As parents, we biologically change to accommodate our children’s needs above our own. Our body literally restructures its physical boundaries to give our best resources to our baby.
If your business is your baby, too — something you’ve conceived, nurtured + grown — you need to likewise restructure boundaries to give your best resources toward its survival.
We believe one of the most essential resources for parent entrepreneurs is clear client communication boundaries.
Why? Well, to start, we get inquiries like this all the time:
“I had a client text me 2 days after having my baby (knowing that I just had a baby) to check-in on her client work + when I did not respond (I HAD JUST HAD A BABY), she proceeded to text my husband/business partner saying that I never got back to her, etc.
I am aware that in owning a business I kind of don’t have a choice other than to not be able to enjoy a few days off for privacy, but I would love to know if there is some better way of going about it. What would you do?”
If you’ve followed along with OrganicFamilyCEO for a while now, you know that while we’re great at setting boundaries now, we’re only so great because of our lived experience in being terrible with boundaries in the beginning.
[And if you’re new here + struggling with boundaries, welcome → you’re in the right place!]
Here’s what we didn’t know then: Contrary to popular belief, we ALL have a choice to take a few days off for privacy or whatever else we want. It’s your business, you call the shots — not your clients.
[Related: How to Slow Your Business Down for a Season]
Owning a business means that you get to name your boundaries + live a life according to them. Otherwise, what’s the difference between working for a client + working for an employer? Not much.
You could completely compromise your love + commitment to your business baby by burning yourself out in meeting client demands. And then what happens? Go back to a job that you hate?
The good news is that with clear client communication boundaries in-place, you have an opportunity to make everyone in your exchanges happier overall.
You’ll feel more comfortable moving your client through their experience pipeline, while your client will feel more supported by you. Win-win.
So, ready for how to get started? Let’s go →
No. 1 — Adopt Our Mantra: In-Writing, In-Advance
One of the first questions we ask our clients struggling with boundaries is “what do you have in-writing?” because this is your first line of defense legally.
If you do not already have a set of written Communications Guidelines in-place with your contracts, then get some right now.
Without clear written guidelines for how clients can expect to connect with you, you risk their overstepping phone calls, visits, text messages, comments on social media, etc. + you risk legal recourse.
You don’t want to pour your time + talent into a client service only to have them be disgruntled at your unanswered personal texts + refuse to pay you, leave a bad review or sue you for lack of delivery. Parent CEOs especially do not need a negative return on investment.
Your Client Communication Guidelines can act as a smart + gentle reference that you’ll point back to for the clients who choose to overstep your boundaries (knowingly or not).
[Need a quick template? We have you covered in The Shop with The Client Experience Templates.]
No. 2 — Set Your Availability
Life happens. You might not be able to predict when grandpa is going to pass away, but you do get ~40 weeks notice that a baby is going to be born.
For times both predictable + unpredictable, you can have a predictable response mode that can be implemented in-writing + in-advance. This begins with naming your availability for contact.
In order to edit your contracts to outline when people can expect a response from you (outside of an emergency one-off situation), you need to identify when you’re willing to be available first.
Share this availability in your Client Communications Guidelines + then during the onboarding process, remind both of you that these are set so that you can step into other responsibilities + rest times that give the client the best results from your best work.
No. 3 — Go All-In on Your Emails
We love beginning work on client communications boundaries in the inbox for a few reasons:
- Email offers a clear way to date + timestamp your communications.
You need to keep a running length of client communication exchanges as a legal backup. No one likes to think that their super kind client would ever turn around with some questionable actions, but you can’t guarantee that + your family-centered business is not available for the gamble. This isn’t a side-hustle. This is a serious business that needs to be treated as such.
- Email offers a variety of communication options.
You can broadcast to your entire current + prospective client list, blind copy other team members, set timers for auto-publishing replies, add signatures. We’ll get into many of those options in a minute, but first: know they’re available to you!
- Email offers a way to track engagement.
There are ways to look at recipient behavior, like who viewed your emails, who clicked to access certain attachments, etc. For example, in HoneyBook, we can see who opens our Pricing + Services Guide, any custom proposals or other direct emails, which gives us transparency → we know exactly where a client is in their experience with us at all times + can identify even better opportunities to improve communications in future clients.
How to Set + Maintain Client Boundaries via Email
1. Broadcast Newsletter to Your Mailing List
Keep a basic newsletter that describes your out-of-office terms on-draft for you or your team to send out when needed.
Include alternative contacts for emergencies, suggest some resource locations, point back to any contract agreements + offer a *possible* time of return if necessary.
If you’re using a Client Relationship Management (CRM) tool, like HoneyBook, you can keep a templated email in your account to blast to all current service clients.
[Related: 4 Reasons Why You Need an Email List as a Parent Entrepreneur]
2. Add Office Hours to Your Signature
If you keep a regular schedule, note that in your email signature. You’re informing clients with every exchange they have with you in-advance of when they might need those hours.
Note: you don’t have to disclose every time you’re sitting in your office. Simply name a time (or two) that you are dependably checking your inbox, so that they know their inquiries are being seen.
3. Schedule Auto-Replies
Most basic email providers (like Gmail) allow a drafted auto-message to be scheduled ahead. Some even allow for multiple auto-messages to be saved, so you can draft options as you’d need them.
For example, you might have an extended “I’m away for the next 4 weeks” message starting on December 1st for a planned winter holiday sabbatical. Like with your e-newsletter, include alternative contacts for emergencies, suggest resource locations, point back to contract agreements + offer a possible time of return if you feel that to be necessary.
No. 4 — Leverage Social Media Scheduling
Keep a drafted Facebook message, Instagram post, etc. in a project management board (like Asana), so that you or a team member can copy the text over or hit “publish” with ease.
Another option: keep a draft of an “out-of-office” post in your social media scheduler like in Later App, so that you can manual publish on-the-fly. Since many social media schedulers will let you sync up more than one account, you can send out the same single message across multiple platforms with one click.
Yes, this is a strong boundary-building message here, but for clients who are abusing the privilege of access to you when you’ve already clearly communicated your policy + expectations, then holding your ground is required.
“You teach people how to treat you.”
At the end of the day, you can have well-written communications guidelines, but if you do not believe that you are worthy of keeping your personal space personal, then you’ll never uphold your written words.
And as the old adage goes: “Actions speak louder than words”, right?
Set your written boundaries, refer back to them often because this is what they’re there for + trust that you’re being a great service provider by demonstrating what clear communication can do for a great client relationship.
You will deliver a better product or service when you feel seen, heard + respected… + your clients will value you more when they feel seen, heard + respected. So, after you’ve set these written communications, free yourself from the unnecessary obligation to continue to answer any inquiry that falls outside of your outline + go enjoy the people that matter most to you.
It’s what this family-centered entrepreneurial life is all about.
Tell us: have you established your client communication boundaries?
We do this work inside of The OrganicFamilyCEO Community – where we share our exact templates + conversation strategies for keeping both you + your clients happy + productive as part of a family-centered business. Join us!