Case Study: Susan sets a boundary

"Susan" (a pseudonym) is a freelance, non-profit consultant who took on a friend as a client. She liked the friend's organization a lot, knew that she could give them a good price and serious value for their investment. The project was initially smaller in scope but that shifted over the course of their months together. When it became evident to Susan that she was investing more time than she'd planned and was having to back-burner a larger, more exciting (and better paying) client, Susan decided she needed to ask for help. From me...because fortunately she's my client! Here's what we worked on:

Could Susan address the expansion of the scope of the work, feel in integrity with herself and keep the friendship?

Yes! Here's how:

  1. I advised Susan to set up a time to talk to her client friend in person. A difficult conversation, yes, but it shows that she values and respects the friendship and the partnership so it's essential.
  2. Susan decided to be honest and tell the friend what they both knew: the project has become bigger than was initially projected and because of this, Susan was having some conflicts with other planned clients.
  3. Working together, we estimated that Susan could give that client 10 hours of work a week until December 1 and then would be off the project. We decided this was realistic for Susan without feeling like too much of a stretch.
  4. Susan also offered to refer her to a colleague who could take over the unfinished work, if the offered time wasn't sufficient for her client friend.
  5. Finally, Susan told the friend that she valued the friendship too much to continue to try and commit to a project that she didn't feel she could give 100% any longer.

What happened next:

At our next session, Susan told me that the friend had taken the news very well and decided to take her up on the offer of a referral to someone else. Turns out that other person had a skill set that Susan didn't which would have been needed on the expanded version of the project. The situation ended up being a win/win for everyone involved. Best of all, Susan and the friend are still friends.

Lessons:

  • A spoken "no" often allows space for someone else to reply with an excited "yes!"
  • Taking on a friend as a client usually comes at a cost, even if "just" in hard conversations and emotional energy.
  • Setting better boundaries shows self-respect and generates respect.

Where do you need to set a boundary in your own life? Thank you for reading.