3 Tips to Set Boundaries with Freelance Clients


Most freelancers and other independent contractors are naturally productive. However, the very qualities that make you essential to your freelance clients can also allow them to take advantage of you.

While we’d like to believe that every client has the freelancer’s best interests at heart (and many do), the truth is that some clients are more demanding than others. You may occasionally come across freelance clients who:

  • Don’t respond to your requests
  • Are too chatty, and want you to reply 24/7
  • Aren’t clear about their projects’ deliverables.
  • Change the scope of work amidst the project without changing the pay scale.
  • Are unsure about payment terms or don’t adhere to fee schedules.

Understanding that some freelance clients are tough to work with is part of your job of a freelancer. However, if you find yourself dealing with the aforementioned challenges on a regular basis, you may want to learn how to set boundaries.

Here are 3 tips to help you set boundaries with your freelance clients:

#1 State your availability

Some freelance clients, like some supervisors of traditional employees, demand their freelancers to be available at all times. The fact that practically everyone is connected to some form of digital device has made this trend even worse. 

While your 24-hour availability may make life easier for your clients, the reality is that you have a life outside of work—or, if you don’t, you should give yourself the opportunity to get one by informing clients of your weekday boundaries. To manage your clients’ expectations, be clear about when you’ll be available (and unavailable) at the start of each new project.

#2 Limit your scope

One of the most common mistakes that new freelancers make is neglecting to limit the scope of work to be delivered for each job. If you don’t set boundaries on the scope of work upfront, there’s no reason why your freelance clients shouldn’t expect you to accomplish as much as they want on the project—even if the hours exceed a realistic price threshold.

Rather than leaving this to chance, make sure you clarify the particular duties your fee will cover before you commit to the task. For example, freelance art directors may specify that one round of changes will be included in the work scope for a web design project. If a client requests a second round of modifications, the art director might refer back to the agreement and negotiate a fee for another review.

Require a 50% down payment

While most freelance clients are ethical and will pay you for your work, freelancers will occasionally encounter a client who isn’t willing to pay. To avoid being entirely “stiffed” after you’ve already invested hours of your time into a project, require receipt of an initial payment before work begins.

If you employ a formal contract with your clients—which is strongly suggested in order to justify the specific terms of each agreement—then this is one component worth including. A good general rule of thumb is to require that your clients pay half of the total amount beforehand and the other half upon project completion.

These tactics can help you set boundaries with all of your freelance clients. Give them a try – you won’t regret it.

Q/A Session: Do you have other tips to share on freelancing best practices? Let us know in the comments section below.

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I’m Imad, the content creator and online marketing strategist behind The Guemmah Freelance Hub. My mission is to help more freelancers grow themselves, their business, and their profits.

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