There was once a time when work life was confined to the office, Monday to Friday, but that seems to be changing. 

With so many people working remotely, and mobile technology making constant communication possible, lots of us now carry our work everywhere we go. 

This results in a kind of “always on” mindset, where it’s difficult to switch off, and the line between work and home life becomes blurred. 

This lack of work-life balance can easily lead to burning out, so it’s more important than ever to try and keep work and home life separate. It’s easier said than done though, especially when your clients can contact you at all times of the day.

In an effort to maintain a good work-life balance, we’re going to share some tips for setting professional boundaries with clients.

Specifically, we’ll be talking about these simple tips:

  • Set office hours
  • Set up lines of communication 
  • Agree with your clients
  • Learn to say no
  • Be consistent
  • Give yourself a break

It might take a little while to get comfortable with setting boundaries. But it will get easier with practice, and it’ll be better for both you and your clients in the long run. 

Set office hours

The first step begins with you. You need to set yourself consistent office hours in which your clients can contact you and expect a response. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, is a fairly standard time frame. 

We’re not saying you have to stop working at 5 on the dot, sometimes you’ve got stuff to do, but tell yourself that any emails or phone calls you get after 5 will not be responded to.

Set up an out of office email response to let clients know you’ll respond the next day, within office hours. You can also send calls to voicemail with a similar message. 

This will let them know they’re not being ignored, and keep them in the loop. 

Set up lines of communication

Give clients appropriate lines of communication to get in touch with you. Whether it’s a work email, office number, or work mobile, outline your preferred methods of communication and don’t reply to anything else. 

This might sound obvious, but nowadays it’s possible for clients to find you on other channels, like social media. And it’s not uncommon to get friend requests from clients who have tracked you down in an effort to either reach you out of hours, or establish a non-professional relationship.

When this happens, don’t respond to their messages or friend requests, then politely inform them, during office hours, that they’ve crossed a line. 

Agree with your clients

When you take on a new client, make a point of outlining your office hours and lines of communication, and make them agree to it. 

It’s sometimes even worth having them sign something as proof that they’ve acknowledged the agreement, so you have something to point to if they choose to ignore it. 

Most of the time, people are pretty reasonable and will respect your office hours. But it’s worth getting it in writing just in case. 

Learn to say no

Despite your best efforts, there will eventually be clients who ignore your boundaries. They might pester you outside of office hours, ask you to do something that’ll take too much of your time, or make comments that are too personal or otherwise inappropriate. 

The only option you have in these scenarios is to politely, but firmly, say no. 

Again, most people are reasonable, and will respect your decision. But for those who continue to ignore your professional boundaries, you have no choice but to warn them they’re breaching your agreement and, eventually, just drop them entirely. 

It might feel bad to lose a client, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. 

Be consistent

The toughest part of setting professional boundaries is sticking to them, but it’s essential if you really want to make it work. 

If you allow a pushy client to bother you outside of office hours, and you respond to them even once, they’ll just keep doing it because they know you’ll respond. 

So stay consistent with your rules, and eventually people will learn to respect them. In fact, if clients know you’ll only respond within certain times, they’ll be more likely to get in touch within those times. 

Give yourself a break

It can be difficult to switch off, especially when clients can contact you at all hours of the day. So try not to feel guilty about maintaining your professional boundaries. 

We know that’s easier said than done, and trying not to feel something doesn’t really work, so if you ever find yourself feeling guilty, just remember:

  • You deserve a break. Constant work will lead to a burnout, which will be counterproductive in the long run. 
  • Maintaining professional boundaries will keep work within working hours, meaning a more productive work day. 
  • Keeping a professional relationship with your clients will lead to a better service all round. You’ll be better equipped to help them, and they’ll be happier with the results, meaning repeat business from happy clients. 

Keep a work/life balance with Countingup

You can save time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s two-in-one app. It’s the two-in-one business current account and accounting app that automates time consuming bookkeeping admin for small business owners across the UK. The amount of time you save will help you keep your work confined to the work hours, so it won’t spill over into your personal time. 

With instant invoicing, automatic expense categorisation, receipt capture tools and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances and save yourself hours of accounting admin, so you can focus on doing what you do best. Find out more here.