Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

Setting Client Boundaries

Setting Client Boundaries

We have 24 hours in a day, 8 hours of which are spent sleeping (if you can). The rest, you spend juggling client work and personal relationships. To prioritize the latter, I’ve had to manage my time and energy while working on the former.

Lately, I’ve had multiple deadlines for projects with long lead times. It’s been tough, but I’m stacking up as much work as I can before relaxing for the holidays. One of the things I’ve had to remember is having boundaries. Case and point: one of my pet peeves is receiving emails on weekends or before 7:30 am or after 10 pm. No, I’m not a breaking news reporter, a night or weekend editor, so there’s no real reason why I should be emailed after hours or on weekends.

I’ve been thinking about how to implement boundaries with clients. I have to recharge in order to do my best work. Here are some methods I’m implementing:

Don’t check or open emails after hours.

Sure, people shouldn’t call or email after hours. But my checking them reinforces the notion that I’m always “on.” I’ve been trying not to read work emails first thing in the morning or before heading to bed at night. On weekends, I often leave my phone on silent and spend time with people (or books and games) I love.

Turn off your notifications when you’re on deadline.

If you’re immersed in client work, it’s okay to unplug to focus on important tasks. I sometimes put my phone on silent and move it across the room. When I’m ready, I take intermittent breaks to check my phone and email to see if I’ve missed any important messages.

Don’t respond to client emails during off hours.

Okay, so sometimes I will check my emails out of habit. Admittedly, opening a client email before bed or early in the morning can cause stress and anxiety. When I spot a client email though, I don’t respond to it right away, opting to wait until 9 a.m. on a weekday or the following business day. Responding right away, I think, will signal to clients that you’re available whenever. And that’s not true. You need to sleep, eat, shower, exercise and anything else necessary to recharge.

Notify clients ahead of time off

If you’re taking time off to go on vacation, home for the holidays or whatever personal reasons, let your clients know in advance. That way, you can work with them to ensure what they need before you log off for an extended period of time.

I keep thinking about Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ famous statement: “Reclaiming my time.” Heading into 2019, I’m going to be reclaiming my personal time not only to help my clients, but to serve myself.

How do you establish boundaries with clients? Let me know in the comments or email me at  

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