Boss Responses

#26: How to Handle Clients Treating You Like an Employee with Alan Heymann

January 08, 2024 Treasa Edmond Episode 26
#26: How to Handle Clients Treating You Like an Employee with Alan Heymann
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Boss Responses
#26: How to Handle Clients Treating You Like an Employee with Alan Heymann
Jan 08, 2024 Episode 26
Treasa Edmond

In this episode of the Boss Responses podcast, host Treasa Edmond and guest co-host Alan Heymann discuss the issue of client boundaries, particularly in the context of independent professionals dealing with clients treating them like employees. They provide suggestions for managing such situations, including communicating clearly about boundaries outlined in the contract, encouraging mutual respect, and tactfully questioning why they are overstepping the boundaries. The discussion also touches on understanding the motives of the client and the necessity of sometimes having to terminate relationships with clients who continuously violate boundary agreements.

About the Hosts

Treasa Edmond is a content strategist and consultant, best-selling ghostwriter, and podcast host. On Boss Responses, Treasa and her weekly guest hosts explore how freelancers and small business owners can navigate the sometimes tricky path of client management and communication. She also teaches content professionals and small businesses how to create SEO-optimized content strategies so they can grow their businesses by connecting with their audiences.
Connect with Treasa on LinkedIn
Follow Boss Responses on Instagram

Alan Heymann, JD, PCC has a knack for coaching fellow introverts, helping them find their superpowers in an extroverted world. Alan also specializes in coaching through transitions. He is the author of the book Don’t Just Have the Soup: 52 Analogies for
 Leadership, Coaching and Life
. An expert communicator and engaging
speaker, he spent more than two decades in public, government, and nonprofit communications—leading teams from 2 to more than 100 people. Inspired by a career transformation he brought about with the support of an executive coach, Alan decided to become a coach himself. He founded Peaceful Direction in April 2019.
Buy your copy of Don’t Just Have the Soup: 52 Analogies for
 Leadership, Coaching and Life

Connect  with Alan on LinkedIn


Support the Show.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to Boss Responses. Have a question you'd like answered? Send it to info@bossresponses.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of the Boss Responses podcast, host Treasa Edmond and guest co-host Alan Heymann discuss the issue of client boundaries, particularly in the context of independent professionals dealing with clients treating them like employees. They provide suggestions for managing such situations, including communicating clearly about boundaries outlined in the contract, encouraging mutual respect, and tactfully questioning why they are overstepping the boundaries. The discussion also touches on understanding the motives of the client and the necessity of sometimes having to terminate relationships with clients who continuously violate boundary agreements.

About the Hosts

Treasa Edmond is a content strategist and consultant, best-selling ghostwriter, and podcast host. On Boss Responses, Treasa and her weekly guest hosts explore how freelancers and small business owners can navigate the sometimes tricky path of client management and communication. She also teaches content professionals and small businesses how to create SEO-optimized content strategies so they can grow their businesses by connecting with their audiences.
Connect with Treasa on LinkedIn
Follow Boss Responses on Instagram

Alan Heymann, JD, PCC has a knack for coaching fellow introverts, helping them find their superpowers in an extroverted world. Alan also specializes in coaching through transitions. He is the author of the book Don’t Just Have the Soup: 52 Analogies for
 Leadership, Coaching and Life
. An expert communicator and engaging
speaker, he spent more than two decades in public, government, and nonprofit communications—leading teams from 2 to more than 100 people. Inspired by a career transformation he brought about with the support of an executive coach, Alan decided to become a coach himself. He founded Peaceful Direction in April 2019.
Buy your copy of Don’t Just Have the Soup: 52 Analogies for
 Leadership, Coaching and Life

Connect  with Alan on LinkedIn


Support the Show.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to Boss Responses. Have a question you'd like answered? Send it to info@bossresponses.com

Treasa Edmond:

Hello and welcome back to the Boss Responses podcast. Our guest co-host this week is Alan Heyman. We're going to look at some difficult questions together this week, and we start with a doozy what happens when you have a client who starts treating you like an employee? Let's just go ahead and jump into today's conversation to see what Alan has to say on this topic. If you're a freelancer, business owner or anyone who deals with clients, you're in the right place.

Treasa Edmond:

I'm your host, Treasa Edmond. I've been dealing with clients and running my business for nearly two decades and in that time I've dealt with my share of doubt, imposter syndrome and not knowing what to say when a client asks a question. I wasn't ready for. I created this podcast to empower you with the Boss Responses you need to grow your business. Each week, my guest co-host and I will bring you five episodes packed with practical insights. Monday through Thursday, we answer your questions, and Fridays, we dive deep to explore how our co-host embraced their role as the boss of their business. Welcome to Boss Responses, Alan. Thank you so much for joining us.

Alan Heymann:

It's my pleasure to be here, Treasa. Thank you so much for the invitation.

Treasa Edmond:

I am thrilled you're here. We need leadership advice, so let's go ahead and jump into the question for day one.

Alan Heymann:

The question for day one. A reader or a listener writes I am working on a several month project for a new client. I've done all the things clarified project scope, contract in place, mine and outline deliverables and due dates. Everything seemed great at first, but within a week the client stated they expected me to be available for calls or questions during their business hours. Now I politely explained that wasn't included in the project scope and I reiterated my office hours and response times, which were outlined in the contract. I could tell they weren't pleased, but the request was dropped. Now I've received an email stating that they'd like daily progress updates and they're asking why I'm not in the company Slack channel like other remote workers. So it's official I have a client treating me like an employee. I've seen several recommendations for how they handle this, but I'd love your take.

Treasa Edmond:

I've been there.

Treasa Edmond:

I have absolutely been there, and it's a difficult situation and you just have to grab the bull by the horn, so to speak, and address it before it gets worse.

Treasa Edmond:

Let them know very clearly that you are delighted to be working with them on this project and your language really matters in this one, in my opinion.

Treasa Edmond:

You're working with them, you're not working for them, you're partnering with them.

Treasa Edmond:

If you wanna go even deeper and then you say it is one of my business decisions that I do not join client Slack communities because it's outside of the scope of the project, and then if they push back and keep going on that and you've already outlined the deliverables you said right, that was one of the things yeah, so if you've already outlined deliverables, daily progress updates are probably not part of that, so reiterate that, just really form those boundary lines. And if they keep pushing, my fallback is always to bring in the IRS standards for what differentiates a contractor from an employee, and I point out those things such as being involved in corporate communication, the company governing your business hours or your work hours, or how you do the project, because in reality, the only things they can ask from you is the final deliverable and that you meet the dates that they set on that, how you do the project, where you do it, all of that stuff, that's you and that's your business and you need to make those decisions. How would you handle this, alan?

Alan Heymann:

Well, you know, I think we've all faced something like this as independent business owners at one time or another. And the reason it's uncomfortable, the reason it feels icky, is that it's a boundary issue, and whether the boundary is one in the tax code, as you point out, or one of our own kind of personal making, the fact of the matter is it's being pushed against or even pushed through, and that's uncomfortable. And there's a reason that we decided to become independent business owners or freelancers rather than working for somebody else as an employee, which many of us have done before and might do again someday.

Alan Heymann:

And we don't have that now. So what I'm interested in is this If you approach the situation with a little bit of curiosity, if you attempted to help understand what's going on in the mind of the client, might you be able to reach a resolution that's better for both of you. As in it is possible that they're just insisting and insisting and they want to get more out of you than you want to give, and that's just kind of like a you know, almost a negotiation in progress that they're trying to attempt. Is it also possible that the person you're working with doesn't have a lot of experience managing contractors or freelancers, especially in this area that you're working in? So, for example, if you're doing writing and editing and the communications department is temporarily understaffed and that's the reason you have a contract maybe they're treating you the way that they treated the employee who just left, or something like that.

Alan Heymann:

So it may be just a little bit of question, a little bit of hey I'm wondering why you thought it was appropriate to ask me this and sort of a pushing back in the form of inquiry might get you to that place where both parties are satisfied and understanding what the other needs, without it having to be this kind of adversarial, uncomfortable thing. Unless you've tried everything that you can, everything you know how to do, and they're just still not getting the message, then it is up to you to reinforce that boundary. In my experience, most people are reasonable. Most people want to do the right thing when there are two parties in a relationship. So this is you articulating what your needs are and them hopefully responding in a positive way.

Treasa Edmond:

Right, and this is also one of those situations again where I would say you need to look at their motivation, because they probably are not being malicious about this. There's probably nothing overbearing. You're reading that into it because it feels that way to you. You need to step back from that and approach this from a business standpoint what's going to work best for you and your client and approach it from there and then only take those extreme laid on the law actions if it's necessary and a lot of that. If you do not have mutual respect in your relationship, your client will never respect boundaries. So setting that relationship of respect up from your very first communication can really help mitigate situations like this.

Alan Heymann:

For sure. And then you have to decide what is the consequence for the further violation of the same boundary. What am I going to do next? You know, up to and including, this is how some of us make decisions that we're not going to work with this client anymore in the future.

Treasa Edmond:

Yeah, or, if it's really bad, even just letting them go mid project, which I hate to do and I've only ever done that once, but it was absolutely necessary and it was a situation very similar to this one. So they just had no, it was like you said, it wasn't just that they didn't see the boundaries, they had no respect for them at all, they would just roll over them every chance they got. It was horrible. So I hope that's not your situation. I hope that you're able to actually resolve this with the client. But just realize, like like Alan said, they probably really don't know how to work with a freelancer, or someone in their business has told them that freelancers are just remote workers and they've misunderstood that. So sometimes we have to educate our clients.

Alan Heymann:

We really do. And just keeping in mind the positive in this situation, the reason we get to set the boundaries and the reason we get to have conversations like this with clients is because we're self employed or we're independent, and I know many of us have come into that state from having chafed at various restrictions and guidelines and rules and things within an employment context that we don't have to deal with anymore.

Alan Heymann:

So that's where that resistance and that kind of discomfort is coming from, and we're probably going to be more alert to it than the other party, just because we know it so well.

Treasa Edmond:

Yeah, and we deal with it every day. It's part of our job. All right, thank you, alan and everyone. Come back and join us tomorrow for day two.

Handling Difficult Clients
Setting Boundaries and Educating Clients

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