to do, and everyone’s happy in the end!

Position Yourself As The Expert

My first tip for really creating strong boundaries with your clients that I think that it is absolutely crucial to setting you up for success in that way – position yourself as the expert.

The person who’s in charge and who’s guiding your client through this process. If you do not define clear boundaries or define those guidelines within your client relationships, then your client will.

If you unintentionally aren’t setting those boundaries for your clients, your client is going to start filling in the gaps. Whethere it be with their own stories or their own ideas, or maybe the way that they’ve done this in the past, or maybe the way that they do things within their own business. 

Office hours is probably the easiest example, because I see so many designers really struggle with that point of communication and that boundary with their clients. If you find that you have a client who maybe doesn’t have office hours, and maybe instead they are used to always being on their phone, seeing their email and responding instantly whenever someone gets in touch with them. If you don’t tell them that that’s not how you do things, then how are they supposed to know any different, right? They’re going to assume that you do things in a similar way and they’re going to expect really quick turn times from you or responses to emails at all hours of the day or night. 

Positioning yourself as the leader from day one allows you to organically create those boundaries, communicate those boundaries, and really define those guidelines. And I promise you that if you’re doing that, your clients will respect that and will listen to what you’re saying and follow those boundaries and those guidelines in the first place.

Pulling In Clear Boundaries

Which takes me to pulling in boundaries and actually creating the boundaries that will set you and your client up for success! So what I mean by that is, create boundaries into your process that are going to help you do your best work and help you serve your client well. 

We don’t want to pull in boundaries like how people can get in touch with you, or how you like to receive content for a website before you start building that out, or how you like to receive feedback. 

Don’t pull in boundaries that are arbitrary or that don’t really have any rhyme or reason behind them. 

Instead, focus on pulling in boundaries and creating that space so that you can do your best work! So maybe that looks like asking clients ahead of time, “Hey, on our start date, I need your website content and your copy already to go so that when we do get to your site design, I can really just plug all that in and create the best layout for you.” That’s a boundary that actually helps you serve your client better in the long run! And it’s one that helps your client have a better experience, but it also enables you to do your work well. 

So, when you’re thinking about the kinds of boundaries that you want to pull into your business, I’d really encourage you to not only look at the boundary kind of on the surface level, but take it a little deeper and take a look at the intention behind it and how that is going to be something that serves you well and serves your client well.

Don’t just look to what other people are doing. Instead, take a look at your process and take a look at what some guidelines, boundaries, or rules may be that would help you do your best work and help your clients get an incredible brand that they’re so proud to put their name on, ensuring that both of you are having an incredible experience working together!

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

So my last key step for creating clear boundaries with your clients is one that takes a little bit of courage, but I really do think it’s important. Don’t be afraid to lay down the law, kindly of course, with your clients. 

Don’t be afraid to say no.

I think that it’s easy as creatives in any industry, but especially in the design industry, where we are wanting to serve our clients well. We’re kind of going through a vulnerable process with them where we’re creating these beautiful mockups and these beautiful concepts, and we’re hoping that they love it. And we’re really opening ourselves up for feedback. And sometimes our clients come back and ask for updates. Maybe they love it, maybe they don’t love it, but it’s kind of a vulnerable process. So it can feel a little uneasy at times to very appropriately and firmly push back when a client asks for something that isn’t within the scope of the original project. 

I know that it can be hard to say no to a client, but I really do think that there are some great and really appropriate ways to say no to clients. 

Especially within the design industry, a lot of the times, as creatives, designers, and strategists, we’re pulling in details and we’re really pointing our clients in a certain direction because we see the benefit of it. We are recommending a certain design aesthetic, certain colors, certain layout to print or digital collateral because we know that there’s intention, strategy and color theory behind it all. 

But, sometimes you might get a little pushback from a client who says, “Oh, actually, I would love to create something that looks like this instead.” 

And then there’s nothing wrong with you coming back and saying, “Actually, in my experience as a brand designer and strategist, I’ve found this to be true.”

And then you can make a case for your original concept, or you can find some commonality, maybe some common ground with what your client is asking for and what you are advocating for. Together you guys can figure out the best way to maybe craft some visuals that will really help that happen and make it possible. 

How Clear Boundaries Have Transformed My Business

So those are my three tips for really creating clear boundaries! Even if the idea of boundaries still just isn’t something that you have a lot of experience with, it’s something that takes practice, right? It can feel a little intimidating the first few times you’re doing it simply because it’s new. But here’s the good news, it honestly will become second nature to you, and it will become such an integral part of your process that you won’t even notice it anymore!

The guidelines that I set with my clients are part of my onboarding process now, and they’re conversations that I don’t think anything of. I’m glad that they’re there. I’m grateful that I’ve done that work over the years to really lay those boundaries in place and create those guidelines so that my clients and I can have great working relationships, but it’s not something that I’m actively thinking about. But by laying those boundaries at the beginning of my client work, it absolutely transforms the quality of the relationship I can have with my clients, because boundaries are a key component of any healthy relationship. And on top of that, they help me do my best work so I can serve my clients and they can see the results that they hired me in order to see. 

P.S. Did you enjoy today’s post or have you found value in another resource that I have shared in the past? You can head here to buy me a coffee, and I would be so honored by your support! I am so thankful you are here, and always cheering you on from Waco!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My name is Bonnie – I’m a brand designer, strategist, and writer which all adds up to one eclectic conglomeration of qualities that enables me to serve you well! Past clients have dubbed me "the Joanna Gaines of brand design," and I've had more than a few call me a dream maker, a game changer, and a design wizard (my Harry Potter-loving heart didn't hate that one, let me tell you!). At the end of the day, I'm a big-hearted creative who will get teary-eyed as you share the heart behind your business; who will lose sleep over the perfect font pairings and color selections to bring your brand to life visually; and who will work tirelessly to empower, encourage, and equip you to share your work with the world intentionally. 

hi friend!

meet bonnie

create your dream brand


yes! send me the guide >