Client Management

Six Ways To Set Client Boundaries

Just like all relationships, partnerships with clients require boundaries. We all want to strive to go above and beyond for our clients, but it is necessary that the line does not blur into something problematic. We see too often businesses being taken advantage of out of fear of upsetting or losing a client. Setting clear boundaries between you and your clients will create a healthy balance so that your team members can exceed expectations in a fair and logical manner. 

1. Respect Your Company’s Own Time

Bending over backward should not be a regular occurrence. Starting your day early and/or staying late to complete a task should only be in extreme situations. If your client’s requests cause you to work outside your company’s allotted work hours, it may be time to change something. Remember you are in a partnership with this client, meaning you must find a time that works with both of your schedules. 

2. Communicate Expectations Immediately and Uphold Them Regularly 

When you begin the partnership with your client, explain your company’s expectations immediately. Layout exactly what work you will be doing, your work schedule, and the manner in which tasks will be completed. Ask the client what their expectations are and agree upon a fair plan of action. Uphold your end of the deal always, and do not hesitate to remind clients of the agreed-upon terms if requests become problematic. 

3. Remain in Control

Because you are partnering with this client, the control of the relationship should never be one-sided. You are in collaboration, meaning there should be a professional level of control from both parties. If you feel the client is attempting to pull the reins (even if they are unaware of their behavior), be calm and assertive. Give your client a firm reminder of your role in this partnership, and the boundaries you both agreed to. 

4. Use Effective Communication

Make sure you are updating your client as the project moves along. Be sure to answer their questions and be as clear as possible. Using communication software can keep confusion at bay! Streamline and organize your client communication with Punchlist just in time for the new year. 

5. Don’t Be Scared To Use The Word “No” 

Pushing back on client requests can be extremely difficult to do. Of course, you want to first try and find solutions that may diffuse the situation. But if there comes a point where you have tried everything for a client, and nothing seems to satisfy their requests, it may be time to say no. If the request will require too much time or energy, and/or does not fall within the agreed-upon terms and services, saying no is a must. It is also vital to say no to inappropriate or personal requests or conversations. Push back in a respectful manner, and perhaps suggest a smaller solution that DOES fall under your services. 

6. Say Goodbye To Guilt

Once you have laid out and agreed upon your relationship boundaries, there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for professionally pushing back or saying no. If a client is attempting to manipulate or change your set boundaries, the partnership just may not be a great fit. Hold you and your company to a certain standard, and ensure you only work with clients that align with your boundaries. 

Overall, keep in mind that the term “boundaries” is not a negative one. In reality, boundaries are a healthy way to communicate expectations and create a safety net for your team. Boundaries are necessary for both professional and personal relationships; they will establish you as a leader/team member/person in general. While a lack of boundaries can lead to issues, setting up guidelines from the start will preserve your partnerships and lay the foundation for a positive future. 


Pete Bernardo

Pete Bernardo is the Founder & CEO of Punchlist, a TechStars Mentor, and occasional pizza maker. Former EVP at Three Five Two, Inc, Pete has 20 years of design & development experience across clients like CNN, Porsche, American Express, and Microsoft.
Other Posts
Handling an Unresponsive Client the Right Way (with Email Templates)
April 27, 2022

Nothing derails a project quite like hearing crickets from unresponsive clients. We’ve all been there before. You have the kickoff meeting, get all your ducks in a row, send over the first draft for feedback, and…nothing.  After what feels like a month-long game of “Where’s Waldo?”, your client finally gets back to you with approval, [...]


How to Get Clients Out of the Comfort Zone (and into New Tools & Processes)
April 13, 2022

While agencies tend to be early adopters of the latest tools and tech, it’s not always the same for clients. Here are 5 actionable tips to onboard your clients to new software tools and processes, so you can all get on the same page and deliver amazing work. Project managers spend a lot of time [...]


5 Ways to Get Better Design Feedback from Your Client
March 25, 2022

Your design team spends various sprints working on a large project for a prominent client, and the most important day arrives — the big unveiling. Presenting the creative work is exciting and fun (and yes, a bit anxiety-inducing). But what follows is actually the most crucial part: the client’s feedback. How do you get productive [...]


7 Ways to Give & Get Better Creative Feedback [Punchlist Video Features]
March 11, 2022

Sometimes it’s all in the ask. How you ask for feedback — whether it’s from a client, teammate, or stakeholder — can make all the difference on the quality of feedback you receive. Creating that ask is something that deserves your time and attention, as it impacts the relationship with the person delivering feedback, the [...]


Client Onboarding: 6 Ways to Create Lasting Client Relationships
March 8, 2022

Client onboarding is a double-edged sword for agencies, studios, and freelancers. While your clients supply the work and pay the bills, they also require back-and-forth email conversations and time-intensive education on your work process that ultimately distract from the best part of your job — being creative. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.  [...]


5 Tips for Better Client-Designer Communication
September 22, 2021

The client-designer relationship can be a breezy ride or a teeth-grinding journey. It all depends on how prepared you are to effectively communicate with your designer. Going in blind is a normal thing for clients to do when first looking for a designer. But starting the design process with a little preparation will go a [...]


5 Best Practices When Communicating With Clients
October 1, 2020

We’ve all been there – you feel like you are running in circles with a client, and you’re at a loss for how you can better explain your thought process. The constant back and forth can take up tons of time, and create plenty of unnecessary frustration. Some misunderstandings can even lead to losing the [...]


Punchlist gathers all of your design & content feedback — in one place

Try Punchlist for Free