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When working in an industry like PR (especially as a solo practitioner), it’s easy to feel obligated to go above and beyond the call of duty for every client you work with.
And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting forth your best effort and wanting to deliver, it’s important to make sure it’s not at the expense of your mental health and well-being.
If you often find yourself responding to emails after hours or cringing every time you see a client’s name pop up on your caller ID, it may be time for a boundary check.
Establishing boundaries is a key component to building an effective client relationship. If you worked at a big agency in the past, you may not have been the one calling those shots. However, as a solo PR pro, it’s completely up to you clearly define those limits and communicate them.
Whether you’re starting a new relationship or have been working with someone for years, here are five tips to help you effectively set boundaries with your clients.
1. Choose (and stick to!) a primary method of communication
Communication between you and your clients is essential to your success, but establishing how you’ll be communicating with one another can be an easy step to forget.
Sure, some clients will always prefer to send you an email with requests or questions and may resort to the occasional phone call if the situation warrants. But imagine working with a client who simultaneously sends you emails, leaves voice messages on your cell, tags you in random conversations in their company Slack channel and texts you from time to time.
Not only does this make it difficult for you to know how best to reach them, it also makes it very confusing to remember which channels to look at for key information you need to do your job.
Make it a point to ask how your client prefers to be reached, and share the channel(s) you would like to use for communication with them.
Things may pop up from time to time that warrant a different method of communication, but if you start to notice a pattern emerging, it may be a good time to revisit the list of preferred channels and figure out a process moving forward.
2. Be clear about your working hours
We all know it’s not healthy to be available to clients 24/7, but signing off at the end of a work day can be easier said than done.
With smartphones constantly in our hands and many of us working from home, clients have more access to us than ever before. It can be extremely tempting to respond to the late night requests or questions that roll in.
One way to avoid feeling that pressure is to decide what your working hours are going to be, and clearly communicate that to your clients. Let them know they can continue to send you a message when a question pops up, but that you won’t respond until you’re “back in the office,” wherever that office may be.
3. Set your limits
Whether it’s the number of in-person (or Zoom!) meetings you’ll be having to check in, the frequency of reports you’re expected to turn in or how many rounds of revisions you’ll do for each pitch or press release, it’s important to clearly define your limits with a client.
This limit might be different for each client you have, and that’s okay! Just be sure to spend the time upfront thinking about the scope of a client’s investment and what makes sense to provide in return.
By managing expectations upfront, you can do your best to ensure there is no future disappointment on either the client’s side or yours.
4. Keep an eye out for scope creep, and catch it early
In most cases, clients don’t intentionally ask for work that falls outside of your agreed upon scope of work. But it’s one of those things that can start with a seemingly small, one-off request and snowball into time-consuming responsibilities that you aren’t being compensated for.
You have to be on the lookout for scope creep, and make sure you’re protecting your best interests.
Make sure to clearly define your scope of work from the get-go, with as much detail as possible, and ask your client to sign on the dotted line. Then, when requests pop up that aren’t on your original agreement, you have the space to decide if it’s something you’re willing to do pro bono or if it requires an additional charge.
In larger cases of scope creep, it could be worth it to revisit your original contract with your client and work together to decide how best to manage the added workload.
5. Don’t feel guilty
Bottom line: you should be fully in control of your business, not the other way around. And sometimes that means setting boundaries with your clients. That doesn’t have to be a bad or scary thing, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to lose valuable work.
In most cases, clients will appreciate the clear, upfront communication and respect you for your decisions. Try not to feel guilty when making certain restrictions. It’s necessary to ensure that both you and your client are happy, and you’re able to work together effectively.
How do you set boundaries with your clients? Leave your response in the comments section below or tag us on social media using #solopr.
Photo via 123rf.com | Copyright : Kuznetsov Dmitry
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