A topic in web design that is not talked about nearly enough (in my opinion) is client communication boundaries. Early in my journey, I was just excited to get clients so I didn’t care how much they called, when they called or how they reached out.
But as my business grew and I got busier and busier, I started to get frustrated with clients who reached out at all hours and I began to resent many of them for calling me at odd hours or reaching out in ways that I didn’t prefer.
Then I realized something profound…IT WAS ALL MY FAULT!
I never set the expectations or told clients HOW and WHEN to contact me. In short, I didn’t set the communication boundaries. But when I did…wow…what an impact it made on my sanity and business. Since getting serious about creating client/customer communication boundaries, I’ve never looked back.
In this podcast episode, Web Dev Mentor for Graphic Designers Emma Kate shares some tactical, practical and invaluable tips for setting client communication boundaries which is crucial not only for your sanity as a web designer but also for getting projects done on time.
I certainly wish this is something someone would’ve shared with me early on so I can’t wait to hear how these boundary tactics help you in your business TODAY!
In this episode:
00:00 – Introduction
06:20 – Greeting to Emma
15:47 – Be the boss, set boundaries
23:16 – Experiment with what works
28:42 – Have empathy
32:32 – When to set client boundaries
41:23 – Contract stipulations
43:44 – Using tools for boundaries
48:26 – Adjusting for the times
53:30 – Tool overkill
57:23 – How to be polite but stern
1:07:53 – Stick to the process
1:14:20 – Game changing tactic
Connect with Emma:
- Designer Boss Podcast
- Designers Learning Web Dev | Emma’s Facebook Group
- Emma Kate, Web Dev Mentor for Designers | Facebook Page
Featured links mentioned:
- Podcast Episode #039 – Transitioning from Graphic Design to Web Design with Emma Kate
- Coupon code (feel free to gift your referrals with 15% off): EKLOVE
- Email Templates:
- Client Requests Are Out Of Scope: https://emmakate.co/email-out-of-scope
- Follow Up Client / Deadline Warning: https://emmakate.co/email-follow-up
- Website Suspension Warning: https://emmakate.co/email-website-suspension
- Emma’s In-person Meeting Request Email Reply Template – Option 1 CHARGE: https://emmakate.co/email-meeting-request-1
- Emma’s In-person Meeting Request Email Reply Template – Option 2 FREE: https://emmakate.co/email-meeting-request-2
Episode #151 Full Transcription
Hey, friends, welcome into the show. This is episode 151. In this episode, you’re in for a real treat, because we’re going to talk about something that is super, super important. Something that I have found that not that many people talk about, but it’s crucial. And it’s key to your sanity. It is key to getting projects done on time. It is key to good client, and customer relationships. And that is boundaries, we’re going to talk about setting client boundaries and communication boundaries with your clients.
For this episode, I’m super pleased to bring in one of my absolute favorite people in the WordPress and web design realm. This is Emma Kate, you may know her she was on the podcast previously in Episode 39. Emma, it’s kind of funny, we talked about this early on, she is kind of what I like to call the girl version of me. Even her website is a.co website, which is at Emma Kate Co. She is a web design coach, she helps web designers, graphic designers, and a lot of people break into the web design realm. And the cool thing about Emma Aside from her just being awesome, is she’s very open about a lot of things she’s learned from the client side of things. And the reason I wanted to have her on today to talk with you specifically about boundaries is because I’ve heard her talk about this in the past, in other podcasts he’s been on and stuff. And she has a lot of real tactile things you can implement right now in your business, to help with client communication and client boundaries.
Because there is nothing worse than when when a client texts you or calls you on like a Friday night, or is hitting you up over the weekend or doing any sort of communication that’s out of the boundaries that you have set for your business to not only keep you sane, but to get projects done on time. So what we’re going to cover in this episode is literally a complete proven path and a game plan that you can implement right now to help set boundaries and get good client communication in place. So I’m really, really excited for you.
I definitely wish somebody would have shared these tips and tricks with me early on in my journey. Because as you’ll find out, both Emma and I really learned this stuff the hard way by not setting good boundaries and not setting an example and just letting clients run our day without actually running our day and letting clients know when to contact us. So if you’re listening to this early on in your journey, I’m super excited for you because you are in a good place. This is one of the most important things to learn early on. Even if you’re further along in your journey all is not lost, you can start making these changes right now. So needless to say, I’m super, super excited to hear how this helps you out.
Now I would love to help you out in your journey as well. If you are getting started in your journey, in particular, if you’re early on, and you’re just slightly overwhelmed. This is just your boundaries. And communication is just one aspect of a lot of different things you have to manage when you’re getting going on in your journey. I have a free 10 Step action plan for you that I love to give you access to right now you can go to Josh hall.co/start. And you can pick up and get access to my free 10 Step action plan which will help guide you with the most important things. It’s kind of a proven path on what to focus on when you start your business. So check that out today if you’re interested. Client boundaries and communication will fit really nicely along with that.
And then I wanted to make sure you knew if you’re interested after this episode and finding more about Emma even though she is complete competition to me, I love what she’s up to. And I’m all about coopetition and I want to support Emma too. So go to Emma Kate Dotco/Josh Hall, one word, and there’ll be a special deal there for you. And actually, if you go to the show notes for this episode at Josh hall.co/ 151 I will have a special coupon that Emma has made available for Josh Hall Web Design Show listeners that you can use when you go to that link. So go to the notes here.
Oh and last thing I wanted to mention too, I almost forgot Emma dishes out a ton of email templates. And she has made those available for you as well on the show notes of this episode, Josh hall.co/ 151. So later on in the episode, we talked about a lot of these email templates that she has and she has graciously sent them all over like I couldn’t believe how much he sent over to me. So those are available for you to download for free. Right now. Go check those out. There’s no signup required on those. You can just go to Josh hall.co/151 and get those today. Okay, I think this intro has gone long enough. Here’s my conversation with the lovely Emma Kate. I can’t wait to see what you take from this episode because it was awesome. Enjoy
Emma Kate, welcome back onto the podcast. It is and I mean this in full sincerity such a pleasure to have you back on.
Oh awesome. It’s such a pleasure to be here I am. I listened to your podcast I see around all the time and it’s always good to just have a chat to a fellow designer. I think we have such a Similar story of where we started and everything. So it’s, um, it’s great to always chat with you because I feel like we have a really similar perspective on things.
I think we both talked about it last time, because you were on episode 39 on the podcast, which I can’t believe it was that long ago. I think it was either during that call, or maybe before after where you and I, we pretty much acknowledged that. If I had a girl version of me, it would be you even your website is in the .co. And I don’t mean that in a weird way. It’s just like, you are literally like that the girl version of Josh Hall Co. And I think it’s awesome. So we share a lot, we share a kinship with what we do. And man, I’m so I’m so stoked to have you back on the podcast and to chat specifically about boundaries. I think that’s, I mean, we have a ton of topics we could talk about together.
But boundaries is something that is really important. And I’ve heard you talk about it on the podcast for the designer, boss, podcast and some of your material. So I’m super stoked to get into this. And I’ve got some stuff I want to mention before we dive in. But let’s start off with people who don’t know you, Mr. Where are you based out of? And when people ask what you do? What do you tell them? Because that’s a tricky, it’s a tricky thing to answer with folks in our position. And I understand that completely. It’s very hard to explain what I do. So what do you tell people? What you do and where you’re based, Ella?
Yeah, sure. So, for those who don’t know me, I’m Emma Kate. If you can’t tell already, I’m an Aussie. I live in a beautiful tweed Valley in Australia. And I’m a designer turned graphic designer turned web designer and I now help other designers master the wonderful world of WordPress. That’s my that’s my tagline. That’s my tell people. And yeah, you can find me at Emma Kate sort of check out my courses and grab a bunch of freebies, and also designer boss.co, which is the home of my podcast with Anna Tao, as well as my online summit that Josh has spoken at all three times. We’ve had the summit you’ve been there, which has been great. And we actually just released website Divi website templates there as well. So that’s that. And I also have a Facebook group designers learning web dev. So essentially, it’s all about graphic designers learning how to build websites, specifically with WordPress and also using a page builder, like Divi or it could be Elementor or something like that as well. But obviously, we’re probably mostly Divi listeners here today. So I’m a big Divi fan. That’s what I built my websites on.
Yes, surprisingly, it’s still a lot of Elementor and Oxygen and other builders, I actually have found that probably about 50% of my audience are other builders or they’re using other builders along with Divi. So it’s been pretty interesting. I’m really, I still use Divi, and it’s a lot a lot of my resources around Divi, but I also have a lot of stuff that works for everybody similar to yourself and my like it’s the it’s the core principles or practices or tools that can work around different themes. And I actually I do want to talk about just to get some context, a little bit about your designer and web designer experience, which is going to lead into boundaries for sure.
But first, I just want to tell you while I have you publicly, I am super proud of you. And I am really blown away by what you have done in your journey, just from how much I’ve known you over the past couple years, particularly with the summit you and like you mentioned, and our you guys have really spearheaded this movement of getting not only just female entrepreneurs and designers into web, but everybody across the world. And with your designer boss Summit, which I have been a part of every time. It’s awesome. And it gets better every year. So I just wanted to say hats off to you. You really it’s been awesome to see what you’ve been doing. And I think you and I should feel real proud of yourselves for the impact you guys have made. What with the summit’s in particular?
Oh, thank you so much. That’s That’s awesome to hear, especially coming from you. And like I love doing it. It’s one of those things that summit in particular is one of those things that I just really wish that was around when I was starting out. I think there were similar things around but there will also always in person always expensive always hard to get to that kind of thing. And so yeah, the summit, I get blown away every time I learned so much from you and all the other awesome speakers that are there. And so it’s been a fantastic experience, even just for me. So I’m glad that we could bring it to life. And it’s really it’s really been a hit. There’s obviously been a bit of a gap for people really wanting that and it hasn’t been filled. So
Yeah, and I think I mean in person things are awesome meetups word camps, all those things are incredible. But in a post COVID world that we live in, or we’re still feeling the After Effects, a lot of people are still shut down and there’s travel restrictions and everything else going on a virtual Summit. There’s so much power to that because you can get anybody in the world. Yeah, the timing doesn’t work great for everybody. But if somebody is willing to get up or catch the replays, you can still join a virtual Summit. So I think there’s a bigger need for that than ever. I’ve thought about doing one for like three years, but I just know the amount of work that goes into it. I’m like, Ah, I just don’t know, I don’t have the bandwidth to host one quite yet. And it was funny because I know we had this call scheduled last week. And he said, I just I got to reschedule. I know you’re feeling a little fried after just recently doing the summit and some of course, launches and stuff. And I feel yeah, like I, I wasn’t offended by that at all. I understand. So I know how much work goes into that. But yeah, you guys are up to some awesome stuff.
Oh, thank you. Well, if you ever want to do one, I go recommend having a partner in crime doing it. Because that’s just made it so much easier gives you motivation to actually do it to you. When you’ve got someone else.
Well, yeah, yeah, maybe what you and I will have a chat after this, because I’ve got some ideas. So people may have may have just seen the beginning of the very first Josh Hall co summit right here. We got some I got some ideas. Anywho. I would love to before we dive into boundaries in this topic, specifically, which I know is a big challenge that all web designers face. I think it would be great to have some context from your background Emma like you went from graphic designer to blending into web before you started, again, kind of taking my model with with teaching and giving back during that. Can you just give us can you give us like the nutshell version of your journey as a graphic designer and web designer? And just tell us about that journey?
Yeah, absolutely. So I started my freelance graphic design business, mainly focusing just on graphic design. I back at uni, I learned HTML and CSS and Dreamweaver. So they were like my very first websites, but I didn’t really do too many of them. I quickly got into WordPress, but I’d sort of started this is mainly graphic design business, a little bit of Web. In my early 20s. I think when we talked last time, we pretty much had started, like at the same age, like at the same time, like probably I was probably about 23 or something. But I, I started my freelance business,
Yeah I was 22. That’s why I said earlier, like, we are literally like, it’s weird. We have almost the exact same path and everything. Which, by the way, everyone should definitely check out your first episode, Episode 39, which kind of takes the full journey and explores and explores that sorry, I didn’t mean to derail his continue.
After a couple of years, I didn’t want to be at my desk at like nine every morning like having to sit there until five and having to answer every phone call that came. – Emma
No, no, that’s fine. Um, yes. So I cuz I was so young, I kind of just took a lot of other people’s advice on how I’m supposed to run a business. And the biggest person that I listened to was an older relative who was into marketing. And you know, but he was very old school. He’s like, 30 years older than me, businesses have changed. But I’d sort of taken his advice of, you’ve got to work nine to five, and you can’t take a day off to work on your business. And you’ve got to take phone calls, and you know, all these kinds of stuff. And so I just sort of did that and then realized that wasn’t working to me, after a couple of years, I didn’t want to be at my desk at like nine every morning like having to sit there until five and having to answer every phone call that came.
So I realized I had to sort of put some boundaries in place. But I first had to realize in a way that I, it was my business and I could do what I want really. Like, I could design my business around how I like to work around this sort of methods of communication that work for me around the hours that work for me, that kind of thing. So it was a process of sort of learning things the hard way, and then putting those boundaries in place. So so that was sort of the first thing. And then it was really like having people doing like a million rounds of revisions, or what are some other things like not paying invoices on time or sending me a check in the mail and realizing I don’t want to have to go to the bank to deposit a check. Like I want to, I think you call them checks in America, don’t you like Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so like, all these kinds of things like So realizing what I didn’t want in my business, and then deciding, okay, these are boundaries. These are things that are like rules I want to set in my business, but I’ve got to tell my clients about it. And so that was sort of like the next step there.
So how long was the journey from being a graphic designer web designer up until you started limiting clients and teaching? How long was that phase of your journey?
Oh, a long time. So I guess if I started freelancing about 23, and then I didn’t start mentoring till I was like 30. So it was a good good seven years. And probably like I still did, I did graphic and web design before I was 23 as well, but I just hadn’t sort of jumped into my freelance business.
It’s so eerie, because I literally it’s just so weird. I literally started teaching seven years into my journey like how crazy is We literally have the exact same path. So crazy to do that. But the reason I asked that and all seriousness is because when it comes to setting boundaries generally that’s not something you figure out early on. It’s usually like later on or as like, for me a lot changed when I got married. And when I started having kids, especially, I realized, like, I don’t want to be taking a walk and have to answer a client’s call while I’m spending family time or whatever. Like, they’re, I mean, it happened even before kids, but once I had kids, that’s when it really dawned on me that I’ve got to get serious about my communication. So yeah, I was curious, like how far you were along in your journey before you had some red flags? That told you I’ve got to change some stuff?
Yeah, I think so much of it, is almost giving yourself permission, like to set those boundaries, I think that’s the thing, I it took me a while to realize, hey, no, I’m kind of, I’m the boss here I can, I can do what I want. And if it doesn’t suit a client to I was at that point where it’s like, that’s okay, I’m just not the designer for them. I can recommend someone else who likes to chat on the phone, or whatever it might be. So I think, and I noticed this with students a lot, it’s really, all I’m kind of doing when I’m telling students is I’m giving them permission, I’m telling them, they can do whatever they really want to do in a way and design their business around that.
And one of the things I think that probably pushed me over the edge is that so many of my designer friends, like I’m yet to have children, but so many of my designer friends had children. And so they had to start setting these clear boundaries of like, this is when I work and or I work at all these random hours, but you can expect to hear from me within 24 hours or whatever it might have been. And so, and no one questions that of course, you know, if you’re a mom or your dad, people know, you’ve got other priorities, and people work around that. So I kind of thought, well, you know, What’s stopping me doing that? Really, I can, I can design my life around that. And really, I need to sort of put that in place for when I do have children, I need to have these clear boundaries anyway. So yeah,
Yeah, that’s a great point, a couple really key points you hit on right away here, Emma, first of all, the permission thing, that is a biggie and I was just like you, I just ran my business. Basically, as a support person, I was essentially a 24/7 support guy for all my clients, which a lot of clients enjoyed. But the problem was, not only did I get, you know, burnt out, and it was just much more stressful, there was a lot of work life balance issues, even early on, thank goodness, I didn’t have kids at that point, I had already started to kind of make those changes by the time I became a father. But I essentially just let my business run me and I didn’t run my business. I think that’s kind of the core of what you’re getting to. So I back you up, I think the permission thing is huge. And the other aspect of what was really interesting is what you said you had kind of a mentor who told you this is how you should do things.
That’s the other thing we have to combat in our business. And then with boundaries, for sure is we’re taking in all this information about how other people have ran their businesses, and you just set it, you have to do what works for you. You have to look at your business, run your business. And the beauty is we can run it the way we want to. There are so many people who take certain days off and don’t take calls on certain days. And I’m sure we’ll get into some of the weeds and tactics on some of that. But that is key. The idea of like taking somebody’s bow information and recommendations, and then putting it through your own filter, I think is really, really important. Did you learn how to do that more recently? As far as like taking advice and opinions and filtering it? Or when it when did that? Yeah. When did that turn for you? When did when did you start making your business your business instead of just letting it run you? And you know, making it what everyone else said it should be?
Yeah, I think I think it was probably a bit of a gradual process. But I haven’t actually thought about this. But when you said that I was like I feel like one of the first things that sort of triggered it for me was I before am a new added hour. I had another designer friend had like sujet recommended her to me and I went and got like a freebie of hers. And it was about, oh, maybe it was an email or something about setting boundaries, essentially. And one of them was how, if you don’t like to talk on the phone, you don’t have to have your phone number on your website. And here’s a little snippet of what I have on my contact page to say I’m an online business and this is how I communicate.
Now I remember grabbing that putting it on my website, taking my phone number of everything that day and going how relieving is that? Like that’s all like it just felt so good. And I now do exactly the same thing with my students and they like feel that sense of relief. Like it’s just one of the funnest things you can do in your business really is just Like, yeah, these are my boundaries, putting it everywhere. And yeah, so I think that’s probably one of the first things. And it was probably it probably came from Anna, before I even knew and I before we even became friends. And then I also had worked with another business coach years and years ago when I was part of BNI, which I know you were part of BNI as well, I think it was,
It wasn’t actually BNI. But it was very similar. It was almost a sister type of networking group.
Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Well, I worked with a business coach, there. And I remember sort of him telling me, when I’m having these issues with clients, I’m like, Oh, this client’s turned into a nightmare, and blah, blah, blah. And he’s he pointed out to me, it’s like, well, what are you doing to make that happen? You know, or what are you not doing to cause that to happen, and I was like, Oh, damn, it’s my fault. You know, I can’t just like be bitching about the client. But that was a really good thing to learn. And something that was really empowering, because it’s like, well, I can change what I’m doing. I can’t change what the clients doing without sort of change. It’s sort of put the power back in my hands. And, and it was all about setting these boundaries. And it’s like, if you might have the idea in your mind that you don’t want to take phone calls, or you don’t want to do this. But if you don’t tell the client how they’re going to know.
So there, there it is, there’s the lesson of the day, when it comes to boundaries, you have to set them. If you don’t, you can’t get mad at your clients for calling you like, that’s what I realized myself was, I had clients texting me, I had clients calling me when I was on walks, and you know, off hours, I had clients calling me at 230 in the morning, sometime I like Friday night. I’m like, what, why? What are you doing 230 at Friday night that you need to call me like, it’s there’s some wild stories I’ve had like that. I know, everyone has had those. But as you said, you can’t bitch and moan about it. If you didn’t say anything. If you said something, and you made those boundaries clear, and they broke them, then you have a right to be upset, or to be stern with them and say, Listen, this is how I communicate this is when where how, if this doesn’t abide, and it may not be a good fit, or this we’re gonna, you know, take different steps.
But you said it right there. And I was just thinking about Anna’s and advice. And when they said, You’ve got to set the boundaries. That is that’s so key. And the good news is if you feel like boundaries are just out of control. The good news is you can change it right now. And I think you’re a great example of that. I think I’m a good example that I did it kind of similar to you one step at a time, it wasn’t like I had all these perfect boundaries in place one week, it was similar it was maybe I shouldn’t have my phone number as my call to action, which I did. I literally had my phone number as my call to action. I understand the drawl to that because you want, especially early on, you can take all the calls you want early on, you don’t have that many projects. But as soon as you have like 10 projects on your plate, you can’t be taken calls left and right. And really, as soon as you have one or two projects on your plate, you shouldn’t be taking calls left and right. So there is a kind of a mental shift isn’t there when you’re going from like hustle, hustle sales, sales, new client to actually fulfillment and actually doing the work, right? Like that was the big realization for me.
Absolutely. And I think that’s a good thing to point out because there’ll be people watching listening to these who are really different stages of business. So if you’re just starting out on your journey, you probably don’t necessarily even know what your boundaries are, you might not even know how you necessarily like to work, maybe you need to try a whole bunch of different things to realize what does and doesn’t work for you. So it maybe you don’t need to set like everything we sort of go through today, maybe you don’t have to set all these really clear boundaries yet. And you can just develop them as you go just like Josh and I did. However, if you’re further along in your business, there’s probably a lot of stuff that we say today that you’re like, Oh, yes, I have to do that. Because that’s turned into a nightmare in the past.
I do filter out a lot of those not good fit clients now, because I have these boundaries in place. – Emma
So it’s always and always think about it as sort of a work in progress as well. Like I’m constantly adding new things to my contracts, like most like I do filter out a lot of those not good fit clients now, because I have these boundaries in place. And I also am good at keeping projects on track because of these boundaries. But still, some things slip through the cracks that i It’s because I haven’t realized that there needs to be some kind of boundary set there. So it is something that’s kind of a constant work in progress, and you’re going to be changing it up. Every now and then as you realize something else needs to be added.
Yeah, that’s a good point. It doesn’t have to be something set in stone, you can always test it and try it out and revamp and I think one worthwhile point to mention too is you will likely have certain clients that you might bend the rules for. Like for me I had a couple clients that were like a client one client who was a white label guy, and to be quite funny. He paid me so well, he would tell me like, I remember one time he offered, I think three websites at once it was for like this white label type of deal. And I said, Hey, man, I’d be happy to give us a special deal discount off since we’re doing three sites at once. And he’s like, Josh, can I give you some business advice? And I was like, from you? Absolutely. And he’s like, don’t, don’t drop your rates stick to what you do, stick to it to your worth in value. I was like that. That was awesome.
So needless to say, I say that to say, if he called me on a Saturday, I wasn’t going to be too upset because I knew it was fairly urgent, or I knew he was very respectful. And he knew I had a family and stuff. And he paid me really well, on time, above and beyond. So there was a few times where like, if he called me I wasn’t too bent out of shape about it. But as a whole, I’d be really careful about not letting those those rules been for everybody. Because the reality is not reality is not all clients are equal from a profitability standpoint, from a revenue standpoint, and from like, a sigh factor standpoint, you mentioned there were some times these calls, and you’re just like, Oh, I gotta deal with this.
Like, you really have to, I always judge and I hate to say Judge a client, but I always kind of look at a client relationship. And if it is somebody who I’m excited to get a call from, I’m, I’m happy to bend a little bit if need be, but as a whole, I would not do that. So I just wanted to say that that way you don’t feel bad if somebody does feel like I really want to talk to this client, but it’s Saturday, I’m not gonna answer. There’s gonna be certain situations like that. Did you ever have any of that? Or were you a little more strict and rigid on on those type of situations?
No, I absolutely had that. And I still have that because I still take on the occasional client job. And I have a couple that I’ve kept, you know, my favorite clients, and if they call me I’m more than happy to talk to them because they’ve become friends now as well. And, and it’s like you said, you start learning whether the client really respects you, you know, whether they’re respectable, respectful, respectful.
Yeah. Sounds good. You know what I was making up words on this show. So let’s go with respectable hours are made up word for the day.
Yeah, like they respectable of your time. And they’re not taking advantage like you. I tried to know that initially with a client, but after they’ve been a client for a while, you know, okay, yes. If they’re calling me on, like, you know, late on a Friday evening, or Saturday or something like that, you know, it’s kind of probably urgent, they’re not just like, you know, taking advantage. So I definitely, I definitely break my rules. When, when it suits me really, there was an analogy when I, I did a similar topic on the Divi chat podcast, and I remember Tim Strifeler and, and both Stephanie, they both came up with this sort of analogy of like having boundaries or like a fence. And then, so it’s to keep, you know, things in and keep things out and all that kind of stuff. But also, you have a gate, and you’re the only one with the key. And so you can break your boundaries, you can cross the line when it does suit you or suit.
I like that this puppy can come right in and come on in and hang out. I like that. Yeah, your little wiener dogs are welcome to come in anytime you’re in Columbus, Ohio. Yeah, I love it. Well, and another good point to that too to remember is since we’re on the topic of being empathetic towards clients, sometimes we have to remember that clients are often running their businesses during work hours. And so the only time they can think about their website stuff or get content or make content is during nights and weekends.
So as often as I was frustrated by clients by that, I also realize, okay, if they’re going to work, if they only can work at on weekends, or weeknights, then I have to be understanding about that. But I still had boundaries in place that I put in place to where if they want to work at night, fine, they can post their information in base camp and stuff, and then I will get to it on my work hours. And then if we did need to do a strategy call or something that we had to actually talk, then we would arrange a call, then I wouldn’t be happy to make an occasional like Tuesday night call for half an hour, 45 minutes. It was rare. But I would do that. And I did that type of situation. Did you find that as well that? Did you ever did you ever realize that you had to be a little more empathetic towards the clients and what their schedule was like as well. But at the same time keeping those boundaries?
Absolutely. Yeah, of course. I was similar to you. I had an even to this day. A lot of my clients that’s sort of like it’s a it’s a startup potentially. It’s like a new side hustle. So they still got their day job. They still you know, they’re sort of not really available nine to five during the day. So they’re doing a lot of their work at nighttime. And so, one of the things for me was like I now sort of have my email switched off and I don’t check them After hours and stuff, but occasionally I might. And even when I used to, I might want to just write an email back right away. Like if I see something come through at eight o’clock at night, then I might read it and be like, Oh, just be easy to reply now.
So having certain things like boomerang or like, like scheduling, you’re being able to schedule an email. So you can write that reply and schedule it to go out at like, 9:30, the next morning or something, having stuff like that is really handy. And I know that’s worked really well, for a lot of my, you know, friends and students who are moms, because they’re just up and down with the baby whenever the baby’s sleeping and be like reading emails at 430 in the morning or something. They can sort of get some work done then. But they don’t want to be sending the email at 430 in the morning.
Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, there’s so many tools for that I’ve actually had to train myself even with what I do now to do that, because I’ll often look at like a message in the web design club or an email from a student in back. Oh, I’d love to get back with them right now. But I shouldn’t. And I also, at the same time for you, and I’m sure you feel like this, too. We don’t want our students thinking that we’re working 24/7 Or that, you know, Josh is up at 3am. Working like, do I really want to follow his lead. That’s not necessarily the vibe I want to put out. And that’s rare. But it does come from those types of situations, generally, where, yeah, like babies up or my daughter is going through a sleep progression right now.
So that’s been kind of interesting, like, those times are where you’re often active maybe or, I mean, sometimes, it’s, I wouldn’t even call it like being a workaholic, or anything. But I actually enjoy sometimes going into my email and seeing what’s going on and hearing from students and stuff. I’d rather do that then scroll on Facebook and see what you know, some of my stupid friends are doing. So I’d rather just have be somewhat productive in that. So it is nice to be able to schedule those out. And all my friends aren’t stupid, I shouldn’t have said that. But uh, you know what I mean, some of them are goofy Anywho. That’s a biggie. So schedule those out.
Now, I would love to talk about tactically how to set boundaries, because I’m sure everyone listening up to this point is like, this is great. I love all these ideas and methods. But how do we actually implement boundaries? So where what I’d love to ask you, Emma is like, I guess it’s really how and when, cuz you probably don’t want to start off the conversation with a new lead and be like, by the way, you can only reach me here at this time in this time, that’s generally not gonna go over well. So let’s start with when when do you talk about boundaries with new clients or potential clients?
Yes, so I am, I feel like it’s almost a bit of a gradual process, like you sort of trickle it out. And so a couple things I think are really important is to on your contact page, have clearly how you do like to communicate. So you know whether, you know, like, Josh mentioned before, if you don’t want people calling you, on the phone, don’t have that as a call to action. Similarly, on my contact page, I don’t have my phone number on there. But I have I tell them how I like to communicate, I’m primarily an online business, I communicate mainly via email. However, if you would like to schedule a call, you know, and there’s a button to schedule a call not to just call me.
So I think that’s it, that’s a big one. So that I can sort of prep for the call, it can, it can fit in with my with my work day, and I’m not just getting interrupted in during like, when you’re in sort of a creative flow, and you’re, you’re really in the job, and then you get interrupted by a call. So it’s good to I love having that schedule a call. So that’s sort of one of the first things is like you can have that just on your website, before they even become a client. I also have, in my one of my first step, so my call to action of okay, you’ve come to my website, you want to work with me, what’s the next step, the next step is to fill in my project inquiry form.
And so this is quite an in depth form, it could take a client, maybe 10 minutes, if they do it quick, it could take them half an hour, if they want to put a lot more detail into it. And in that form, I have a few things that really that kind of start setting those boundaries. And one of them is explaining again, what I have on my contact page, the I’m primarily an online business, I communicate by email, blah, blah, blah. The reason why I do that is so I can keep track of you know, project tasks, and also stay in my creative flow, that kind of thing. Is this okay with you? And they can say yes or no, or I’m not sure, like so it’s right then and there. And I put that towards the beginning of the form, so they’re not wasting too much time.
And you actually give them an option so they can they can choose,
They can choose and so if they come back, say no, then it’s like I can write a polite email back after that saying, like, I’m probably not a good fit, but based on what you’ve sent me here are some designers who are going to work let you know because I have designer friends who are quite happy to chat on the phone, you know, so and I’m quite happy To help that client find the right designer for them. But it’s it’s good having that night. I don’t think I probably only have one or two that have ever said no. And I think most of the people that are probably taking no, go then oh, okay, she’s not for me and they go somewhere else. But that’s something I can do I have the luxury of doing because I’m not hassling for work so much. Yeah. Sort of pick and choose the clients they want. So that is,
And that’s, and that’s interesting, too. I would like, if somebody actually told me no, I’m not okay with that and still submitted the form I’d be I’d have to respect them for that to be like, Yeah, I appreciate you telling me exactly how you feel instead of just disappearing.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I’m quite happy. Like, if they filled out the form, and it looks like they look like a good client and stuff, then like, I’m quite happy to put them in touch with potential designers that would work with them. And yeah, so I have things like that in my project inquiry form. Also, I find the cuz I make such a long project has such a long project inquiry form, that’s kind of like, that’s almost a filter as well. So there’s only certain children that are going to fill that out. If they’re just they’re trying to get what do you call it, like just comparing prices or something like that they’re just shopping around, they’re probably not going to spend half an hour and fill out a project inquiry form in detail, unless they’re kind of serious about wanting to work with me or really something out, so.
So that’s like, that’s kind of a more subtle way, I guess, of like, setting a boundary there. And seeing also how they fill out that form. If they just given me one word answers, when I’ve, like, asked them a bunch of questions and given them a lot of room to fill that out, then that that’s kind of a bit of a red flag to to see how they communicate, because because I am the kind of person who likes to communicate in writing in email, if they’re just giving one word answers, or they’re being ambiguous, or they’re giving me pages and pages worth of answers, like, it’s like, I’m trying to gauge how they communicate and see if they’re a good fit for me, or potentially, they’re better off with another designer.
Yeah, so yeah, and just so two little touch points there. And we should make a differentiation between a lead and an actual client. Because those two examples you just shared on the contact form, or on the contact page, where it’s clear about how you communicate, instead of your phone number, they’re just scheduling a call or assuming like, you know, send in a forum or something. And then that on the on the that the next phase, there is really interesting that you kind of give them the option, it kind of empowers them to say, Okay, I’m into this, I’m totally fine with how you communicate, or I have some questions about it. And I imagine that would come if somebody is comfortable being on the phone, like, particularly, for people who are of older generation, a lot of times they would much rather call you instead of go through email.
So I always had to balance that as well, although I still gave them like, don’t call me 530 On Friday, like, we can set up a call, but don’t just, you know, call me and I tried to be really nice about that. And it was somebody who just was not getting an email. But let’s transition to when they become a client. Do you just remind them? Or do you customize that for the job? And this isn’t right or wrong type of principles or practices, but I’m just kind of curious to see what you’ve done with that. Once they cross from lead to client, then then how do you really cuz I imagine then you hone in the, how we communicate when we communicate? How does How did that work for you?
Yeah, so I now include, most pretty much like all my boundaries kind of come through in my proposal/contracts. So mine is kind of merged together, I use a tool called better proposals. And like, you know, you can put the proposal in there, but it’s also a contract. So it’s like when they’re signing and accepting the proposal. They’re also accepting the contract or the mutual agreement, which is essentially stipulating a lot of that stuff again. So how we communicate what’s expected of them how many rounds of revisions they get, how like, how many meetings are included, or how we look into meetings? What else have I got here?
I was just checking that out, by the way, because I use 17 hats for invoicing and workflows. But it sounds like it’s pretty similar. Better proposals.io If anyone wants to check it.
Yours I think 17 Hats got a lot more stuff going on. I think better proposals is like kind of just proposals.
Okay. Yeah. 17 Hats is a client portal. It’s a client portal management type of software invoicing contracts, proposals, workflows, client, man. Yeah,
Yeah. Yeah, we should. Yeah. Which is awesome. Better proposals is just one little part of that. It’s like proposal fights just about proposals. And, you know, before that, I used to just do like a proposal in InDesign and send it out to someone as a PDF, or I would just do pretty much just a quote in my invoicing program, and it wasn’t like the proposal didn’t have the con tract, all that stuff. So I like having it all together. It’s all there. So it’s not like, they sign the proposal and then you’re like, Okay, now you got to sign the contract. Like, it’s, it’s all sort of together.
Yeah. But I like that you’re talking about putting it in here. I always had it in my contract. Because I’m sure at this point, you might run the risk of over saying how you communicate, like, if it’s on the contact form, if it’s on the, the lead form, if it’s on the proposal, and it’s on the contract. And if you send them an onboarding sequence, it’s like, Good god, I’m alright. I know, you don’t take phone calls I get. How do you balance that between, like, saying enough, but not overdoing it? I’m sure. You know, there’s a lot of other things going on here too. But
Yeah, well, it’s just um, really in the in the contract slash proposal. It’s in there, but it’s in there with everything else in like, you know, in the mutual what I call a mutual agreement, rather than a contract. So it’s like notice, like Hardline, I guess. So it’s just a little thing bits in there. I don’t really keep I don’t keep stipulating again, it’s like they’ve already accepted that in the initial inquiry. So it’s like, there. That’s why I like having it there. Because it’s like, you can’t say you didn’t see it. You said yes, you know, so I know that they’ve got that in their head, and they’re fine. And then also, they don’t, I don’t have a phone number anywhere. So it’s not like they can just call me.
So that’s okay, there. But really, I use my contract to be stipulating a little bit more about really, the timeframe, how it works, like how how the projects going to run what I expect of them. So it’s not like they’ve just signed that, they just pay the deposit, and they sit back and do nothing, like there’s a lot that they have to contribute to the project in order for it to happen. So stipulating sort of what I need from them, what’s expected of them and what they can expect from me. So having that in there, I think it’s really good for both parties. Like they really like to know that as well. So also, obviously stipulated how many rounds of revisions, maybe how many initial concepts if you’re doing the design, and yeah, things like that I put in the contract.
That is great. It really is, as designers, it’s our duty to tell our client how to communicate, because going back to what we talked about in the beginning, we can’t be mad at them for calling on a Friday night if we never told them that we’re not on a we’re not on Friday night, like we can’t expect them to know exactly when to contact us or how to contact us. That’s another big aspect. I almost like to transition to that, like how do we decide how to get client communication from because there’s email, there’s no there is calling or Zoom calls for, you know, targeted scheduled time, which I actually like if you need to call somebody, I’d rather have a zoom call, you can record and kill a lot of birds with one stone kind of thing. God forbid, there’s like messengers, definitely don’t want to get contact your Facebook messaging, which I’ve got before.
There’s also slack and different channels, like, I guess it’d be a great time to talk about how and maybe this goes back to how we run our business. And this is the beauty in the freedom, you can set this up however you want. I always like to communicate in Basecamp, I tried to stay out of email once a project started I was you have to kind of do that in the beginning. Because you’re not going to put a potential lead in your, your software or your project management software. So emails fine at the start, I always felt like but then once the project got going, kept it under Basecamp kept it in our project. That way we could keep track of progress and all that. Any thoughts on like how to decide how or how we decide how we communicate and how we want our clients to communicate with us?
Yeah, I, I’m similar to you, I would usually transition like once they’ve become a client, and we’re ready to go, I would transition them I use Trello. And so I’d put them in that and set them up on a project board there. And then they can load everything, gather all the content there previously, obviously use contents now to gather the content. So it depended on what, you know, tool I wanted to use for that. So for most projects, I would do that. And that’s kind of how we’d communicate I’d set up so I’d get notifications anytime they added anything to Trello. They had like different places, they could ask questions, stuff like that to try to just keep it all in one place. Which was a lot easier to when I had multiple contractors working on the project. We could all be on the board, we could all see what was happening. So that’s really helped handy.
I however, I have had jobs say that. Maybe they weren’t that big a project. Maybe they were kind of small. It’s just me working on it. It’s just a few pages quite easily. Potentially they’re even a repeat client. So I already know it like it’s just something you know what that’s like sometimes jobs are just super easy. They don’t require necessarily a whole project board set up. So I might just stick to email in that. case and just have folders in my email, if it’s just something really easy like that. Yeah, yeah,
because it does it, it does tend to change a little bit with the relationship with the client, like you said there was so many projects I had, where I was like, this doesn’t really warrant a whole big old base camp set up with an onboarding sequence and everything like I’ve already known them. In some cases, it might have just been a landing page site, it was a logo, they had like three images in that case, I bet just emailed to me, it’s fine. So again, bending the rules, only if you feel comfortable, only if you know, the client and the trust is there. I think that’s probably the moral of the story when it comes to breaking your own rules. As long as it’s worth it to me for the client.
But yeah, that’s a that’s a really good point, I really think about that. As far as the importance of knowing the client, knowing the situation. And also something you mentioned, there was team, it’s probably worthwhile talking about. And I’ve found this really important, because I didn’t really think about this when I started scaling. But I realized not only did I have to set boundaries and constraints for my client communication, but then I also had to do that for team communication, because team communication can get out of control and email. And then you could strike to solidify and slack or something. But even at layer back from that, I found that there is a big difference between team communication that’s business related, and team communication that’s personal.
Like Jonathan, my lead designer, when I started scaling, and we were working together every day all day. We were also he’s a hockey guy, too. So we like talking hockey, well, I didn’t want to talk hockey, our Basecamp thread in the middle of project stuff. So we kind of made a deal that Facebook Messenger was personal, and just hang out stuff. And then Basecamp was project stuff. So I might say like, Dude, did you see the jackets this weekend on Facebook? And then I might immediately go to base camp and be like, Hey, Jonathan, how are we on this right here? So it’s kind of weird. It’s like you’re friendly. But then also professional? Did you have to balance that as well with internal team communication?
Yeah, yep, definitely, we had a similar thing. But again, on the Trello board, we just had a card that was like, chat for like, obviously, you would like for certain tasks, and you’d have, you know, you’d comment on the relevant things for those tasks. But maybe you just want to chat about the project in particular, in general, then we’d have a card for that. But then on every board, we’d also have a card for just like, chat in like, kind of personal stuff. I can’t remember what I called it. But really, it was just like anything that’s like not project related, then it would go on that card. So it was kind of like you knew that nothing important was really on that card. It was just personal staff or things like that. So yeah, it was important to sort of separate that otherwise you you’d be sifting through a lot of hockey talk when you’re trying to find something important about the project.
Yeah, yeah, I definitely it was it was something that I just did not think about. And nobody ever really prepared me for that. So when it came to, I was like, Oh, I’ve got to make some adjustments to this. Because when you’re a solopreneur, the lines of communication internally are just in your head. So it’s not really a big deal. But then once you start scaling, or even just simply hiring out some work occasionally immediately becomes a big deal. So I would definitely encourage everyone, if that’s you to just start putting some of those in place. And like we’ve talked about, it’s a it’s a phase by phase thing, it’s not going to be perfect. One night, after one night, like it’s gonna take some time to figure out what works for you.
But I definitely feel like we’re an interesting place in business right now, where this is acceptable, like, I don’t know, of 20 years ago, because there wasn’t as many tools for chats and messaging and, and stuff like that. I think people probably were accustomed to just phone calls, which is why your mentor probably said, You got to be available for them nine to five or whatever. But I do feel like we’re in a very changing world. And this is becoming more and more acceptable. And honestly, like our generation, I think you and I are similar. I just don’t like talking on the phone anymore. I never really did. And I really don’t like it now, like I will avoid talking on the phone at all cost just because generally I’d rather just do a quick text or answer via email, like the amount of times that I that somebody would say, Hey, do you have for a quick call? And then I would say, well, we can schedule a half an hour call to catch up on the project and stuff, schedule it out for a couple of days from now, do the call. And then they’d be like, can you do this on the site? And I’m like, Oh, this 100% could have been a quick email. You could have just said, Can you do this? Yes, I can do it. We’re done.
So like there are those differences, again, whether it’s culture, industry, age, whatever that come into play here, but I say all that to say, I am excited, because I think there’s a lot of freedom and a lot of empowerment for designers. Have you felt that as well. Have you seen a shift since your early days? Which were the exact same years that I got started because I didn’t I definitely saw a shift from them.
Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve I’ve definitely seen a shift even more so obviously in the last two years with COVID. Never I’m working from home. And all of a sudden, when I tell clients, we’re doing a zoom call, they they know what Zoom is like they didn’t know what that was two years ago.
To the point. Yeah.
Yeah. So I’ve seen that real shift for me. And probably maybe it’s been even more so in Australia. Because I felt like a lot of people yet didn’t know what Zoom is people were a bit more old school. And we have been locked down a lot more than other countries as well. So it’s been sort of why we need to shift our business. And even though I was already set up that way, now, all my clients are kind of becoming a lot like how I run my business,
Like, welcome to my world. Welcome to me.
I can do a course on this. Like, I’ve been doing this for 10 years. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s, I’ve definitely seen that shift. And also, I feel like now I’m also working with a lot more millennials, I guess, like, I’m working with people my age and younger than me. So they’re, they’re more so like, not talking on the phone, like, so it’s been that shift, where I used to work with people 10 years older, and now I’m potentially working with people 10 years younger, because
Their messaging, just just emojis. And you have to decipher what that means. Or they’re like, you know, it’s like, what I don’t even know. It’s like, my wife and I are texts. Now I’m sure our parents would just, you know, shake their heads, like how will literally make a grocery list. And I sometimes I didn’t realize what I said, but my wife usually understands what I say, because we just don’t write things out. Generally, it’ll be like, half the word or something so that it looks but in all seriousness, that is a big difference. That is a very big difference with millennials. And then some generations younger, where emojis are much more acceptable and quicker, shorter text, abbreviations, and then these different versions of words that you kind of have to decipher.
To the point where I’m like, dang it, I don’t know what they mean. But I’m sure you’re the same, but, but it’s kind of a mix of all, but I and I think you and I, in our age range as millennials, and folks who were maybe born in the 80s, and the 90s, we’re in a really unique position, because we have a little bit of old school in us. But we also have a lot of new school in us, which I think makes pretty powerful. And I don’t want to I don’t mean to exclude anybody who’s not in that range. But you can learn those things. But it is kind of interesting that we are a little, a little bit of both there. So I think you’ve sounds like you found that as well.
Yeah, yeah, I think, I think, yeah, understanding how how both sort of different generations are working and stuff. Yeah, definitely.
It is important. And I guess that would be where those options in the in the proposal or the contract. I wonder if it’s even worthwhile? Have you ever done this, where you’ve asked how they prefer to communicate? Just so you know, not saying that you would answer their call 24/7. But have you ever experimented with that? Or like I generally did that? Once we got started, I would say, you know, depending on the situation, do you prefer calls because if we do, then we could set up a weekly call while this project is going on? You know, stuff like that. I know, a lot of my students have done that, where only while the project is going on, if need be during Content Collection or something, you could schedule some calls throughout the week or throughout a few weeks. Did you ever explore anything like that? Or have you seen anything like that work?
Um, yeah, absolutely. I still even now like with bigger projects, I will not even just be, I guess if it’s just not a website, like a sales page, and I’m smashing out or something. But usually, if it’s like a full website, build, even if it’s small website, I even though I say that we primarily communicate by email, or gather content on Trello, or whatever, during the project, we can book in zoom calls, you know, like, why not a few zoom, call one, you know, one or two a week or something as we go through just to knock things out quickly, because that really works for me as well.
So it’s something that it can be, rather than these emails back and forth, hey, let’s just like jump on a zoom call, I’ll share the screen, and we can go through it. And that that really works for me now, because I do a lot of work for designers. I’ve actually found this new niche now because I teach so many designers, but then they just want to design the website and they don’t necessarily want to build it. So now me jumping on a zoom call with a designer can be really helpful because we’re just like, you know, share the screen and I’ll get their ideas of how they, you know, might want to do something can we can knock that out really quickly. Because it’s very visual thing rather than going back and forth by email.
Yeah, that’s funny. I actually just did that. So my I think I think you may have seen where we’re building a house right now. And the guy who our main contact for the builder is awesome. He’s a he’s an old school guy. He’s really thorough and text but I had something or an email. I had something I needed to explain. I was like, I’m good. have a hard time explaining this in email. So I just sent him a loom, which it’s kind of weird when you start taking the tools and practices from business and then apply them to the real world. But I totally did it. I just sent him a loom. And I had my little like Arrow. I mean, it probably it probably looked pretty cool. And I had my microphone and everything.
I didn’t have myself on camera, but it probably sounded sweet. And for him, he’s bright he did, he emailed back. And all I did was just send him a little videos like a minute long with my little arrow. And I had a question about what size of our how our fridge will work with these blueprints. Because I’m confused about the exact size of the blueprints. I want to make sure we don’t order a fridge. It’s gonna be too big. So I took my arrow and I was like, I just I see this measurement here. Is this like a cutout? Or is this open space? I’m not quite sure. And he emailed back. And it was like, This is amazing, Josh, I wonder what he actually said, I wonder if we’re all going to communicate like this moving forward. And I almost said welcome. Welcome to the web design world.
There’s little tricks that help with this that help with boundaries and communication, when something could be more visual. – Josh
There’s little tricks that help with this that help with boundaries and communication, when something could be more visual. And I would definitely I mean, we talked about it on the podcast all the time. But use loom, your use some sort of tool to just do quick videos, it will save so much time with the back and forth, and it will save you from a call it’s it’s actually a great point. I’m so glad you mentioned this because it really is kind of the bridge. It’s the bridge between an email thread that goes back and forth, and back and forth, versus a phone call that needs to be scheduled and can take 45 minutes when it should take five minutes. So those little videos are definitely a godsend. So I’m really glad that you mentioned that.
Now I do want to to get into as we start to wrap this up. We’ve talked a lot about it, I think it’s pretty clear why you want to set boundaries, I think we’ve established that just for sanity and productivity, everything else. We talked about the importance of us setting those boundaries, how to set those boundaries, when the set those boundaries, working doing what works for us, we have to talk about what happens when they break the boundaries. And I’m so curious to see, I just You’re such a nice gal. And I can’t imagine stern Emma, I just can’t I want to see I’ll be honest, if you can record a mean, you know, an upset Emma getting back to a client. Let’s make a case study out of that, because I’d love to see it. But what do we do you know what I mean? Like, what do you do? When they break the boundaries? And you say, Listen, this has got to change? I’m sure you’ve had some of those experiences, right?
Yes, absolutely. And it’s a really, it was, it’s really not hard for me now. But it was really hard to begin with to do that. And I’m, I’m quite, I’m a recovering people pleaser, I really I just want everyone to like me, and you know, I don’t want to upset anyone and want to keep them happy. But that’s not a good place to be sometimes because you can get walked all over. So I have one thing that’s made it really easy for me is now I have email templates, essentially. So every time someone’s crossed a boundary, I’ve written this really polite, but firm email to sort of direct them back into towards into the fence, you know, you came out the gate, you got to go back into the fence, and polite the firm email, telling them how to do that, you know, like what’s happened. And now it’s really it’s a copy and paste job, which is so much easier rather than all that stress I used to have of like, how am I going to reply to this client like, you know, I don’t want to upset them and all that. So now, I do have these email templates, which I’m happy to share too. We can put them in the show notes.
I would love that. I was gonna ask you, you didn’t even need to ask. I love that. What? What a great point. Oh my gosh, it’s genius. The fact that you can save so much mental energy by having templates for this. That way you don’t have to think about Oh, well. I’m gonna say I’m nervous. You just it’s a template. This you stepped out? Here’s I think I think you said a polite but firm is that he said polite but Stern. Bly buster. Is that right?
I suppose I prefer maybe I’m saying it wrong, though. I don’t know. But But yeah. You get the idea. But yeah, essentially, it’s like, I get oh, I wish I had an example up here. But whatever it might have been like, like sometimes, for instance, one of the other boundaries I have, and he is when I send them a proof. For example, I have got them a proof for the homepage. And he go, I send them I’d record a loom video running through the proof all that give it to them and say, Now, this is what I need from you. I need you to send me any revisions that you want in dot points in a reply email or whatever way you want to do it, but stipulate exactly how you want them to supply that feedback. And also the deadline. So when they have to supply that feedback by and potentially also, I like to say like if it is by email, it’s one email. They can’t be like, sending you a nation.
Right, right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point.
And obviously, sometimes they might forget something. They’ll send a second email and that’s fine. Like you can let them do But so it’s in their head, that it’s got to be that so stipulating that and then so I might get clients say who the deadlines approaching, they were supposed to get that to me by close of business Monday and they haven’t. Then it’s like another email back sort of stipulating. You know, we needed this, I might actually email them on Monday, if I haven’t heard from them saying it’s due tonight. And then if I still haven’t heard from them, then it’s like another email saying, You need to send me this, otherwise your project will get delayed. You know, it’s telling them reiterating why we have this boundary. It’s not just for me, it’s fine. It’s to keep their project on track and to fit. That’s a good point. Oh, and oh,
That’s really good. Yeah, that’s a great distinction. It reminds me an ad talked about content stare earlier, which I’m a big fan of I know you guys use it for even for the designer boss Summit, which is great for me as somebody being on the receiving end. Because there was one point where I hadn’t turned in my presentation it or I think it was getting close. And I realized, oh, shoot, I gotta get going on this. So it’s same thing for a client, you can tell them, I need this content by two weeks. But if you never follow up, or nudge them in between there, they’re likely not going to get it to you. So you got to do those nudges. I think it’s really cool with contests there. Because you can automate that. And I think there’s a lot of software’s that can automate messages like that.
There is a big difference between the content collection phase and the revision phase. And as the project moves along, so there’s likely I just wanted to say, there’s likely going to be different tools you use for those different phases. Like you might use contents there to collect the content, but then you may use Basecamp, or Asana or Trello, to manage the project and manage revisions. So there are some differences there. Okay, but I have to ask you this, um, I’m not gonna let you I’m not gonna let you get by this one. What happens when they break the boundaries again, and then suddenly, you got to go to like, strike two? Or strike three? Do you have kind of a three strike rule? As far as you know, the client just will not abide by your communication? Boundaries? Or if they are, they just won’t stop calling you at night? Or something? Like, have you ever had to do anything drastic, or was formed between?
I think I’ve only really had to do I’m trying to think actually, because it doesn’t happen very often, I think we’ve gone in place. Now,
I had two that come to mind, I’ll share but I wanted to hear from you.
Well, I did have one in particular, I remember who it was kind of like it was just keep calling, you know, she would call or it was some way that she communicate, I can’t even remember. But I just remember getting to a point going, this chicks just not getting it. This is not how I want to work. And I have to maybe just like, cut ties here. So I’d kind of I’d written a, again, polite, but firm email to her saying, Look, I just don’t think we’re a good fit. This is how I like to work. This is this is how I need you to provide feedback to me, I can’t be doing this for these reasons. I don’t think we’re a good fit. Would you like me to refer you to someone else? And I’ll refund, whatever. I can’t remember where we’re at in the project. But, you know,
I was I was ready to say, Yeah, I’m happy to just let this lady go. It’s not it’s not worth the headache to me. But then she came back. She was like, Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware and blah, blah, blah. And then, you know, we continued working together. That’s great. And she’s still she, she still wasn’t the very ideal client continuing to work together. But she’s still she did stick within my boundaries. And it didn’t make me realize how, even though I think this was the point where I had the communication policy on my contact page, but it wasn’t in my project inquiry form, you know, so when she’s gone to do that part she hasn’t. So she probably she just didn’t realize I didn’t educate her enough. So it really since then, I don’t think it’s really happened most of the time, people, by the time we’re working together, they get that. And yeah, it’s not too bad. It’s really just, I just got them back, they’ll step over the boundaries, like you said, like, you’ll get one strike because they’ll do it. But usually, it’s because I just need to reiterate it to them. It’s not often that it happens two or three times. So I’m interested to hear
Well, I just I mean, there were several levels of those. I never, I don’t think I ever had to close an account out or or fire a client because of communication boundaries. But I did have to get really stern. And stern Josh basically sounds like this. Listen, I communicate by this, just like you said, to get these projects done. And, you know, we’ve already talked about this is a problem that you’re calling me after hours or you’re doing this. So we’ve in order for this to work out moving forward and not take any drastic steps. We have to change this. It’s nothing personal. I just this needs to change.
So it was a bit like that. For me. That was like that was level one. You don’t want to see me at level two, because level two gets scary. But there was a couple instances where one was an auctioneer guy who he was just kind of a pain in the ass personality anyway, like, for example, I remember when I was migrating his new site, from one host to the new hosts, he was literally like, looked like refreshing and texting me saying new sites not live yet new sites not live yet.
And that’s that was one of the first things that made me realize, Wow, I, I need to not get my phone number out anymore. Or I need to not have people feel comfortable texting me and actually said no, I might say this earlier, as far as like the templates, I actually ended up creating a text template that I would just send back to a client, if they texted me something I’d say, hey, thanks. You know, I you know, this is something business related, keep all business communication within Basecamp thanks so much, or I would have like different levels of that. But you that’s something you could do too. And I had to send that out quite a bit.
So this is one case where he was just a pain in the ass kind of client, he just stepped over the line just call me so much. And I was a little earlier in the journey then. So I didn’t handle it in the most mature way, I just kind of gave him the cold shoulder. And I would stop answering calls. Or I would instead of like answering him over a few days, I would just email him and say, You know I’m on it, or something like that. So and then I actually saw him because at the time I was helping out at church and he went to the church, it was kind of awkward, we were like hanging out at one point, he was in the same room. And he made me so mad. And I just I almost kind of gave him the cold shoulder. I think he sensed it. And it was kind of awkward.
So that ended up resolving and being the massive deal. But that was kind of one the other one was trickier. Because it was with a close colleague. And this is what I wanted to segue to at some point here, which was when you work with friends and close colleagues, because you still have to keep your boundaries in place with that stuff. Because that’s when it gets really tricky. If your friends feel like they can just call you whenever to talk about business. That is a problem.
And this was one of those cases where the the example I often talk about was when I was walking my daughter and I was taking a picture of her. And he texted me and called me at the same time about website stuff. And I already told him repeatedly don’t text me or call me about this. We do it in Basecamp, where we can set up a call. And he he broke the line once you many times, and I did get started with him. And I said I said dude, I I cannot do business on text, but to some base camp. And then we were in a networking group together. And I had to be a little awkward there too. Luckily, I had a little bit more of a spine. And I said, you know, it was nothing personal.
But that’s kind of my spiel I said earlier in order to get this project done. And to be fair to other projects, and for sanity and everything. We got to keep this on Basecamp I’m not gonna answer your calls and texts on this stuff. He did not handle it that great either. He kind of felt like I think he took it personally. But that’s on him. That’s not my like I wouldn’t have so it’s it’s not my best anyway, those were kind of the situations that came into play. Have you ever had any situations like that, where it was personal, where you had a personal friend or colleague who just had trouble staying within the boundaries?
Absolutely. But it in their defense, it was usually because I didn’t stick to my process. And I didn’t tell them my boundaries. Okay. So I, I feel like that’s one thing. I’ve learned that the highway even did that actually with Anna, it wasn’t a communication thing. But I was doing a website for her. And I didn’t stick to my process because and so we just didn’t really I had me and another friend Haley brown working on the website, I was doing sort of the easier web dev stuff she was doing the more backend LearnDash stuff. But we just didn’t between the three of us because we’re all friends, we didn’t really communicate who was launching the site who was doing this. And if we go we it all came together. In the end, it was fine. But we got to this point where it was like, Oh, shit, you know, when we had to sort of scramble and it was because we didn’t stick to our process. So that was a real wake up call for me is like even with friends stick to your process as much as you possibly can.
Because he even if it wasn’t, there wasn’t a bad blood or anything it can get out. He can derail if you don’t have those processes that you stick to even the most people you love working with. That’s a great point.
Yeah, yeah. And it was just it was simply just because we just assumed you know, like, that’s what you do. Sometimes. You just assume I assumed Haley was launching the site. She assumed I was launching the site and are assumed that Haley and I had communicated who was launching the site. It just it all.
Maybe the most important, most valuable lesson of business and life when it comes to communication. Assume nothing. And then anyone who has been married can say that in full confidence. And definitely when it comes to working with a lot of people don’t assume here here’s the quote, don’t assume shit, because it’s not gonna go well. That was a great example that I’m so glad you mentioned that.
Yeah, I’m really actually glad it happened. I was I was quite embarrassed when it first happened because here I am mentoring people telling them to stick to their process and then it was like Yeah, I did. Yeah, I burned you
So can we do you think we can start the don’t assume shit? Hashtag Do you think? Yeah.
Yeah, sounds good.
A worldwide phenomenon for sure.
Assume makes an ass out of you and me.
Oh, I haven’t heard that. Is that Yeah, cuz I
I felt it must be. It makes an ass out of you and me because
Oh, I gotcha. Ah, it’s an acronym. Okay. Well, I like that. That’s why I love that man. I’m just I’m getting learned on this episode. Great analogies. All kinds of great stuff. This is this has been really good. I know. We’re getting far on time here. I know. First of all, it’s early for you. Thank you for for waking up early. And for doing this. It was 8am Your time. Although we’re in the season right now where everyone’s clocks just fell back. So I’m trying to get all my trying to get all my calls in with Aussies while it’s not like ungodly, early for you guys and right during dinner time for me. So, yes, it’s been really good. I feel like we’ve covered a lot.
I do have a final question for you. Just to recap some thoughts. You know, we went over how and when to talk about boundaries, taking ownership of your business, the permission to run your business the way you want to set, you can set call days, you can set call times, you can set preferences with phone versus email, or email versus, you know, project management systems. We talked a lot about the ins and outs of that both client and internal communication, which was gold, we talked about some of those templates you can have out there that are really going to alleviate some of the mental strain. I love that it was a great point by you to have some of those can templates for when people do break the rules. I’m a final question for you. But where would you like my audience to go to find out more about is there a certain podcast or you just want them to go to your website? Where would you like everyone to go to? To find out more about Emma, they don’t already know? Yeah.
Yeah, well, an easy place to go is just Emma kate.co. And that’ll have a link to where my podcast where you can find my podcast, my Facebook group, my freebies, everything’s there. So Emma kate.co
And of course, I’m a big fan. of.co. I just think it’s super cool. So I was so poor. I think you asked me about that when you started your brand, right? I think I remember you asking.co versus.com. Or I remember you.
Because I don’t think I don’t think I knew well. You didn’t know me at that point. Yeah, I don’t think I asked you about that. But you did give me all You almost gave me permission to do it just by having Josh Hall.co. Like I’d say, like, well, he’s doing it. Yeah. And I couldn’t get in the kake.com. And, you know, so it’s like,
again, say, a mirrored experience. I couldn’t get jobs.com so.co. But I think again, dot doc has kind of cooler. So we lucked out. I think, last question, somebody comes to you, and they’re just really having a problem with boundaries. It’s a huge problem. A lot of the stuff we talked about is going to take some time to implement, like I mentioned, it’s not going to be an overnight thing. What would you advise somebody as far as like, what would you think the best most practical step could be? They just had to do one thing? What would you advise them to do if it’s just an absolute boundary constraint mess?
Um, what I would advise would really depend on where the problem comes from, like, are they having a problem with boundaries? Because they’re a people pleaser, like I am? Or is it just because they haven’t actually put anything in place yet? So I think, figure it, I think implementing what is the biggest headache for them, you know, if it’s the one thing that they need to do, what’s the biggest headache they have been, if it’s a communication thing, if clients are calling them and they don’t want the calls, then do what I did, and take your phone number off everything, it’s going to take a while for you to train existing clients about how you work and that’s going to probably be hard, but at least any new potential clients coming in are going to know how you work and you’re not creating more of a problem.
So okay, let me give you a better final question. We’re gonna keep that one and that was that was one day I want to give you a one be a better final question. What was the tactic that just completely revolutionize wherever revolution as for you what was like the biggest game changing boundary tactic that you implemented that really helped?
Probably that probably the the taking the phone number off everywhere? Knowing I didn’t have to give that to anyone. That that was probably the biggest one potentially, because it was the first one to I think, the first sort of big boundary I put in place but yeah, taking the phone number off, and just having that little paragraph of text that stipulates how I like to communicate and putting that everywhere. That was huge because it really it weeded out all those clients that weren’t going to be necessarily a good fit for me.
Yeah, that’s awesome. What a great point and I Man, this flew by, this was a quick hour, I really, really appreciate you taking some time out of your morning to do this and for coming on and sharing your expertise. I just, I remember hearing you talk about this, I think maybe on a designer boss podcast episode. And I really liked what you had to say. So it was really cool to unpack this and take some time to dig into each one of these. I think you’ve really given everyone listening a lot of solid ideas on this. So thank you, again, super proud. Everything that you’ve done so far. I know you’re up to some awesome, awesome stuff. And it’s going to continue on. So thank you. Thanks for joining. I will say Tim already pumped for the next designer boss Summit. Whenever that’s going to be
Awesome. We will thank you so much for having me. The next time it will be next year sometime. Don’t ask me when just yet. We’re still recovering from the last one. We’ll definitely be doing it again.
Yeah, awesome. Well, thanks so much. I know this won’t be the last time you’re on the podcast either. That sounds good.
We’ll just have to record I think we should just like batch out a whole bunch. While the times are good, because doing it at eight rather than 6am is so much better.
Yeah, I’ll tell you what, maybe we’ll make a deal. I think we made this deal last time. Maybe I’ll do one where it’s like six or 7pm My time and I’ll give you a little more time but I don’t know if you’re a morning gal or afternoon Gal or whatever. But I’ll try to make one work a little better for you on time. So how’s that sound?
Oh, sounds good.
All right. Cheers. Have a good one.
You too. Bye.