How to Be the "Nice Coach" While Enforcing Financial Boundaries with Clients
STOP!!! Do not pass go, do not collect $100, and do not avoid reading this post. Trust me, it will save your pocketbook and professional work with clients.
Let's face it... entrepreneurs get paid when they provide services to clients or have a contract with other agencies to provide services to clients. Happy clients share their experiences with their 100 closest friends, and/or post on social media. Unhappy clients do the same thing!
Stellar business reputations are built on trust, integrity, transparency, and doing what they say they will. We love businesses because they do what they say they will. They don't try to pull a fast one, or overpromise and under-deliver.
Business owners and providers set CLEAR, KIND BOUNDARIES right out of the gate! Clients/customers know what to expect, and what their behavioral and financial obligations are. They understand policies WILL BE ENFORCED 98.5% of the time. No, losing your keys, forgetting to call, or making a note in your planner is not included in the 1.5% of the time.
I LOVE to use Brene` Brown's definition of boundaries when talking with new clients about financial boundaries and expectations. "Boundaries are simply what's ok and what's not ok." Financial policies and contracts let clients know the specific parameters of the transactional money relationship. Either you or your company has agreed to provide Service A in exchange for an agreed-upon fee.
Financial and service contracts also state the benefits and risks of receiving services and the policy for cancellation/termination of services. This includes what happens if the provider or client becomes incapacitated and unable to provide/receive services. Kind business owners are not afraid to enforce contracts or have tough conversations about finances. They also make sure clients understand their obligations and agree to the terms, in writing.
It is UNKIND to not let clients know how you will respond if a fee dispute occurs before a situation actually happens. Sure, you can't plan for all situations or scenarios, although you can have processes in place for dealing with most situations.
PAYMENT for services is your livelihood. PROTECT it with your life! Let your clients know you (or the billing department if you have one) will act with INTEGRITY and enforce policies, because your word matters. Here are several things to include in your billing contracts/policies:
Hours the billing department is open
Special policies for holiday hours
Exceptions to the billing due to ER medical care, death in the family, transportation
How services will be provided
Notice of cancellation of sessions
Process for terminating services
Administrative fees if the process for termination is not followed
Fees for late cancellation
Evaluation/feedback regarding completion of goals
Clearly define how monthly and pay-as-you-go fees differ
Time-suck high-maintenance clients will make you regret working with them every single time. Don't do it unless you want to be stressed out and irritated.
Here are some mindset tips when setting and collecting fees:
YOU DESERVE to have a good life!
YOU DESERVE to be paid well for your professional knowledge, experience, and expertise
COMFORTABLE FEES eliminate money stress and let you be MORE PRESENT for your clients
CLIENTS are willing to PAY MORE when providers have SPECIALIZED training, expertise, or life knowledge of the area they are seeking help for
FEES that are TOO LOW devalue your services
HIGH FEES are representative of the value you are adding to the lives of your clients
If a client wants you to make an exception to the policy you both agreed to, ask yourself these questions first!
Is your client experiencing a life change prompting a re-negotiation of the financial agreement?
Is your client motivated to continue services?
Has your client been engaged in services and completed assignments, program requirements/expectations?
Did your client chose not to continue to work on their program (i.e. put reminders in their planner, phone reminders, etc.) and forget to cancel on time?
Does your client appear entitled?
Will granting their request help them accomplish their coaching goals or enable them?
5 Tips for Responding to a Refund/Waiving of Late Cancellation Fees
BILLING DEPARTMENT IS A MUST! If you can, hire a part-time billing person to handle these situations. Create a separate email for clients to use regarding billing concerns. As much as possible, separate any billing questions from the working relationship between client and provider.
REVIEW THE CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT. Follow this contract as much as possible unless there are extenuating circumstances. Your agreement should have a statement that your client acknowledges and agrees to all information included in the financial agreement
BE KIND. Acknowledge the client's request and agreement. Talk about the importance of maintaining professional integrity and how the financial agreement is a document of financial boundaries.
DO NOT ACCEPT HARASSING/DISRESPECTFUL BEHAVIOR. If your client does not want to accept your decision, and sends demeaning or disrespectful texts, emails or voice mails, acknowledge the behavior, in writing, and cease communication.
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Sara Minges is a coach and consultant for entrepreneurs, and the Founder of Wonder Woman Rising and Playful Awareness. She's also a 3X Author and has 13 years of experience as an entrepreneur. She loves to help people develop an entrepreneur mindset, and monetize creative, artsy ideas to live their best lives! She can be reached on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.