When I first started freelancing, I found it pretty challenging to navigate tough business situations that required setting boundaries. Many of these issues are things that I know a lot of entrepreneurs (especially those who primarily offer creative services) struggle with, so I decided to break down two of my toughest moments for you. Hopefully, you’ll gain some insight from my reflections so you can set boundaries and work better in your own business.
Boundary-Setting Must-Have: Client Contracts
I was fresh into freelancing when I got an inquiry from a potential client who said he was going to start a newspaper in a neighboring town. He said he wanted me to create a logo, and then continue working with him to do something along the lines of laying out the newspaper ads for each issue.
I took the job, completed the logo and got started on the layout work. At that point, I hadn’t received any money from the client, and then all of a sudden he became really evasive when I emailed him about payment. Long story short, he never paid and he was even sent to jail for fraud a few years later. (Not because of me!)
Stuff like this happens to tons of creative entrepreneurs. And while it’s tough to safeguard your business to the point that this would never ever happen to you, there is an essential element that can definitely help:
A client contract.
Start using one in your business today by finding a template from a reputable source or working with a lawyer to create one for you from scratch. Contracts aren’t something to mess around with, because if they’re not written correctly you can potentially lose hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
Here’s who I use for my contracts in my own business. (I am an affiliate, but only because it’s an amaaaazing resource!)
When writing your contract, here are a few things to consider:
- Timeline for the project, plus what happens if you or the client misses a deadline
- Payment “Rules” (Do you have a payment plan? If so, when do deposits need to be made?)
- When you will stop working if a client misses a payments
- Project Cancellation Policies
Make sure all your bases are covered so that you can work with peace of mind.
Boundary-Setting Must-Have: A Calendar with Room
When I first announced that I was going full-time with Jess Creatives, I started booking myself out and completely packed my calendar with new inquiries. My days were pretty crazy. It was a lot to handle–but I managed, so I never thought to change anything.
That was, until I unexpectedly lost my mom a little over a year and a half ago.
I remember when my Dad called. I was numb. But 2-3 hours later, I was already emailing clients to let them know I’d be putting their projects on hold and I was 100% transparent about why.
Almost all of them were completely understanding, and I was able to start slowly picking back up with work about four weeks later. But, days were still really challenging in those first few months, so I didn’t dive back in full force.
One of the big things I learned during this experience was how precious life really is. And how life is meant to be lived — not simply scheduled full of client projects.
Now, I maintain a good amount of margin in my calendar, and cap the number of client projects I’ll take on at any one time.
This allows me to meet a friend for lunch on a random Wednesday, and to avoid totally freaking out when life “happens” (like when your car dies, which happened to me last week, and would’ve completely stressed out about it if I was pressed for time finishing a bunch of client projects).
To create more margin in your calendar, consider this: are you charging what you’re worth? And, are all of your clients paying you, fully, when you need to be paid? If not, get going on your contracts. Then, work to make some space in your calendar. Start using these boundary-setting must-haves in your business.