I like to call myself a recovering people-pleaser—I used to say yes to everything and would constantly be working beyond my capacity, but after many years of feeling burnt out, I finally learned how to communicate my boundaries confidently and kindly. Boundaries can feel uncomfortable to set, but when honored, allow you to take care of your own needs and produce better work. Here are my top tips for communicating your boundaries with clients:
Start with some mindset shifts. I used to operate from the mindset that boundaries were bad in some way—and that I was going to upset people if I set them. I now know that boundaries cultivate relationships of mutual respect with your clients and are incredibly important to your wellbeing. And not only that—they also allow you to be a better designer and create better work for your clients. Creativity doesn't flow from a place of burnout.
Always, always overcommunicate. Your clients are human and if you share a boundary in one line of your contract and then never mention it again, they may cross it just because they missed it. Communicate your boundaries kindly and gently throughout your design process to ensure your clients are aware. Make it easy for them to honor your boundaries.
Write them down. Have your non-negotiables written down for every project, so that it's easy for you to know what your line is and how to communicate them. Write down everything from your office hours to your response time to project scope to communication guidelines—all those little details matter.
If you also struggle with setting and communicating boundaries, I have two resources for you. The first is a free training that goes into more depth about the mindset shifts and practical tools that have been helpful for me. Sign up to watch it here. The second is our Template Shop for Designers—a full library of templates and resources that will help you establish a high-end process, communicate your boundaries, and increase your confidence as a designer.