Boundaries with Clients

Bride And Groom Celebrating With Guests At Reception

If you’re holding client appreciation events, it goes without saying that you’ll be inviting your clients. But how often should you invite clients to your own personal events? And how often should you accept invitations to their events? Are weddings, birthdays, and holiday gatherings an appropriate place to celebrate alongside your clients? You want to distinguish your time from client time. Chances are that many of your clients may feel awkward or out of place at an event you are sharing with your family and loved ones. The same goes for you attending their event.

Why? Because the nature of your relationship with your clients and prospects is, at the heart of it, a transaction. You are doing business with them. This creates an issue of boundaries; if your client only knows you because you provide them with a service, they associate you with your job, not necessarily your family, personal life, interests, and so on. Likewise, if you attend their event, it can be awkward for their other guests if they know that you have a professional relationship; they may feel that you are only there do get more clients, not just to celebrate.

Are there Exceptions? Of course! You probably have clients who are friends and neighbors, maybe even dating back to before you hung up your shingle. When deciding whether to invite or accept an invitation ask yourself: If I quit my job tomorrow, would this person still be part of my life in retirement? These celebrations are not part of your work, really, and should be opportunities for you to relax or unwind.

Consider a small reception, in certain circumstances, especially for clients. It could be that you live in a tight-knit community, the type of place that has neighborhood barbecues at a drop of a hat. Be flexible! It may be that, in some circumstances, you will want to have two events; one for clients and one for family and friends. You likely already do such a thing in the holiday season.

What if I don’t attend a client’s event? Chances are that you will still get invites from time to time. If you determine it isn’t appropriate to attend be sure to:

  • RSVP that you won’t make it.
  • Send a greeting card or note, thanking them for the invite.
  • If appropriate, consider sending a gift.  (Gift Cards and Flowers are the two most universal options there.)

Building good boundaries with your clients allows you to develop healthy, long-lasting relationships with them for years and years.


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