Why you need to be consistent with boundaries

I am one of those people pleaser types of people who will generally do things for people just because I like them. I do however get to a point where I do feel taken advantage of, the snapping point if you like, and of course it’s my own doing.

I recently had a situation with a long term client who I had been giving free hosting and spending time doing little fixes here and there. Yep I was working for free. It came to a head when her site had a massive error and I had spend a great deal of time fixing it, so I charged her (and only half of what I should have because I liked her – but an agreed amount before I undertook the work).

They wont know unless you tell them

This would of course seem like a normal course of action being a service provider, sending an invoice once a job is finished. Invoicing for my time is how I put a roof over my head, however, because I had not set solid boundaries for the duration of the relationship it turned out it was a big deal. So much so she jumped ship, changed all my passwords on her site, took her site to a new host and disappeared when it came to paying the invoice. Of course this made me angry, but not angry at her, at myself for letting it happen. She had no idea of all the ‘free’ things I was doing for her so she didn’t appreciate my value to her business. So it was easy for her to make the change, and she probably walked away thinking how dare she charge me for that, but she knew no better because of me.

Consistency makes strong relationships

I’ve had other instances where I have taken a ‘no worries’ approach in the beginning for it only to end badly when a 20 hour project suddenly became 40 hours. There is that saying, give an inch and people will take a mile. That’s what happens if you aren’t clear about your boundaries. Trying to put boundaries in place towards the end of a project when you’ve been relaxed the whole way through can be detrimental relationships.

Be clear about how much you are giving away

Yes you can give stuff away if you want, there is nothing wrong with it. But you need to be clear about what you are doing is something you would normally charge for, otherwise when you finally decide enough is enough it will become a massive problem and hard to put your foot down. Your client will assume what you’ve been doing all this time is included.

Those pesky boundary pushers

There will always be someone who will push against the boundaries and that’s why it’s super important to have everything in writing. And of course some people don’t read and will plead ‘But I didn’t know‘, combating that is all about educating your client from the get go with project induction processes that cover multiple ways of communication (eg. written and a project kick off conversation). It is your responsibility to teach your clients this, and yes it can be time consuming.

If you’re not consistent with your boundaries for the whole duration of the project you’re opening yourself up for not only potential scope creep, but also potentially damaging the relationship with your client. Start creating your boundaries before you even start quoting. Yes you may find that some people just wont work with you, but they are generally the ones that will be difficult anyway.