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How to Set Client Boundaries & Deal with Abusive Clients

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Setting boundaries with clients and learning how to deal with abusive clients.

We’ve all been there… stuck in a super unpleasant situation with a client where we feel unappreciated and taken advantage of. NOT COOL. But, I have something super upsetting to tell you… it’s usually not your clients’ faults. It actually may be yours.

A lot of miscommunication issues that can lead to a sticky situation with a client is actually due to lack of boundaries. And a lot of us (especially women) have a difficult time asserting ourselves and laying out our boundaries. So what’s the EASIEST way to set boundaries WITHOUT having to be the bad guy?!?! By front loading the client experience with EDUCATION.

Here’s 3 great ways to set boundaries through education before even meeting with your client:

1. Adding a FAQs section to your inquiry response. If you keep having the same issues or questions pop up from a lot of your clients, meet them with the answers ahead of time. This way, you don’t have to be confrontational. You can set expectations ahead of time.⁣

2. Expectations in RED PRINT in your e-mails. For example, if you have a specific policy in place that is appropriate to include in an email (for example, an e-mail about your minimum order requirement should include a footnote with your contract clause regarding your MOR) include it as a footnote in red. ⁣

3. Your CONTRACT. Put ALL THE THINGS in your contract. Even your collections & pricing structures (and have them initial each clause). This way, they can never say they didn’t know your prices were so “high.”⁣

Now… let’s say we’ve done all these things correctly and everything is beautiful with butterflies and rainbows until BAM. We get THAT client. I think we’ve all been there… feeling the pit in our stomachs from a client who is pushing their own agenda and their own schedule and their own budget on us. Even though we’ve been 100% clear about our policies and expectations from the get go.

UGH! I hate this feeling. The feeling of being used. It’s just awful, yet so few of us push back. WHY THE HECK IS THAT!?!? Is it the fact that we’re women? How we were raised? Our personality type? Whatever it is, it’s not ok. It’s time we stood up for ourselves! ⁣

So, let’s talk about what to do when we have a pushy client who is stepping over the line & making us feel abused:

1. It’s ok to say NO! No is a complete sentence and you don’t owe it to anyone to explain why you won’t disregard your own policies.

2. DON’T pick up the phone. No matter how many times they call, just don’t pick up that phone. You’re way more likely to agree to something you don’t want to do when you don’t have time to think about how you feel. Give yourself time to sleep on it and then construct a professional yet firm e-mail referencing the contract they signed with specific points to the clauses they’re attempting to violate. Always refer back to the contract. ⁣

Bonus tip: A phone conversation (unless recorded) usually cannot be considered evidence in a court case. It’s considered “hearsay” and almost impossible to prove. So no matter how badly you want to get the ordeal over with via a telephone conversation, stick to modes of communication that can produce a paper trail.

3. FIRE them. If your mental health is at risk from dealing with a client, it’s ok to let them go. My favorite line to use is, “It sounds like I really may not be the photographer you’re looking for. I don’t think I could do you justice in what you specifically need or be able to appropriately accommodate your schedule & budget. I want you to find someone who can do all of those things for your and give you the specific experience you’re looking for.” This way, it sounds like you’re doing them a favor. ⁣

So tell me… have you ever experienced a client situation in which you wish you would have ended it sooner?

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