Event planners and creatives tend to be natural-born givers. The nature of the job so often requires that we put others’ needs before our own — that we work on weekends, solve problems at midnight and respond to emergencies over the holidays. But, it’s so important to remember that a positive client experience comes as much from setting boundaries with your clients as it does from giving them your everything. Today, then, we wanted to break down some tips for setting boundaries and managing expectations with your clients–leaving you more time for solving the world’s non-event-related problems (like your cupboard’s wine shortage and your closet’s ever-growing need for more shoes).
Set expectations from the get-go
Tough love can be a hard thing to practice, but if we don’t manage our clients’ expectations from the beginning, things can snowball rather quickly. If a couple doesn’t know that you don’t respond to non-schedule Facetime calls or that Sunday is your one day off, how can you expect them to respect and follow those guidelines? From the very beginning of your relationship with a new client, you should communicate clearly about how you do and do not work and what your services do and do not include. Before embarking on the planning process, each of your clients should clearly know:
- What your working hours are (be very specific about your day/s off and your request not to be contacted on that day or days)
- How they can contact you (what channels you do and don’t respond to)
- When they can contact you (while still letting them know they can always reach out in an emergency)
- What defines an emergency (as planners, we’ve all had that one client who thinks a bounced invitation or second-thoughts on color choice is an emergency)
- What your services include (and, just as important, what they don’t)
Set boundaries during your workday
Setting boundaries within each individual workday is just as important as setting overall boundaries throughout the entirety of the planning process. If you’re anything like me, you might like to complete items as they come to you. Sure, that email wasn’t part of your defined workflow for the day, but it’s nice to respond and not have it lingering, right? While this mindset makes sense for those who love checking things off of their to-do list, keep in mind that straying from your workflow isn’t always a great idea.
If you tackle non-scheduled items as they come up, on a busy day (are there any other types of days?), you’ll likely find that you didn’t get to any of the work you actually had scheduled for that day. We recommend defining your workflow using the checklist in Aisle Planner and trying (your very hardest) to not stray from that list unless it’s an absolute emergency. This will help you avoid getting pulled into projects out of order. Remember, if your workflow isn’t clearly defined and you aren’t disciplined about sticking to it, your clients’ expectations (rather than your years of experience) will be what drives the planning process.
Set yourself up for success
The most effective way to ensure you stay on track throughout the planning process is simply to set these boundaries and manage client expectations from the very beginning. Be proactive about your process rather than reactive — don’t wait until a client has called you three Sundays in a row to tell them that Sunday is your one day off. And, as hard as it may be, remember that practicing tough love (from the very beginning) is really the only way to ensure clients follow and respect the guidelines you’ve set. Making exceptions in emergency cases is fine, but don’t make exceptions just because you’re up at 3 a.m. and want to answer that email. Doing this can instill a pattern in your clients that’s hard to reverse. After all, if you answered their one late-night email, why wouldn’t you answer more?
Overall, just like with any relationship, the easiest, most effective route to a positive and client experience is to communicate your boundaries, expectations and needs clearly from the very beginning. Most clients will gladly follow your lead — you just have to take that lead from the get-go.
What about you? How do you set boundaries with your clients? We’d love to hear your stories and experiences — share them with us in the comments section below!