Saying NO and Setting Boundaries

Saying No and setting boundaries is a necessary skill if you want to stay in business.

And that means, from time to time, you’ll have to say no.
Defining and setting your boundaries is fundamental to building and maintaining a business. And saying ‘no’ is not always easy or pleasant.

But the success of your business depends on it. This is particularly true if you are self-employed and handle clients who are much larger than you.

So, where do you go about saying no and setting boundaries?

Much of the time, you set them up front when you set up such things as rates and pricing. Hopefully, you spelled them out clearly when you negotiated the work. And they should be reflected in your rate sheets and contracts.

But no matter how well you have communicated, you will find yourself setting boundaries when faced with day-to-day situations that come up in the course of running your business.

You know you must say no when your client’s requests are no longer reasonable.

Depending on the circumstances, you may simply turn down the request, renegotiate the terms of the deal, or, sometimes, walk away.

Here are three true-life scenarios where setting boundaries became an issue. What would you do?

Saying NO and Setting Boundaries One: You are an artist that took on a small, routine job. You quoted a flat fee for work that should take an hour or two, at most, to execute.

But your client cannot be satisfied.

No, she isn’t asking for major changes – just a little tweaking here and there. But as soon as you make one set of changes, your client realizes that there is yet another area that needs just a little adjustment. The requests never seem to end, and this simple job is eating more and more of your time �

Saying NO and Setting Boundaries Two: You have a steady client. He is a delight to work with and has given you a lot of lucrative assignments over the years.

But it takes longer and longer for your invoices to get paid. You keep getting the run-around from his bookkeeper. But when you finally talk to him directly about his overdue bills, he is contrite. �It is just a temporary problem,� he says. �It will clear up in a couple months.�

You don’t want to cut him off, because you are getting paid, But it is taking longer to collect any money. You are spending more and more time having conversations about the next payment.

Meanwhile you have your own bills to pay �

Saying NO and Setting Boundaries Three: You are an illustrator offered a plum assignment from a high profile client. The job is just the kind of work you relish doing. It’s a break for you professionally. Having this company’s name on your client list will enhance your credibility and desirability with future prospective clients.

The problem is the terms on their contract. It classifies your illustration as a �work for hire.� This means that the company would own the work plus all copyrights. The company could repackage, license and resell your work and generate additional revenue doing so.

But you’d lose the rights to resell it to anyone else. In fact, as a ‘work for hire,’ you don’t even have the right to use the work to promote yourself without the client’s permission.

Do you accept the job?

All of these scenarios were actual occurrences. Details have been modified slightly to disguise the identities of the participants.

In the first scenario, the designer finally told the client that since she could not satisfy her, that the client would be best served by finding another designer.

In the second, the independent contractor, who at one point had been owed several thousand dollars, was eventually paid in full.

The third example is the experience of a number of illustrators with a large New York publisher.

Some turned down the assignments. Some tried to negotiate the worst clauses out of their contracts.

Others, mostly younger, less established artists, accepted the assignments, figuring the benefits of having the company’s name on their resume outweighed the negatives.

You may have handled the above scenarios in different – and better – ways. But the intent, here, is not to pass judgment. The point is that situations will come up which force you to decide what, and how much, you will accept.

As a self-employed businessperson you set your own policies. Most of us work hard to satisfy our clients, solve problems and build relationships.

These actions keep work coming in the door.

But not every job is worth having and not every client is worth keeping. Some eat up your precious time in return for lots of frustration and little income.

By saying ‘no’ and setting boundaries you keep your dealings fair. And your clients, at least the ones you want to keep, will respect you for it and keep coming back.

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