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EPISODE 74: Stop Treating Your Client Like Your Boss

by Feb 22, 2022Brand Your Voice, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Shifting your mindset from hired-gun to valued partner 
  • Signs that you’re in an unbalanced writer-client relationship
  • Tips for establishing a healthier relationship with your client

As writers, it’s common to enter client relationships thinking, “this person hired you, so you have to do what they tell you to do,” but that mentality opens a whole Pandora’s box of trouble. 

In the early days of North Star, we allowed ourselves to be treated as employees, or worse, guns-for-hire—just another cog in the machine. For us, it resulted in lower revenue, higher turnover, and a complete lack of power. 

But we’d never worked for ourselves {or with clients} before, and our only frame of reference were hierarchical structures, like schools, nonprofits, and white collar workplaces. We swapped bosses for clients. 

 

Treating your client like your boss can lead to ongoing challenges, and can look like:

  • Deadlines and projects constantly shift—with the expectation that you’ll get it done regardless.
  • Clients tell you what to do, instead of asking.
  • You can’t offer up your opinions or insights unless they ask, because they always lead the conversation during calls {and they won’t hear you out if you do chime in.}
  • You get nickel and dimed for everything.
  • You try to establish or reinforce boundaries, and get pushed back, or worse, ghosted.
  • You always feel like there’s a power imbalance.

 

At North Star, much has changed since those early days, and although we still deliver the same type of work to our clients today, the relationship is very different. We approach our clients as equals, and it’s much healthier for everyone involved.

If you’re experiencing any of the above challenges, know that it’s never too late to select, announce, and enforce boundaries. You and your client are equals—if there’s a power imbalance, there’s a problem.

 

Here’s a few tips to help you establish a healthier relationship with your clients:

  • Start from the get-go. Share your client-writer relationship philosophy before you even start working with a new client {think sales call!} This allows you to both come to the table with a shared goal and vision for the work you will do together.
  • Use words like “partnership” or “collaborate” when describing your relationship to reinforce your philosophy. 
  • Be confident in your boundaries and set expectations. This should show up across all your writing business content—including your website, social media, emails, etc.
  • When you make an exception for a client, let them know and explain why. This helps to keep the relationship balanced for the long haul. They might not be aware that you have been making an expectation, so this provides clarity and respect on both sides.
  • Include your boundaries and expectations in your contract. That way, if things go off the rails, you have something written in stone that you can reference. 
  • If you feel like the “get-go” is way behind you, don’t worry. You can hit reset. Remember, it’s never too late to select, announce, and enforce boundaries. When a contract is up for renewal, let them know you have new policies you’d like to review together. Many clients will be more than willing to have that conversation. Don’t shy away from tough conversations!
  • If a client cannot abide by your boundaries, that’s their choice. You can leave the option to part ways in their hands—set the boundary, and put the ball in their court.

 

Homework: 

  • Make a list of up to 10 clients {current and past} and beside each one, write either “Peer” or “Power Imbalance”.
    • Reflect on WHY you feel that way and make notes. 
    • What patterns do you see? What is in your power to do that can help create more Peer relationships than Power Imbalances?

 

Services/Products/Offers/Freebies Referenced (for affiliate links or list growth):

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.
Hi there and welcome to an episode that I'm really, really excited about. I like to say that every episode.

Jessi:
I feel like you say that every episode.

Marie:
Well, I guess that's a good sign then that we're doing this podcast. So this episode, Jessi and I we're just chatting the other day about things we've learned, things we've aired on, things that we've changed about our process. And this came up and I think the words popped out of my mouth, "stop treating your client like your boss". And Jessi was like, Ooh, podcast episode. So that- [inaudible]

Jessi:
-conversation write it down. And we're putting a mic in front of the conversation because it's an important one.

Marie:
Yes, yes. So, okay. We used to do this. It led down a scary path for everybody. I really think you're doing yourself and your client at disservice when you do this. But the reason we did it is that we'd never worked for ourselves or for clients before. So we didn't really have another frame of reference of what it was like to be a productive work person. Right? Like, think about it. You spend a bajillion years in school and you've got this like authority figure of a teacher standing in front of the class telling me what to do, turn in these assignments. Right? Do the things. This is actually where a lot of us learn that we actually like writing is because we're doing homework assignments from teachers and we hate it less than maybe the physics homework. Right.
And then also, if you're anything like us, we'd only worked in these sort of hierarchical structures before running this business, like schools, nonprofits, white-collar places, where again, you have a boss, we were early career. And so we were not leading the company, you know? So that meant we had a boss. We had someone to answer to, again, we were handed assignments, we were handed outcomes and it was up to us to deliver on those. And so all we ever knew was to be a productive person within a power dynamic. However, that is not what happens in your business.

Jessi:
No. And I think that this is a particularly easy trap to fall into. If you are a service provider, like a writer, because you are filling in one of many needs that your client has and the need that's being filled is a physical labor of sorts. It's, I'm sitting down, I'm typing something, I'm producing something and I'm handing it to you based on either the goals that the client had or the goals that you, you develop together. And it's easy to feel like, oh, this person hired me. Therefore I need to do what they tell me to do. And that mentality opens like a whole Pandora's box of troubles.

Marie:
Yeah. And specifically what those troubles can look like and what they did look like for us was low revenue, more turnover in terms of our team and, and us feeling more burned out, more turnover in terms of our clients, because they weren't as satisfied with us giving up our power. Right. We allowed ourselves to be treated as employees, or even just sort of guns for hire, like do this thing. Right. We were like a cog in the business machine. And at the end of the day, yeah we're still like, the outcome may look the same. If you just kind of glance at our business, like yeah, we're producing blog posts or launch copy or whatever it is for our clients. But the relationship is very different now. We approach it as equals and it's much healthier for everyone involved. So maybe before we dive into, um, how to rectify the situation, if that's kind of sounding familiar for you, is to discuss like, what does that actually mean? What are we talking about when we say, okay, you have a client who you're treating like your boss. You wanna talk about that a little bit, Jessi.

Jessi:
Yeah. And before I do, I wanna put in a quick caveat here that there's nothing wrong with an employee being a hierarchy-

Marie:
No.

Jessi:
-like it's fine within a dynamic that is agreed upon with, if you go and you decide to apply for a job and you get hired into that job where there's a preexisting hierarchy, you know, what you're signing up for that is a decision that you can make. We're talking about this in terms of you run a business. And when you run a business, that means that the existence or lack thereof of hierarchy is determined by you and the person that you are running businesses with and around the other people in your sphere of influence, whether they're your clients or your peers or whatnot, or the people that you, the contractors that you may might hire for your business. And so when we're looking at our client load, when we're out our business and growing it, we want to make sure that we are growing it with clients that allow us to grow with clients that respect boundaries with clients that respect our opinion as not just writers, but also business owners, knowing that we know how to run our own business.
And so that is in conflict with a situation where the client is just treating you like an employee, because it's not respectful of the fact that you are actually running a full business. And so some of the signs that this is happening, and some of them are sneaky. You may not even notice that they're happening. So I want you to kind of reflect on your own client load and past clients as well and if any of these sound familiar to you.
One of them is deadlines and project parameters. So scope essentially changes constantly. And there's an expectation around that change that you will just deal with it. You are just going to get it done. And there's not really any negotiating it's, Hey writer, my dates changed. Here's the new dates without asking if that's okay without asking if you have the capacity for it or the scope of this project changed. Now we need five new website pages. Here you go. Without necessarily any sort of conversation with you around whether it's something that you are able to take on without asking if it's something that makes sense based on your arrangement that you made when you first started working with them.

Marie:
My other favorite example of this is when they're like, Hey, by the way, did I tell you that like a week from now, I'm gonna be in Malta for a month so that I really need you to get all this stuff done today so that I can like approve it before I leave and just go sip wine. Okay. I'm obviously hyperbolizing here. But like, yeah, if they're not letting you know of their schedule and conflicts ahead of time so that, you know, you can negotiate that with them.
Another sign of you being in a relationship with a client that is like a boss employee type relationship, is the client tells you what to do instead of asking. And this isn't just like being polite and asking, it's also about like, are they actually seeing your value as somebody who can provide like content strategy or somebody who can think through this stuff alongside them to say like, Hey, I have an idea for something. What do you think about is very different from saying, like do this thing, because it invites you to, you know, be a collaborator as opposed to being a doer. You will still do the thing, but you'll be able to collaborate on the front end if they ask first.

Jessi:
Absolutely. Another or one that shows up around boundaries specifically is how those boundaries are set. Do you feel like you can convey your boundaries to your client and say, Hey, these are the boundaries that I have in place. Or do you feel like you have to ask them for your own boundaries? Do you feel like you have to ask a client for example, if you have a one week turnaround on revisions, as opposed to a 24 hour turnaround. And do you feel that sort of like almost tightening in your chest and in your stomach area of like, oh, I don't wanna ask them because what if they say know, and then I'm just gonna have to suck it up and do it. Instead of feeling like, oh, this is a boundary that hopefully was established at the beginning of the relationship, but if it wasn't, this is a boundary we need to establish. And I know that when I tell the client what it is and why it's important, they will respect that.

Marie:
By the way, this is coming up for me, that like, basically what's feeling like here is if it feels like a relationship where you're the child and they're the parent, um, that's where there's like a potential red flag. Or you're the junior, and they're the senior, that's where there's the red flag. Right. If it feels like a relationship with like a healthy partner, that's probably going pretty well, right. There can also be unhealthy partners where some of these things are happening, right? Like you have to ask them permission for your own boundaries, but you can reflect like relationships or relationships at the end of the day, no matter kind of what type of relationship it is.
So anyway, another one to look for is they're the one always leading the conversations during calls. It feels like the only time you can speak up is if someone's like, Hey, Jessi, what do you think about that? Or if, you know, you were to speak up and put yourself out there that they're not really gonna be super open to it, they might listen politely, or they might get kind of annoyed, right? That you're like shifting the conversation. That's like the fear that you have, even if you haven't experienced that, that it's kind of all about them and their agenda, and yes, it should be about them and their agenda. But if they're hiring you with a respectful attitude, they're gonna be interested in your ideas and thoughts and collaboration in that process and helping them get closer to that agenda, as opposed to just like, listen to me, I've got all the answers.

Jessi:
Yep. Yeah. And another sign that tends to pop up is around really, it's kind of tied to what Marie was just talking about, but essentially it boils down to a lack of appreciation for the value that you are providing. Whether that's strategic value or whether that's the actual dollar amounts that they are giving you. If they are nickel and diamond, you for every new project or every scope creep instance that happens. If they are asking for justifications for every single little detail they're asking for you to Go outside of what makes sense in an equal relationship in order to prove your worth, then there's probably a power imbalance there that essentially knocks you down a few wrongs on the ladder and leads to that sort of almost parent child relationship, where you're constantly having to prove that you are worthy of working with them and in their mind working for them.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. Another thing that can happen is if you say, Hey, I've got a boundary, you try to like establish it or reinforce it. They like ghost on you or they push back. And they're like, well, but what about this? And they're not asking that, just to clarify, they're asking that to push, to say, Hey, I'm drawing the line here in the sand. They're like, yeah, but like, could you move it an inch back? Right. Ultimately all this comes down to, if there's a power imbalance, if it feels like there's a power imbalance in your relationship with your client, that is what we are cautioning against in this episode.

Jessi:
Yeah. And it's not to say there can't be compromised, you know, maybe you set a boundary and they do push back a little bit and you come up with something that works for both of you. Great. That's fine. But if it's happening again and again and again, and there's always a pushback, always a pushback, always a pushback that might be a bit of a yellow flag to evaluate the relationship and see, do they actually respect the boundaries? You've set. There can be compromise, but it's hard for there to be compromise if one party feels like they have kind of a one up on the other party. And so really thinking about whether that power imbalance exists or not.

Marie:
Yeah. I'm glad you said that Jessi, cuz you know, I definitely like have people in my life who are wonderful people who are extremely bounded and these folks are probably not who this episode is for. Except to say that like you can allow some, some flow, right? Like be the river, you know, allow the context to help you make your decisions, allow yourself to question whether your boundaries are always exactly what they need to be in this instant. Or if you're comfortable with actually saying like, you know, I am fine with letting this one change this time because whatever.
Probably for the most part though, this episode is for people who resonate with you and me Jessi, because they're like us. And that means that they're, you know, maybe airing on the side of like too empathetic sometimes, right. To the point where boundaries are soft. And they really just like wanna do the work and they wanna do it well and they wanna be, and they want it to be useful and all the things. And so they're sometimes willing to get themselves into a pickle in order to make that happen, which at the end of the day means it's not actually gonna happen. Like it's gonna not end up as good for you.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think it boils down to don't let your desire to either be liked or keep a client or, you know, just have what is comfortable get in the way of your ability to have a business that is truly supportive of what you need as a business owner.

Marie:
Yes.Your physical wellbeing, your mental wellbeing, your financial wellbeing, your professional wellbeing, like all the wellbeings you can possibly think of. Yes. So much of this boils down to how it works with your clients.

Jessi:
Absolutely. And, and it goes both ways, right? When we have these strong, well established relationships, what we end up creating is a relationship where you and your client are equals and recognize that a power imbalance is a problem and work to maintain that sense of we are coming to the table together and you are coming to the table as a writer who provides a specific set of, you know, abilities, expertises that you are bringing in service of what their expertise is and what their goals are. And so your client recognizes that you are bringing to the table something that they either can't do, don't have the bandwidth to do, or don't need to be doing. And you are coming to the table recognizing that this client is going to help support you in meeting your business goals and also your impact goals.

Marie:
Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, if you're struggling with this a little bit, think about it for any type of like service based business you can possibly think of, right? Like maybe you get a physical trainer at the gym. Right. And you know, you can tell them like, Hey, my goal is to be able to like hike this hike to the top of the mountain by the end of the year. Or like I wanna look awesome in time for bathing suit season or like whatever your goal is, right. I wanna be able to lift this much, whatever. And their job is not to become your servant. You know, their job is to help you get to those goals and you're relying on their expertise and their time and their energy and their encouragement to get to those goals. And yes, you still have to put in the work, they have to put in the work, they you're coming together as equals as trainer and trainee. Right. Because you've hired them and they are providing their expertise in return. And you are both bringing, you've both got skin in the game. Right.
So if it helps think about that, like, you know, somebody who's cutting your hair for you. You can tell them, Hey, I want this. But like, if they know that that's gonna look weird on your face shape and be unflattering, like you want them to tell you that, right? Like, so, you know, it's, it is a relationship of, Hey, we're equals. So whatever works for you, think about it that way and then apply it to yourself in your own business. So how do we do it?

Jessi:
So this starts from the get go. But if you feel like the get go is way behind you and you have a bunch of clients where there is a power dynamic, don't worry. You can sort of reset. You can hit a reset on this. If you feel like you've fallen into a power dynamic that doesn't work for you. However, in an ideal world, it's something that starts from the get go. It's something that starts from the sales call and the sales conversations. And it starts with setting those boundaries and expectations right from the beginning so that your client knows what sort of a relationship they're entering into. This goes down to the very language that you use. So using words like partnership, words, like collaborate, allow them to know to, to kind of intuite that you're talking about, meeting together at the table. There's not a power dynamic inherent there. It's about letting your client know from the beginning, your philosophy as a service provider, how you and your business helps to support them and their business.

Marie:
Yeah. And it is totally fine to explicitly and confidently tell them your philosophy of client partnership because yeah. Like I totally agree with you Jessi, like using those words, like partnership and collaborate do allow them to intuite it and they reinforce that. And also sometimes people are just gonna come to the table with their own ideas in mind and they're be like, yeah, yeah, that's nice. Anyway, can you write a bunch of stuff for me? Right. And so, just like let them know, you know, we work with our clients as peer collaborators and we come to the table as each pools because well, like you can say those words, and you know, it does start in a sales call. It can start really in any of your content, you know? So again, that confidence that you have, what are you putting out there to the world in terms of your email list or your social media what's on your web page, are you presenting this confident peer persona that isn't fake? It's you, it's the confident next level you. Is that showing up within your content from the get go?

Jessi:
Yep. And we're not gonna dive into this too far this episode, but one really, really great way to reinforce these boundaries is to make sure that you have them written into your contracts and that way when boundaries are overstepped and when that conversation starts to get a little dicey, you have something written down that has been signed that actually says, Hey, I'm going to follow these boundaries that were set. And so that's a really valuable resource that you can have in your back pocket.

Marie:
Yes, absolutely. So on that note, you know, it is never too late to hit the reset button. Like Jessi was saying, one of the ways you can do that is to let your client know like, Hey, you know, your current contract is wrapping up. I have a new contract. I'd love to keep working with you, but I have a few new policies. So I'd like you to please just read the contract closely, make sure you're comfortable with everything. I'm even happy to go through it with you on a call, whatever you wanna do. I mean, I would say like, don't shy away from the hard conversations because if you do, they're gonna be like, yeah, yeah. I just signed it and then they're gonna be like, what, there was a clause in there that I have to give you like 24 hours notice for things I didn't know. Right. Because we can't force them to read things.
So like, you can really like, even if they're like, oh no, it's fine. I don't need a call. This communicates to them like, oh, this is really important to them. I really do need to like, take a look at this contract if they're like literally willing to take some free time out of their day to like walk me through a legal document. Okay. There's something up. Right. It is never too late to select your boundaries, to announce them and to enforce them. That last one is key. Right. And some clients, the clients that are awesome, even if they're like feeling stressful for you right now, these are clients who are gonna be more than willing to have that conversation.
So I wanna share a tiny story about a client that we had, who initially it was like boundaries, what boundaries. Right. And like, you know, boundaries were just like a paved flat road and everybody was just running all over them. Right. And trampling them. And then I had a real honest conversation with myself and said, did I actually like communicate those boundaries? I certainly haven't been enforcing them. I've just been saying, yeah, sure. Whatever you want. Yeah, sure. Whatever you want. And so then I had a conversation with the client about like, Hey, so these are some new policies and this is why, and this is what it looks like, do you have any questions? And they were like, maybe I don't remember if they had questions or not, but we had the conversation and you know what? They have respected every single stinkin' and boundary since then. And it literally is because I was expecting them to read my mind and that's not fair to them. And it wasn't fair to be you, everybody was a little miserable now everybody's happier. Everything's clearer. It's so much better everyone, including the client is happier because there's more clarity. So, that's the kind of client who like maybe a ball of stress for you right now who does not have to be, it just is gonna take you having some courage to have those conversations.

Jessi:
Yeah. And existing power imbalance doesn't mean that your client is evil or out to get you. It just means that things may not have been communicated and they may be operating from a place of, well, this is the way I've always done it. And I'm not even thinking about the way that the power balances are shaking out with the people that I hire to support my business. And you don't know necessarily where they're coming from and the conversations. So instead of making those assumptions and just decide, oh, this client's a terrible client. And I'm just gonna abandon, you know, working with them, which may be a viable route. It's worth having the conversation, establishing the boundaries, seeing if it works and then making the decision of, okay, they respect my boundaries now, suddenly they're not such a stressful client, or okay, they are not respecting these boundaries even after I've set them, even after I've reinforced them. Now I know that they really are not a good client for me. They're not a good fit for me.

Marie:
Yeah. That's when, you know, it's time GTFO, right? Like, so we have another little story, right. We had a client that we worked with years and years and years ago. I still remember specifically somebody who had also worked with them, advising us not to work with them. In fact, they had a little bit of a reputation for being... unboundaried in terms of, they were not willing to respect basic, basic boundaries of their vendors and of their collaborative partners. However, we were like, we would like that money. And so, and also there was a little bit of prestige involved with working with them. So we were like, oh, we're just gonna do it. And it's gonna be fine.

Jessi:
It was not fine.

Marie:
However, we knew that when, you know, first of all, when I look back on it, I remember having conversations with them. And I actually like, felt like a child. I was like a grown up person who had been grown up for probably half a decade at that point, in terms of like legal status and felt like I was like 12. And so that's a little bit of a red flag, at least for me. Right. But also the other like super basic easy one is they haven't paid. We still are owed money from these people now we're not doing it because I'm just like, whatever. I don't even care at this point. Like, I don't wanna deal-

Jessi:
it's not a lot of money.

Marie:
No, it's not a lot of money. And it's just like more trouble than it's worth it. Probably there's some kind of statute of limitations at this point too. But, what I think was really helpful for us and it kind of the decision for us is that we told them, Hey, we need you to pay this invoice or we're stopping. And they did not pay the invoice. The ball was left in their court. They made the decision to not take action and not pay it. And so the decision was made for us. So you can do that. You can say like, Hey, I've got a new boundary. This is what it looks like. Totally understand. Maybe, maybe for paying you, don't totally understand. Maybe it's something like a new, like, you know, last minute, you know, assignment policy or something, but like, totally understand if this isn't gonna work for you. So I just wanna give you the option of either signing this amendment to your contract or like, you know, agreeing verbally to this new change, or not. And if not, totally hear you, we just, unfortunately can't continue working together, but ball's totally in your court. If you have any questions, let me know. And that way they get to decide whether they're going to be comfortable with your boundary or not. And again, it doesn't mean they're evil, horrible people if they don't, these other people are a little bit evil and horrible, but like, cause like come on, you gotta pay people that you promise to pay. Anyway, it doesn't mean that somebody's not a great client for somebody. It just means they're not a great client for you. If you have a boundary that you want enforced and it just doesn't work for them.

Jessi:
This is also a great lesson in getting paid for the work before you do the work and not asking for payment afterwards.

Marie:
Is that gonna be our next episode? I think we need to put that on our list of episodes, Jessi.

Jessi:
Yes. That might have to be one of the episodes that we talk through, cause that was a big shift we made in our own business, but I'll set that aside for right now.

Marie:
Oh my gosh. We have so many more stories, anyways.

Jessi:
Saving those. But I will tell one more story, which is about when you kind of give that inch back, when you say, Hey, I have a boundary, this is my new boundary and you don't want that boundary to always be a steel wall, maybe on some things. And it's up to you, like what is the steel wall and what is the sort of more flexible gate? It's a weird analogy, but for run them with it.

Marie:
No, I like it. I like it.

Jessi:
Great. So we had a client who just because of the industry that they were in, had the need for a very fast turnaround. And when we first started working with them, it was before Marie and I had a team. So it was just the two of us. And I was the primary writer for this client and I was pretty good at a pretty fast turnaround. I would get the, you know, I'd have my inbox open, I'd get the request. And probably usually within like three hours, the content would be back in that person's lap.

Marie:
I can't even tell you how much this is above and beyond. Anyway, carry on. Jessi.

Jessi:
It was a problem, but at the time I didn't realize it was a problem because I wanted to be nice. I wanted to overdeliver and I hadn't set a boundary around turnaround time. So I was just like, I'm just gonna get it done. Not just to be nice, but also because I was like, Hey, I have these 18 other things to do. And this one will take less time. Let me just get it off my plate. It was not a super effective strategy though, because as our business grew and as our responsibilities diversified and as our team grew a one to three hour turnaround time suddenly became really, really unrealistic. And so we ended up setting boundaries and saying, okay, we don't do super last minute requests. This is the minimum amount of time it takes us to turn something around. I think we said it at like three days or something like that. However, once that boundary was set and once the client agreed to that boundary, it's in the contract, everyone knows everyone's on the same page that didn't stop the requests for quick turnarounds coming in because the habit had already been developed. You know, it was already something that was a part of the routine in the relationship. It took a while to break that routine. And eventually it did. And when things exploded in an industry like COVID happens for example, we were able to, because of our own capacity because of our own adaptability, occasionally say, Hey, we can get you this within 24 hours, we don't have to use the normal three to five business days.
Now when that happened, when that boundary, we intentionally shortened that turnaround time, we let the client know that we were making an exception. So we would say things like great. We understand that this is really important and time sensitive. This one time we will get it to you within this period of time, you can expect it, and we're doing this because, but don't necessarily expect it for future pieces of copy because we take everything on a case by case basis. So you are bending the boundary, but you're also reinforcing the boundary by reminding the client that it exists. And you're doing them a favor by, you know, budging it a little bit.

Marie:
Totally, totally. You know, you can even do things like, yes, I definitely can, and also there's this surcharge or whatever it is and that way it can disincentivize them. Like ideally no one will ever pay the surcharge. Right. Because they'll be like, oh right. Yeah, you've got that. You've got that turnaround thing. No problem. You can get that to me Friday. Right? Like, so that's up to you and it's up to them and that's what respect looks like. It's them saying, like, I hear you. That sounds great. Or, oh, thank you so much for bending your boundary for me this one time, I'm not gonna make a habit of this. Right. That's respect. That is not a power imbalance.

Jessi:
Yes. If someone tries to push that boundary over and over and over and over again, and you're bending over and over and over again, that's when it becomes, you know, you end up back in power imbalance land.

Marie:
I mean yes. And also see if there's a way to make it work for you. Right. Like potentially again, using that example of last minute requests, you can say like, Hey, you know, Suzie, I noticed that you, that is not the client's name, I noticed that, you know, you, you have a lot of these last minute requests. So I just wanna let you know, I'm opening up a new option, because I know that we haven't really been able to, I haven't been able to fulfill things as fast as you want. My new option is for you to become a priority call client of mine. And that means that I will handle your request before I handle any other client's request. And that is an investment of $2,000 a month for you to be, for me to be able to waive the fee, or whatever it is, you know, of our last minute fee or for us to say, yeah, we're gonna prioritize all of Suzie's stuff before anybody else's. So if that sounds good to you, you know, let me know Suzie, and if that sounds good to you listener, you know, you could always propose something like that to say like, you know, it's not worth it to me right now, but Hey, if I were getting $2,000 a month for that, it would be worth it.

Jessi:
You get to make that decision at the end of the day.

Marie:
Yeah.

Jessi:
You don't have to push any boundaries. You don't want to just, you know, keep that in mind. Just because it's an ask that comes across your table, doesn't mean you have to say yes.

Marie:
Yeah. And it just cuz so it's a prospect who comes across your table doesn't mean you have to say yes. If you're seeing red flags in the sales conversation, like, you know, gently, kindly, respectfully, maybe let them know that you're not the right fit for them.
If you want to listen to more stuff about boundaries, we have episode 20 and episode 27, that are both about boundaries with your clients. So I definitely recommend you take a listen to those. But now we're gonna give you your homework and your takeaways from this call.

Jessi:
Yes. So we wanna challenge you to make a list of up to 10 clients. They could be current clients, so they could be past clients and next to each of their names, write either the word peer, if you feel like there is a equal peer relationship or power imbalance, if you feel like there is a power imbalance of some kind happening. Once you've done that, take a look at that list and look at all of the ones that say power imbalance by them, and do some reflecting on way that balance might be why it feels that way. And look at those that say peer next to them and evaluate why those feel that way. This is a really great activity for you to just get a quick look at where if it's a past client, the relationship might have gone sour and it may have been a good client to let go. And why current client relationships may feel strained or feel great depending on whether they're a peer or a power imbalance relationship. And it also gives you an opportunity to look for patterns and find ways to reset some boundaries with existing clients if they need to be reset.

Marie:
Exactly. So we hope that this has been helpful for you. If you go through this activity, please let us know in the Polaris writer lounge. I would love to hear how it went for you and what actions you're taking as a result of what you discover. So happy boundary setting and here's to not treating your clients anymore like they're your boss.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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