Client Relations Management: How To Protect Your Boundary and Integrity With Proper Scoping

Have you encountered clients who ask you to “just throw in” that one more thing… habitually? You think it’s not a big deal, you want to be “nice” and of course, you don’t want to “offend” a client. But on the other hand, you feel like you are “being taken advantage of” and the constant giving without being properly acknowledged or compensated just doesn’t sit right.

I know, it’s a tough call… especially if you are in the “helping profession” (with a natural tendency to help!) and/or are the “sensitive” type.

Hmmm, between a rock and a hard place? Not really, there is a way out so you can uphold your boundary and integrity without sounding remotely like a jerk. It involves me whipping out my 10-year project management chops to show you some soulful scoping.

Before the nuts-and-bolts, let’s get over a misconception:

Scoping Is Not Nickel-and-Diming

Having a clear and defined scope allows you and your clients to understand how to act and what to expect in your working relationship. If something is out of scope and you say “no” or ask for additional compensation – there is no hard feeling or weird energy.

A clear scope helps you protect your boundaries with integrity. And it’s not just for you.

If you spend you time and energy doing “extra” work for one single client without being fairly compensated, you are unable to devote your attention to clients who are actually paying you for your work. The quality of your work suffers, and how is it fair to those clients who are actually paying you for your work and respect your boundary?

Also consider this: if you keep “throwing things in” without being compensated, you will get resentful about your work and this energy will poison your business and relationship with your other clients.

Scoping Is Not Rocket Science

Sure, I used to bang out 50-page scope documents on a weekly basis for projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But you don’t have to do that.

Simple documentation as part of an agreement your clients sign off before the start of your services should be sufficient for most (note: this is not legal advice, I am no lawyer.)

The scope would simply detail what you agree to deliver for the amount that is paid to you.

(Note: if you are a coach, you are NOT promising results. You are promising what your client will get as the “features” of your program, e.g. number of xx-minute phone coaching sessions, handouts, email support and expectation in terms of turnaround time, supplementary reading materials etc.)

If there are a few things you always “throw in” for clients, add them to your scope and take them into account when pricing your service.

The more specific you get, the easier your life will be when you encounter “clients that make your cringe” who pull that “just one more thing” thing.

What To Do When the Client Asks For that “One More Thing?”

With a well-defined scope/list of deliverables that your client has signed off on, you can simply say it’s not covered in the original scope of the service – period.

If you are kind of a “recovering over-giver” and /or compelled to sound “nice”, you can say something like “I really would like to do this for you but unfortunately it’s not in the scope of this service and to be fair to my other clients, I won’t be able to provide it as part of the package you have purchased.”

Then, based on what the client needs at the moment, you can suggest a few options – e.g. a maintenance program or retainer service, another service/coaching package, or upgrade to a higher level program or package. (See below)

It Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Get What They Want

They just have to pay for it so your time, effort and energy can be acknowledged and compensated. It is very important, not only from the monetary perspective. It has an impact on you attitude toward your business, and your very own self-worth.

Most of the time, these clients just want to test the boundary (subconsciously) to see what they can get away with. If you suggest something reasonable, more often than not they are willing to pay if they really want it – because it’s fair!

Here are a few ways to go about it:

Amendment to the Original Agreement

In the agency world it’s called “change order.” It is essentially an amendment in written format detailing the change in scope and the additional fee involved.

It’s the most flexible way to go if you cannot anticipate what your clients may request. Of course, do this with integrity – you are only going to add on a service if it actually falls in your area of expertise and you can deliver the intended results.

Otherwise, don’t let the fear of lack or the fear of being vulnerable get in the way – don’t go for the quick buck, be honest about your capability and if you know someone who can do the job well, make a referral.

Menu of a La Carte Services

I don’t advocate selling “a la carte” services (or single sessions) to everyone and anyone. However, you can create a menu of these services available exclusively to your current clients as add-on to their packages, and make this a “perk” for being your clients.

It is often of higher service to your clients because most of the time, these piecemeal services will not have the intended results unless you have a good understanding of the clients, which means they need to be already working with you to get the most out of these add-ons.

Purchase Another Package

Sometimes, what the client requests may be something completely different from what is included in the current package, and you have another package that meets her needs.

Maybe she is asking for a part of one of your other package, and you know for her best interest, she would need to purchase the entire package to get the best results. In this case, don’t go for the quick buck but take the time to educate the client why purchasing this other package will be of best interest to her.

Sometimes, you may have to refuse delivering a partial package if it’s not going to create the intended results for your clients. Remember, you are the expert of your offerings – own it.

You can offer a discount for existing clients as a nice gesture. Make sure it’s a fair energetic exchange so it’s not about people-pleasing or begging for business (energy of lack.)

Upgrade To a Bigger Package

Sometimes people may not know what they really need when they start a working relationship. Clients are also more willing to trust you and go into a higher-priced engagement once they feel comfortable with your style and trust your ability to deliver.

If what your client wants is covered by a “bigger” package that includes the deliverables of the current package, you can recommend an upgrade so she just pays for the difference in price. You may want to review the deliverables to see what has been delivered and what is outstanding, and make an amendment to your original agreement to reflect the changes.

Make It a Long-Term Relationship

If the client is near the end of a program or package and wants continual support, you can offer a retainer or a maintenance program. You have to be the judge to make sure that scaled-back availability is sufficient to support this client, and make sure the amount of support a client gets per month is clearly outlined.

Saying “No” Can Still Be Tough If You Don’t Have the Right Mindset

Saying “no” or stepping up for yourself to ask for more compensation is not always an easy thing – knowing the “how” does not always mean you have the ability to protect your boundary.

If you have the tendency to over-deliver, you may need to be more mindful about your boundary, create system to keep your “people-pleaser” in line, and make sure you don’t go into over-giving mode because of fears of being disapproved, losing love, being judged, ending up with nothing etc.

You need to have the confidence to step up and own your expert status because there are times you will have to refuse a client’s request for her best interest, and be able to educate her on the reason.

You also need to realize your responsibility to your other clients because if your time and energy is sucked by one “client from hell,” your other clients will not be able to get the best of you – and that’s what they paid you for.

It is YOUR responsibility to set clear boundaries and educate your clients on the way you roll so they can get the best out of their experience working with you. So chuck that victim/martyr mentality – if you allow “clients from hell” to drain your time and energy, it is YOUR boundary crime to commit.

Ling offers “Business Soulwork + Marketing Activation” at business-soulwork.com to help Maverick Entrepreneurs nail their Messages, claim their Superpowers and muster the Guts to monetize their Truth so they can build a purpose- and personality-driven business that is a full expression of themselves.

Ling helps her clients supercharge their actions not only through practical strategies and marketing tools, but also through their growth and development – so they not only grow their business, but also LET THEIR BUSINESS GROW THEM. Through her “left brain meets right brain” approach, she helps her clients uncover their truth and tap into their intuition, then ground those light bulb moments with practical strategies and marketing tactics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.