5 Ways to Set Boundaries with Your Clients

Creating boundaries benefits both the business owner and the client

We’ve all had them. The type of client who tries to push the boundaries with the type of service or fee structure we operate within.

This can put professionals in quite a quandary, particularly if we’re working with downsizing seniors who are emotionally and psychologically overwhelmed during a move.

We want to make things easier for them and reduce their stress. Because of that, we can quickly find ourselves with requests that stretch outside of our normal service boundaries. If we’re not careful, we can set ourselves up for unpleasant issues we don’t expect.

It Takes All Kinds

Sometimes it’s the type of client that wants 5-star service for a 1-star price. They don’t appreciate or value our service and just want to save a buck. But often it’s an overwhelmed client who feels they need to rely on us to fix every problem, even if it’s not within our regular business skill set.

I had to learn the hard way in the early years of growing my organizing and downsizing business. I wasn’t thinking about the negative consequences or liability exposure that those extra services can sometimes create.

It didn’t take long though before I learned that a policy of setting boundaries was just as important in protecting the client as it was in protecting me, my staff, and my business.    

5 Ways to Set Effective Boundaries

In reality, setting clear boundaries can make it easier, not harder, for your client in understanding how your processes and procedures protect them and their belongings.

Here are some suggestions to help you get there.

Provide a clear, easy to understand contract

1. Provide a Clear, Easy to Understand Contract

I’ve never been a fan of a contract that you need Google Translator to understand. Yes, you need your service contract worded professionally and created by a qualified attorney. Most attorneys will work with you to create a document that can be easily understood by anyone outside the legal profession and still protect your business.

I’ve also always made it a policy to have the client sign it prior to any services being rendered. It only gets harder later on to get a client to sign once things are already underway. They know that once you’re providing the service, there’s less chance you’ll say no to a change.

I also include a section in my agreement that outlines the things I won’t do, as well as the services I will be providing.  I’ve found that having this kind of language in an agreement signed and acknowledged by a client is a powerful tool to bring out when they try to say they didn’t agree to a price or service.

Set Expectations Early Starting With Your Initial Consultation

2. Set Expectations Early

Setting expectations with your client about the timing and scope of the services you’re providing is critical. These expectations should begin very early in the process. I’ve already mentioned it being included in the contract, but it should also begin with the initial consultation.

Even if there’s something you think a client “should know”, take the time to walk them through the entire process. Many times, it’s been years since a client has moved and they forget about even the simplest things. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions and bring up concerns that, if left unaddressed, could create issues later on.

Your client will feel more at ease when they have a clear picture of what to expect. It goes a long way in reducing the chances of future miscommunications.

Share the “Why’s” With Your Client on the Processes They’ll Experience

3. Share “The Why’s” With Your Client

While you are sharing the process they are entering, be sure to share the “why” behind what they’ll be experiencing. Letting them know how these processes benefit or protect them can help them “buy in” to it and engage with less resistance.

Have you ever had a client that looked surprised when you told them their lamps had to be properly dismantled and packed prior to moving day? I’m constantly surprised by the number of clients I’ve worked with who were truly shocked by this and fully expected the mover would just “stick it in a corner” as-is. They simply hadn’t thought through how easily these items can be damaged.

Understanding the “why’s” gives them clarity and helps them plan more efficiently.

Stick to Your Pricing and Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

4. Stick to Your Pricing

It never feels good to do a client consultation and have them immediately ask for a significant discount or services that you don’t traditionally offer.  So, it’s important to stand your ground when it comes to your service package and pricing. 

Because once you’ve shown you’re willing to make changes, you’ll be fodder for continual requests for freebies and discounts. There’s nothing wrong with offering a special discount package from time to time, but it can get around town very quickly if you aren’t consistent. In fact, what a client who asks for an unreasonable discount is really saying is that they don’t respect the value of your service.

High-Demand Clients are Rarely Profitable Clients

I understand only too well that this can be difficult for those who are just starting their business in this industry. When you need income flow it can be extremely frustrating. But what I’ve found with this type of client is that you not only lose in the short run on lost income, you lose way more in the long run than you gain by taking the project on.

These types of clients not only limit your profit but tend to be highly demanding. You never satisfy them, despite giving 150%.  Instead, stick to the full-price client who sees the value of your services and will be more likely to give you referrals. 

Instead, be ready to counter any price challenges from a value-based position. Share the ways that your services can save them time, money, or stress. Who doesn’t want that?!

But, always be willing to walk away from a client if you’re seeing these kinds of red flags in your initial consult.

Say No and Mean It

5.  Say No and Mean It – The Trap of Extraordinary Service      

I’ve fallen into this trap myself a few too many times over the years. You like the client and would do anything to make them happy. So, when they push a boundary and ask you to make a change, whether it’s price-related or scale of service, you say “Well, ok… just this time”.

But inconsistent messaging breeds confusion and it can backfire on you in ways you might not expect. Suddenly other types of terms you hadn’t intended to change are assumed by the client to also be “flexible” and you rarely regain your footing.

A client senses there’s a vulnerability to the boundary and won’t hesitate to push for additional requests moving forward. Now it’s twice as hard for you to maintain that boundary.

Other Benefits

The bottom line is that boundaries are crucial in running a profitable and trouble-free business. The biggest challenge, though, is staying consistent and sticking to your guns when pressed by a well-meaning client.

By far though, the benefits exceed any potential monetary loss. It can reduce stress, improve overall confidence, support positive staff morale, and help build a trusting and lasting relationship with your clients for years to come.


P.S. Thinking of starting a senior downsizing business or adding it as a secondary service to your existing business? Have questions about how it can work with a home organizing or Realty business? Set up a free 20-minute consult with me by clicking here.