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How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Animation Clients

ben marvazi 2020

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The new age of digital and remote work can be an exciting thing to think about, to say the least, and not just for animators. However, with this increased level of interconnectivity, you need to be careful with managing your time and space and make sure not to blur the lines between your work life and your personal life.

Not having boundaries or lines between you and your animation clients can make life incredibly stressful, and create or amplify issues with strain and anxiety. Make sure you’re maintaining healthy relationships with your animation clients.

In this blog post, we’re going to have a look at some of the best practices of creating and maintaining healthy boundaries with your animation client.

Healthy Boundaries are Important for Animators

Making yourself readily available for work and correspondence either as a freelance animator or an animation studio owner will set you apart from those who don’t. While it may at times seem tempting to say “yes” to everything that comes your way, you may be inadvertently causing your own slow and steady burnout.

Now more than ever you need to be managing your health, both mental and physical. Pushing yourself to work overtime to hand that project in or answer emails from clients in the middle of the night can end up being dangerous to your own wellbeing.

You need to learn to say “no” and take your time to get yourself back on track. Exhausting yourself day in and day out isn’t as glamorous as it seems and your future self won’t be thanking you.

Different Types of Boundaries for Animation Clients

  • Communication Boundaries

When you’re working in an animation studio, it’s easy to relay your working hours to both management and clients alike; those hours don’t change. But when you’re working at home, your hours can change drastically depending on many different factors.

If you are charging certain rates for your animated work you would naturally want to put in as much effort into making the best final product possible for your client, but that doesn’t mean you should work yourself into the ground.

Try and create a healthy and understanding professional connection with your client and consider regularly updating them as to the progress you’re making to make them feel like they’re a part of the process. If you’re consistently meeting your client halfway, they will absolutely thank you.

Forming connections and going the extra mile for your clients are some of the best practices when communicating with them, and will certainly help with maintaining healthy boundaries.

  • Project Boundaries

Once you’ve set in motion (no pun intended) the work that needs to be done, your animation client needs to realize that some things become difficult to change. Of course, there is always space to revise work, but if you’re constantly changing things to the tune of the newest idea of your client, the project will simply never get done.

Animation clients should also know the limitations of doing certain styles of animation. Drawing up a business proposal and signing a contract can help both you and the client with some professional boundaries right off the bat.

The proposal sets the boundaries of the actual animated video while the contract sets the boundaries of the business relationship between you and the client. Both are important for security between you and your client and you can find out more about how to write a proposal.

Why do Animators need Boundaries?

a woman stressful as she works on her animation showing the need of boundaries for animators

Image by Energepic via Pexels

Once you have set boundaries for yourself and for your clients, you allow yourself a space outside of your work to relax and reflect. There needs to be a time when you’re not working.

Animation work can be difficult and take time. If you’re spending more time talking to your client than you are working, you might want to reconsider your priorities at that moment in time. Also, if you’re spending more time on social media than on your actual work, you probably need to reevaluate your concerns at that time.

If you’re consistently compromising with clients you run the risk of elevated levels of stress and anxiety and that can set you right on track to burnout.

Boundaries help not just with managing your health, but your professional reputation too.

Having different boundaries and lines that you and your client can’t cross allows you to establish a reputation for professionalism. If you both have an expectation for a professional outcome, there won’t be a place for you to compromise.

Boundaries in the Animation Industry

Healthy Boundaries in an Animation Studio

a team of people in an animation studios with healthy boundaries as they look at a laptop screen

Image by Fauxels via Pexels

When you’re working with other people and animators, you need to make sure that the work environment is one of empathy and understanding. Letting your colleagues know how you operate as a person, and learning the same of them will create healthy work relationships. Regardless of the position of the employee, boundaries need to be understood and respected.

Learn to communicate with your peers and with management that you are unavailable outside of work hours; those hours are there for a reason after all. If they’re consistently crossing the line of contacting you after hours then maybe consider stepping back from that environment for a while.

Remember to take time off if you can. Don’t work yourself to death; use those days off when you earn them and tell others that you’re going on a break.

Setting Boundaries as a Freelance Animator

a freelance animator shaking hands with an animation client he set boundaries with

Image by Fauxels via Pexels

When working freelance, you’re balancing work and personal life often in the same environment. You need to make sure you’re finding both time and space to escape your work and relax in a comfortable environment.

As a freelancer, you need to be maintaining your home relationships and ensure that nothing comes in between those who aren’t connected to your work. 

Remember to keep client relationships to a professional level. Blurring those lines can make things confusing and unprofessional and the last thing you want is your reputation tarnished by mishandling a client relationship.

Regardless of where your client may have heard of you, through social media or otherwise, make sure to establish a consistent and reliable communication channel that adheres to your professional boundaries. Social media boundaries for communicating with clients are extremely important.

How to Set Boundaries with Animation Clients

  • Communicate Your Boundaries With Yourself
guy draws an imaginary bubble between him and someone to communicate his personal boundaries

GIF by Schitt's Creek via GIPHY

You need to assess your priorities. Realize your values and place them first, always. If you’re not working for your best interests, then you may lead yourself towards mental and physical strain.

Any job is first and foremost a job, you cannot place that above your own health and wellbeing. Your work is meant to provide you with a secure means of acquiring income and you need to make sure that you’re not working yourself into the ground for no reward.

Give yourself permission to be selfish and take time out for yourself.

  • Communicate Your Boundaries With Your Animation Client
guy makes a hand gesture to set boundaries between him and his animation client

GIF by New Girl via GIPHY

Communication is the most important thing to keep in mind while dealing with clients. You need to establish effective communication channels and practices. Consider email correspondence for questions or revisions and maybe leave the video calls to the brainstorming sessions.

You have work hours, so make them known. Don’t feed fires outside your time and your client needs to know which line of communication is fair to reach you on if something happens; sometimes the process needs to be delayed because of a financial issue or because a voiceover artist needs to be replaced.

If you’re working phase by phase, you need to let your client know the amount of time they have to review and provide feedback.

Letting your client know the time constraints for things like revisions and feedback helps to keep the process running smoothly and effectively. Consider also the number of revisions you’re willing to do for that project and don’t be afraid to stick to them.

Plan a way to communicate a response to overstepped boundaries that is fair and concise; you don’t want to scare your client away but you also need them to understand the mutual agreement you’ve come to.

  • Consider The Terms And Conditions Of Your Boundaries 
man holds up a paper saying "fine print" as setting a contract would help set boundaries

GIF by Satish Gaire via GIPHY

Legally binding contracts may seem at times unnecessary or even scary but they can be foolproof ways of ensuring that both you and your clients follow the rules you’ve created for yourself. Business proposals and employment contracts are handy tools to ensure security during the transaction.

Not only do they help set legal boundaries for procedures, but assist also in realizing the timeline of the project in question. Consider including in your proposal the amount of time pre-production takes, the number of revisions you’re allowing for, and how long they will take. You can alleviate a lot of confusion with some handy paperwork.

Creating your own proposal can be difficult, so consider using a template. Your client needs to make sure they aren’t crossing any legal lines during the process but those lines should be clear and concise, so getting some professional help can go a long way.

Not only will providing this kind of paperwork - physical or digital - clear the air of potential misunderstandings but will ensure your client knows you’re serious about your craft.

  • Be Willing To Say No

Saying no is difficult but necessary. One of the most professional things you can do is say no when you need to. Your boundaries don’t mean anything if you’re not willing to stand by them.

Distinguishing between what is possible for you and what isn’t helps build integrity which in turn boosts your professionalism. Many professionals make a point of letting their clients know what can be done as opposed to what can’t. 

Getting a storyboard finalized later than requested is better than never finishing it at all. 

It is important to keep in mind that you needn’t be rude or accusatory. Learning how to effectively say no is also incredibly important.

Remember, not every client is for you; everyone works differently and has certain strengths and weaknesses. Part of being a professional is both recognizing and understanding these things. If you’re a 2D specialist, make sure your client knows that and that time isn’t wasted going through the animation process only for someone to be met with disappointment.

  • Be Consistent With Your Boundaries

If you find yourself blurring the lines between what is fair for a client to expect of you, you should consider creating your business proposals as soon as possible. The sooner you have that safety net, the sooner you can jump into your work.

Create draft emails or social media responses that let clients know in advance certain details such as your work hours or how they can communicate with you.

Some clients may be special cases and may require some special treatment, but remember that not everyone is special. Create habits for dealing with your clients and the process will become much easier to relax back into if you need to break the mold.

  • Never Feel Bad About Your Boundaries

Remember, you’re creating a safety net for yourself. You need to consider the effect that crossing these boundaries will have on your health and your relationships.

If a client can’t understand your need for a certain professional distance between you two, there isn’t much you can do to sway their mind outside of getting the work done on your terms and concluding business on a professional note.

Set Healthy Boundaries with Animation Clients

To effectively maintain a healthy balance between your work and private lives, you need to set some professional boundaries. When clients start violating said boundaries, you need to make sure you’re communicating your concerns with them in a clear, concise, and fair manner.

If you find yourself constantly saying “I need a break”, then chances are you need to set some boundaries between yourself and the rest of the world. 

After all, you only have one mind and body, and the last thing you want is to burn one of those assets out. Creating boundaries between you and your clients and learning to say no when you need to will ensure stability and security between you and both present and future clients.

For more info and help with setting boundaries with clients and managing yourself as an animator, be sure to check out our free masterclass and grab a copy of our free marketing handbook.

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