How to communicate your boundaries to clients - confidently
Look, let’s not beat about the bush pal: boundaries matter.
And if you don’t know that by now, you’ve clearly not been around here very long…
But here’s the general gist of it: boundaries are really bloody important. And that’s a hill I will gladly die on and I doubt I will ever have a working day in my life where I don’t say the word ‘boundaries’. Because they’re that important.
Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff. Because you’re here to learn how to communicate your boundaries. Which is a tough ask, because it sometimes involves a little bit of the dreaded confrontation 😲
BUT, as we’ll see, if you’re able to pre-empt clients crossing your boundaries, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of that terrifying confrontation AND attract better clients at the same time. The dream, right?!
Why having boundaries matters
I’m not going to go too deep into why boundaries matter, because I’ve done that already – read ‘What are healthy boundaries and why do they matter?’ to learn all the juicy basics!
But, for those of us with tired brains (me), I’ll indulge in a little reminder just for you.
Basically, boundaries matter because they allow you to build a business where your needs are put first. Client work is important, yes – but it’s never as important as your foundational needs.
Having boundaries helps you to:
- Meet your own foundational needs as a human being – because, shock horror, you are a human being first and a business owner second! And second shock horror – your needs matter! AND they can be met.
- Protect your energy, which is especially important for us mentally ill, neurodivergent or chronically ill people.
- Give your best to your clients – because how can we hope to help our clients if we aren’t supporting ourselves?!
- Allow yourself time to rest. Whatever that looks like to you, however unproductive it feels, rest is vital for you to be able to live your life and run your business.
If you want to learn more about healthy boundaries and why they matter, check this out.
Now you know what your boundaries are - how should you communicate them?
We’ve got our boundaries NAILED. We know exactly what we will and won’t do for clients, we know exactly how we want to interact with clients, and we know precisely what we want our working lives to look like.
So we’re done, yeah?
Nope. We are definitely not done.
Because there’s very little point to your boundaries if you’re the only person who knows about them… They can’t be a dirty little secret you keep hidden away in the depths of your consciousness, because how can you expect people to respect your boundaries if they don’t know what they are?!
So now we reach the juicy bit: how to communicate your boundaries with your clients.
We’ll dive into the wheres in a moment, but for now, here are my go-to tippity-top tips for communicating your boundaries effectively (whether you’re talking to a client, a prospective client, your mum (hi, mum), or your best friend’s cousin’s dog).
Boundaries Communication Tip #1: be clear
The simplest, easiest thing you can do to communicate your boundaries to your clients is to be clear. Use clear language, simple words, and short sentences. Make it super easy for anyone to understand exactly what you’re talking about, rather than focusing on flowery prose that sounds like it belongs in a Jane Austen novel.
Let’s look at an example. Say your boundary is around communication channels. You only want to communicate with clients via email; you don’t want clients messaging you on WhatsApp or calling you or sending you Instagram DMs.
So, if you wrote this in an overly flowery way, you’d probably confuse the heck outta your clients with something like: ‘Using our favourite go-to communication platform, email, is the best way to get hold of me with any questions, queries or suggestions.’
Mate, that sounds lovely and all. But does it *actually* need to sound that complicated?!
Why not replace it with something like this: ‘I communicate with my clients via email, so please use email for all communications with me.’
Simple, clear, can’t be misunderstood.
And that’s exactly what we need our boundaries to be: understood (and respected, of course, but respect can’t happen without understanding!).
Boundaries Communication Tip #2: be repetitive
If you’re anything like me, you very often don’t have the brain space to read every single word on a page. You scan, you pick out the bits that look important, and you leave with a pretty decent understanding of what that page said.
And your clients are probably a bit like that too. So when you say ‘communicate with me via email only’ ONCE in a client agreement, the chances of that boundary being missed (and therefore unintentionally broken) are high.
When it comes to communicating boundaries, there’s no such thing as too much. You need to reiterate your boundaries wherever possible (the where will be coming later on!) and in different formats, so that your client has the best possible chance of reading, understanding and respecting your boundaries.
Take client agreements, for example. There are a TONNE of words in those things (quite rightly, because you need to be legally protected!) – so having a single line where you mention communicating via email probably won’t be read… Because honestly – when was the last time you read the Ts & Cs of something cover to cover?!
So instead of just having it in a big paragraph of text in one place, why not add another section where your boundaries are laid out in short, sharp bullet points? And why not have those same bullet points in your welcome pack? And in your Instagram Highlights too?
Basically, write your boundaries in as many places as possible, and switch up their format or style too – so that the lazy readers amongst us still get the important info out of you!
Boundaries Communication Tip #3: understand your why
This is possibly the most important part of communicating your boundaries to clients, even though it doesn’t directly involve the communication side of things.
Knowing why you’re setting a particular boundary and what benefit that will have for you is so important when it comes to feeling confident about communicating your boundaries.
If you’ve decided you only want to email clients just because you really like emails, you’re not going to have much of a leg to stand on if one of your clients starts communicating with you via WhatsApp instead – because there’s not a strong reason why you want your clients to use email.
But if your email boundary comes from a real need to spend less time on social media and to be able to properly disconnect from work for the sake of your mental health, you’ll be able to stand up for your boundary and communicate it with your clients far more effectively.
I’m not saying that ‘just because’ isn’t a good enough reason to have a boundary in place with clients (because it is, because YOU’RE the boss), but if you’re able to articulate the reasoning behind your boundaries and you can be confident that it will benefit you and help you to create a business that supports your needs, you’ll be oozing with confidence when you communicate your boundaries to your clients.
It will also inspire your clients to do the same – seeing someone confidently set a boundary ALWAYS makes me think ‘oohh that’s a goodie, I need to think about that one too.’
Boundaries Communication Tip #4: be prepared for pushers
You know the type: clients who read your boundaries, understand them completely, and then somehow think that the rules don’t *really* apply to them… So they push your boundaries, just a little bit at first, to see what they can get away with, and then they completely disregard them and pretend they never existed.
We’ve all been there. (And, side note: we’ve all, in hindsight, been able to see the GLARING red flags from the very first interaction with that client! Trust your gut, pal!)
And there’s no foolproof way to prevent that situation from happening again. The chances are, there will always be someone who pushes your boundaries – but what matters is that you’re prepared for that to happen and you know exactly how to reinforce your boundaries if and when you need to.
Having responses prepared in advance for when clients are pushing your boundaries allows you to respond with logic and rationality, rather than responding emotionally.
I know how tempting it can be to fly to one end of the spectrum or the other. You’ll either respond with emotion and upset, or you’ll just ignore it completely and let it slide.
Neither of those choices is ideal.
But if you’ve got copy-and-paste responses ready to send that are clear, respectful and reinforce your boundaries in an effective way, you’ll avoid the emotion and avoid having your boundaries crossed forevermore!
Where to communicate your boundaries with clients
As I’ve hinted at throughout this behemoth of a blog post, there’s not just one place you need to communicate your boundaries. It’s not just a case of slapping them in your client contract and you’re done.
Nope, it’s not quite as simple as that. But it also doesn’t need to be complicated either! (And, if you read to the end, you’ll find my secret weapon for communicating your boundaries in every single imaginable place!)
So, let’s look at two key areas: communicating your boundaries pre-emptively, and communicating your boundaries with clients.
Communicating your boundaries preemptively
Attracting the right clients makes a HUGE difference – to your business, to your mental health, and to your ability to maintain your boundaries.
And if our goal is to attract clients who will respect our boundaries (because why on EARTH would we want to attract clients who don’t respect us?!), communicating your boundaries to them waaaay before they convert into a client will help us to achieve that.
So where do we communicate our boundaries before people become clients?
Well, not quite. But wherever you’re communicating with potential clients, you can include your boundaries.
If Instagram is your main marketing channel, have an Instagram Story Highlight all about your boundaries.
If LinkedIn is your main marketing channel, include your boundaries in your About section.
If email is your main marketing channel, include your boundaries in your welcome email.
If your website is your main marketing channel, include your boundaries on your About page.
If you communicate with potential clients via email to arrange a call, set an auto-responder that communicates your boundaries (particularly your boundaries around response time and communication channels!).
If you send prospective clients to sales pages on your website, include your boundaries on those pages.
None of these places needs to be a massive 30,000-word dissertation about why your boundaries matter, what they are and how you work with clients – but it’s important that they’re there somehow. Even if it’s just a good old fashioned bullet point list covering the most important boundaries, that’ll do.
The point is that communicating your boundaries with people who aren’t yet clients helps you to sift the wheat from the chaff. If someone doesn’t like your boundaries, they’re not your ideal client – so them being able to see and understand your boundaries before they begin wasting your time on discovery calls and email chains saves you and them time and energy.
Communicating your boundaries with clients
Once someone reaches the stage of becoming a client, they’ll hopefully be aware of your boundaries already, if you’ve communicated them preemptively…
But that doesn’t mean it’s all done and dusted and you never have to mention boundaries again!
Now that they’re becoming a client, it really matters that they understand and respect your boundaries. So let’s keep the boundaries communication going, shall we?
First up, make sure your boundaries are reiterated in any client welcome pack, welcome guide, or welcome emails. This is your first ‘proper’ interaction with that client, so it’s important to set things off on the best possible foot!
Next, make sure your boundaries are communicated in your client agreement or contract. Yes, those agreements are mostly there for legal protection – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your needs protected by them too! As I mentioned earlier, try making them as clear as possible by using bullet points to break up the (frankly far too many) legal words in the rest of the document.
And finally, make sure you’ve set up an out of office or an auto-responder on your primary client communication channel (if at all possible). If that’s email, it’s nice and simple – set up an auto-responder that runs all the time, reiterating your response times and that you’ll respond via email. If your primary communication channel is somewhere other than email, set up an email auto-responder that confirms which channel your client should contact you on.
My secret weapon: The Boundaries Bundle
And there we have it, friends!
Boundaries matter, and how and where you communicate your boundaries matters too.
It doesn’t need to be complicated or take 12 hours to set up though. Because I can help!
In my (un)official capacity as The Boundaries Queen, I’ve put together done-for-you, copy-paste, all-singing-all-dancing boundaries templates.
The Boundaries Bundle is based on my experience helping hundreds of people set their boundaries to claim back time, energy and confidence – and now you can get your own boundary-setting templates that make communicating your boundaries EASY PEASY!
Inside The Boundaries Bundle, you’ll get instant access to templates for:
- Your email signature
- Your auto-responder
- Your out-of-office
- Your sales or service page
- Your client welcome pack
- Your client agreement or contract
- Your Instagram Highlights
AND you’ll get a quick-fire guide to help you answer boundary-pushing questions and communications from clients, friends, colleagues or whoever has the audacity to push your boundaries!
Grab the bundle here for £195 (or two payments of £99) and become a Boundaries Queen like me!