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Setting boundaries with your clients around your available time is one of the most important changes you can make in your business. In your Letter of Agreement, it is important that you are specific about what tasks are included, and that you remind your clients when needed. You must let your clients know that you are not available to take care of things that are beyond the written and agreed upon scope of work without charging them additional hours.

I know that many of you would do design jobs for free just to do the creative work BUT you cannot let your clients know. When they discover that you will do most anything to please them, they will take advantage of your generosity and enthusiasm and demand more and more of you. Some designers believe that this “I will do anything behavior” will lead to bigger and better paid jobs with the client. It does not. In fact when a bigger job opportunity comes along, they will give it to someone who holds better boundaries, as their new designer is perceived as more valuable. Continuing this behavior leads to being poorly paid for your services and eventually will take all the joy of creative work away.

Here is a typical scenario that I often hear about from many designers. The client wants to help you with your job of designing their space. This is not a bad thing, to have your clients participate in the decisions and feel like they are a part of the process as long as you have established some boundaries and built that extra time into your Letter of Agreement. But when they start doing their own internet research, send you web sites and expect you to look at them all, you are losing control of the job and your precious time.

I know that you do not have the extra time calculated into your Letter of Agreement to spend hours looking at web sites and products that are typically not making sense with the job at hand, so accommodating your client’s request to do additional, unpaid work immediately puts your job profitability at risk early in the design process.

How do you deal with these clients and graciously let them know that, while you value their preferences and input, you do not have the time available to look at all the sites they are sending you?

It actually is not hard, you just need to know what to say.

Tip #1 – One of my coaches once told me, “an ounce of pre-framing is worth a pound of re-framing.” Be very clear about the services and time you are providing in your offer. Explain that the resources that you will be buying from are trusted and proven vendors that you have relationships with. Make it clear that you do not purchase from unknown vendors and neither should they. Tell them a few “horror stories” about vendors that don’t stand behind their products.

Tip #2 – Explain the programming phase of the job clearly. Give your clients plenty of opportunity to show you what they like with magazine pictures, a Pintrest board or a digital file of things that that they resonate with. Explain that once this programing phase is complete we will be moving forward with this information, and not adding to it.

Tip #3 – When the email arrives with websites for you to look after programming is complete, send an note back explaining that you did not include this additional research time in your LOA, and it will result in additional time billings. Ask the question: Is that OK? Do you still want me to do this?

If they persist and send you more websites to look at, review a couple and comment on them and send a bill for extra your time immediately. You can bet, that will be the end of it!

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