One of the main appeals that draws people to the world of freelancing is the freedom it gives you.
It means you don’t have a boss constantly breathing down your neck, hassling you about deadlines, making you do things their way – you can be your own boss and to a large extent, do things your own way.
To keep this creative freedom, it’s important that you set clear boundaries with clients; they’re hiring you because they recognise that you’re an expert at what you do, and they need to remember that. Below, we give some advice on how to set and maintain boundaries with clients when freelancing.
The best way to set boundaries is to communicate clearly from the beginning.
State the obvious because it might not be as obvious to your client as it is to you. Say how you like things to work at the very beginning, maybe even before accepting the work!
Even if you need to compromise slightly with the client, you’ll know how things stand and are far less likely to have any issues going forward. Of course, it’s far easier said than done, but it really can’t be overstated how important it is to be clear and upfront with new clients.
It’s easy to fall into the pattern of treating clients like your boss, but they’re not; you are not their employee. You’re an expert who they’re paying to provide them with a service or product they’re unable to do or make themselves, for whatever reason.
You are collaborating together, and although they can, of course, tell you what they need, how it’s delivered is up to you.
Don’t be rude or dogmatic, but when a client is asking you to change something, remember that you’re the expert; you’re the authority figure in many senses.
What they’re asking may be reasonable, but it’s also highly possible that it isn’t – it’s up to you to decide. It may be that the additional labour could be done at a different rate not included in the initial contract, or that you’re not happy making the changes to your work as it would result in something of a lower quality.
While you can certainly do your part by setting boundaries, some clients might just be too difficult to deal with. The beauty of freelancing is that you can pick and choose who you work with. You aren’t tied with anyone beyond your contractual obligations, which will normally be relatively short-term.
If you are going to get tied into something longer term, such as a 12-month contract, make sure that you’re happy with the client and that you’re both clear on your boundaries.
You don’t want to get stuck in a relationship where your work is constantly critiqued by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about and spend the following year wishing you hadn’t signed the contract. That’s not why you chose to go freelance!