Protect Your Work-Life Balance with a Boundary Buddy

If your clients are taking over your life, you need to rethink your approach. Get-It-Done Guy shows how to connect with an accountability partner to keep work from becoming overwhelming.

Stever Robbins,
February 24, 2014
Episode #303

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Twenty-nine-year-old Timmy had a problem.

This dashing young man’s business was too successful. We started working together to help build a business he could run in a few hours a day, so he could follow his dreams of being a tap-dancing pointillist portrait artist at night. To respect his privacy, I won’t say exactly what he does, but let’s pretend his day job is as a creative genius marketing consultant. (He lives in New York, is smart, talented, has leading-man good looks, has watched every episode of Buffy and Angel, and is single, looking for a relationship-oriented woman. If you know any, email getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com).

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At first, Timmy was scraping to get by. But gradually, the quality of his marketing work began to speak for itself. At first, just simple words like “Hmm…” and “Ooh! That’s nice!” But soon enough, the quality began saying things like “Hire this guy, he’s a complete genius!” People listened. Timmy’s client list grew.

Clients Will Push to Have Their Way

The more great work Timmy did, the more people wanted him, and the more they wanted to pay him. The more they paid him, the more they thought they owned him. They would call at 8pm demanding his input on a creative decision. “I’m busy rehearsing my tap routines!” he would declare. “We don’t care. We really need your input on the tagline for our brand of doggie toothpaste, NOW!”

Timmy’s success was making him miserable. It was starting to interfere with his muse, right as he was beginning a chalk triptych featuring the cast of Sesame Street dressed in unique baseball caps. Client demands interfered with his painting. Becoming a modern-day tap-dancing George Seurat doesn’t just happen overnight, you know.

Timmy needed to learn to push back.

Establish Boundaries with Clients Up Front

Clients push. That’s their job. They pay you enough money to afford a small coffee at Starbucks, and in return they expect you to hop, skip, and do backflips at their command, even if you’re not a gymnast. (Did I mention Timmy also does gymnastics? He’s a catch, ladies!)

But that’s because clients simply have expectations that they own you body and soul. Establish boundaries up front and they’ll be easy to enforce later on. When you first meet with a client, discuss how you’ll work together. Timmy now tells new clients, “I don’t work weekends, and if you call outside work hours during a workday, I may not return your call until the following workday morning.”

Inevitably the clients all think, “Of course he’ll make an exception for me!” But now that he’s spoken the boundary out loud, when he does enforce his boundaries, clients aren’t surprised.


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