How to Set Professional Boundaries with Clients
Are you struggling to set and maintain professional boundaries at work? Whether it’s saying no to clients or dealing with others copying your work.
As an online coach and/or business owner, you need to decide and set the boundaries that are important for you.
In this podcast/article I cover how to set professional boundaries with clients and the 3 mindset shifts you need to make to set better boundaries with your clients or customers, especially if you have an online business.
Mindset shift #1
You set the tone for what you put up with
One example is when others copy your work.
Before I realized this, I used to complain all the time when people copied me but I never did anything about it.
After a year and a half of complaining, I realized that my lack of action was actually perpetuating this type of behaviour even more.
Because the people who copy your work will never know how you’re feeling about their behaviour, they might not even be away that they’re breaking a professional boundary, or they might think that they’re getting away with it because you’re not saying anything.
That’s when I learned that you have to set and enforce and maintain professional boundaries so that people will know what is okay and what is not.
Now, instead of keeping silent and just complaining to my friends and family about it. There are concrete actions that I take to set the tone and prevent these types of behaviour.
- I approach the person and give them a warning privately
- If they ignore it then I will have to call them out on social media for their actions
- And if they keep doing it, then I’ll have no choice but to protect myself and send a cease and desist, revoke their access to our program and let the lawyers handle it.
I’m doing this to stop people from copying or ripping off my content and this also sends a message to my audience that it’s not okay to do that and helps with prevention.
Another example when students or customers tag me on social media or flood my DMs asking for free advice or my opinion on their situations. Even if you’re working with 1-1 clients as a coach, you should still have boundaries in place.
For example, holding ‘office hours’ or setting boundaries on which questions are out of scope of your service.
Once you set those professional boundaries, make sure to maintain them. Because if you answered all the questions asking for your advice in the comments, others will see it and think that it’s okay to do the same. This can be very overwhelming for you.
At the end of the day, you set the tone for what you put up with.
Mindset shift #2
You can be a good person without being a doormat
I saw this quote from Sara Dann and it really spoke to me. Every time I felt my boundaries being broken, I was making excuses for the other person or gaslight myself. I felt bad for them and convinced myself not to say anything in the past because I know it can be embarrassing for them if they get called out. Especially if they’re paying students of mine.
I would feel like I was not entitled to tell them not to copy my stuff because they paid me and bought my program.
But I’m not doing them a good service by letting them copy me. It’s just going to get myself in more trouble longterm.
I’m training them to think that it’s okay to copy people’s stuff and that’s bad for them too. Because the next time they copy someone else, that person might not be as empathetic or nice about it. And it’s also sending the message to them and other students that it’s okay for them to copy someone else’s work just because they paid for it. Which is not.
Check out this Instagram post to learn more how to teach what you’re done. Not what you’ve learned.
Your programs are there to help support your clients and students to implement in their own business.
It’s a personal use license for people who buy it, which means that when you take my program, you’re implementing it for your own business.
But it doesn’t give you the right to teach it to other people. It doesn’t give you the right to share it with other people. It doesn’t give you the right to copy it so that you can make money from it.
Mindset shift #3 You cannot control how others react, you can only control yourself
On the topic of creating boundaries, there is also a difference between being fair to your customers, your clients, and being fair to your business and your employees.
For example, as a program with over 4,000 people enrolled to date we deal with refund requests from time to time.
Now, out of those small amount of refund requests, only a small percentage of them are from students who are actually dissatisfied with the program. The majority of the requests we get are from students who want to opt out due to financial obligations or personal reasons.
There are times where they would ask for a refund after consuming over 75% of the program or asking for a refund after the refund policy expired. Of course, with these cases we will usually say no.
But we’d get very nasty emails with people buying us into giving them the refund, even though our terms and conditions are super clear.
Back then, when these things started escalating and we had a person who was demanding refunds with a very unreasonable, racist and mean attitude. I would give in to it instead of standing by my customer support team, the protocols we have and the Terms and Conditions we set.
There’s the slogan of ‘the customer being always right.’ Sure, I believe in being fair to the customer but if that customer is being rude to my staff or myself then that is not tolerable.
So instead of saying yes to every single refund request out of fear. Now we really lean heavily into our terms and consider and enforce those professional boundaries.
I learned to keep myself grounded when it comes to setting professional boundaries and being okay with setting boundaries, whether people are upset by it or not.
Understand that you cannot control how other people choose to react.
You can only control how you react.
This means, when dealing with upset customers, they may not understand your rationale, or how your policies work.
If you start making one off exceptions for everyone, when you start scaling it’s going to become very messy.
They have a right to be upset but it’s also understanding that you can’t control that.
There are always two sides to every story and reasons why people are reacting that way.
And while in business, you can try your best to accommodate your best, to be fair, your best to listen and have compassion for people, ultimately you’re running a business.
You cannot always control how other people choose to react to your decisions, your policies, and the boundaries that you’ve set in place. You can only control how you react to that.
How to prevent people from copying your work
Once you earn money, one of the first few things that you should have in business is have a lawyer draft up a Terms and Conditions.
- Have it on your website.
- Clearly link it or state it on your checkout pages
- If you have a really high ticket program, make sure that the terms and conditions are emailed to the customer so that they have a copy of it. And they are very clear about it.
The second one is to have your intellectual property clause in all of your assets.
This will make it so that students can’t use it as an excuse and say that they didn’t know about it.
The next thing is systemize your strategies, create your own formulas, add your own names to the strategies you created.
For example, in the BOSSGRAM Academy™, we have the BGA content conversion system. This is basically our approach to content.
We also have The Followers to Client system™. This is basically the entire system that we trademarked for our program. It’s the step-by-step framework that we have, we put a name on it. So it’s very clear to people that this is our method.
If you read to the bottom and want more, I go very in-depth into these topics in the podcast episode. I provide even more actionable steps on how to deal with these situations, including the legal actions you should take if someone copies your work, how to deal with refund requests and so much more.
Make sure to check out the full episode of the Turn Your Followers Into Clients Podcast, wherever you listen to your podcast.
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