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Have you set boundaries in your practice?

Tell me, as a bookkeeper or accountant, do your clients ever treat you as an employee instead of a fellow business owner?

Want to know how to fix it? You need to set boundaries.

In my firm, I started to notice all too often that clients felt like they could order me around as if I was an employee. If you have also experienced this, then you know how frustrating it is!

Even when I thought putting my business hours on my website was enough, I was still getting phone calls at 10 PM. Now, I want to make it very clear that just because I have my business hours written somewhere, does not mean that I’ve set boundaries. It is super important to make it abundantly clear when you will and will not respond to clients!

More important than setting boundaries, is sticking to them. Trust me when I say that sending an email outside of your business hours just notifies the client that you don’t respect the boundaries you set, so why should they?

If you are tired of that uncomfortable feeling when a client asks you to do something out of scope, or they don’t comply with your contract, keep reading to discover how to set boundaries and hold them in order to maintain a healthy practice.

(Psst…if you’re also done with feeling stressed about what to say EVERY time you have to write an email, I’ve got you covered. Click here for access to The Motherload of Email & Form Swipe Files.)

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Set Boundaries With Your Clients

The best way to set boundaries with your clients is to lay them out right at the beginning. In my firm, I had all my clients sign a policies and procedures contract. This document outlines the scope of work my firm will perform for the client. A contract like this eliminates any question as to what deliverables the client can expect each month.

In addition to the policies and procedures, I would also walk the client through the contract via video using Loom. Setting boundaries using video is a great way to further eliminate any confusion and also demonstrate a high level of service.

Here are some things you may want to have outlined in this contract:

  • Your business days and hours of operation

  • The best way to contact you

  • The expected response time frame

  • When you expect THEM to respond/turn in documents

  • Anything else that is specific to your practice and needs

*Note: I am NOT a lawyer. I recommend including these items in your policies and procedures based on my personal experience, but you should absolutely seek legal counsel while creating these documents to use in your practice. 

Here’s the bottom line: You can’t get mad at clients who ignore boundaries if you don’t clearly set boundaries for them to follow.

I know it may seem like common sense not to call someone about receipts at 10 PM but, it happens! In my experience, it’s best practice to just lay it out in writing and video so you always have something to reference just in case.

Set Boundaries With Yourself

How many times have you planned to stop working at 5 PM and found yourself hunched over your computer in the dark at 10 PM?

Yeah, I’ve been there.

Something that gets overlooked so easily when you own a business is to take care of yourself first. I had to learn this both in my firm and again when I started Workflow Queen. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the tasks and ensuring that everything is perfect (any other Type A’s out there?), but the reality is that your mental health is just as important as the health of your practice.

Take it from someone who learned the hard way: Done is better than perfect.

Once I made this realization, and set boundaries with myself, I was finally able to enjoy my free time instead of feeling guilty about it. Of course, I also had kickass workflows in place to help me get my work done in a fraction of the time!

If you were to learn anything from this blog, I hope it’s that you can set boundaries that permit you to enjoy your business AND your life.

One of the best hacks I have for crushing client work and only working inside business hours is time blocking. I can’t tell you how valuable this is for your practice. You would be amazed at how much faster your work gets done when you aren’t task-switching all day! I highly recommend giving this a try, and bonus points if you incorporate it into your Asana!

So You Set Boundaries…Now It’s Time to Hold Them

Once you’ve set boundaries with yourself and your clients, you need to make sure that you are following through.

With clients, you now know how to set boundaries in the form of a contract and a video walkthrough. This is a nice way of telling clients, “These are my boundaries, don’t cross them!”.

If you start to notice that a client is asking you to do something out of scope, here are a few actions you can take…

Avoid Scope Creep

This is one of those things that I let slide in the beginning of my practice. I was so excited to get those first few clients that when one of them would send me a random admin task to perform, I accepted it hoping it might not happen again.

Surprise, surprise, it totally happened again! And let me tell you, it is so much harder to say no to scope creep once you have already let it happen. Just avoid the whole situation by setting clear boundaries during the onboarding phase.

Stand Up for Yourself

What does it look like when a client ignores your boundaries?

Picture this: You ask a client for month end documents and they avoid your messages and reminders until the date is past due. Then, the client comes to you with all their documents and demands their reports right away, even though they clearly violated the contract.

If clients don’t want to comply with your boundaries, you can let them know that they will be charged an extra fee to make up for any additional services they’ve requested.

Client Onboarding Do-Over

When a client does not want to pay an extra fee for asking you to perform services out of scope, it may be time to analyze your client list.

One option is to disengage with clients who do not align with your brand vision.

Another option is to evaluate your policies and procedures contract to see if you can set boundaries that are more clear and true to your brand vision. Once you have revised your contracts, it’s time to redo the onboarding process with your clients.

Let your clients know that there will be an assessment of all terms of engagement and walk them through the contract. This is the time to let them know if there will be a fee increase or an adjustment to the scope of work.

Set Boundaries and Have Peace of Mind

So friends, the lesson to be learned here is that there IS a way to set boundaries with yourself and with your clients. There is also a way to hold those boundaries without feeling guilty.

I challenge you to review your policies and procedures for each client. If you notice scope creep, schedule a time to go over the contract with your client and either increase your fees, or eliminate those tasks from your service.

Pop into my free Facebook community ‘Conquering Workflows & Systems for Bookkeepers and Accountants’ and let me know, do you have clear boundaries set in your practice? What do you do when a client ignores them?

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