[Live Training] 9 Strategies to Build Recurring Revenue in your Digital Agency

E242: Setting Boundaries with Clients & Staff – With Emily Cohen

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Emily Cohen is a brutally honest consultant who has worked with many leading design firms across the country. She speaks on stages all across the world (about 12-15 times per year) to audiences of creative and agency professionals. Through these experiences, she has developed, tested, and curated key business insights and strategies that have helped firms become more effective, profitable, and more fun to work at. Cohen provides strategic business planning, confidential best practices, insights, advice to staff, process management strategies, culture, and more.

Episode highlights:

  • Taking control of your business
  • Spotting red flags before you take on a client
  • Why setting boundaries with clients is important
  • Communicating and keeping your clients up to date
  • What to do with situations where there is conflict
  • Working with the main decision-maker
  • Having a plan B and knowing what you’re willing to give up
  • Prioritizing your staff over your clients
  • Why you should set clear expectations with your staff
  • Advice for having those difficult conversations
  • Framing conversations and using the right words
  • Being flexible with your team
  • Best advice: Never sit down on the job. There is always something to do.
  • Habit that contributes to success: Being able to laugh at myself when I make mistakes and being able to say I’m sorry.
  • Recommended tool: LastPass
  • Recommended book: The Business of Expertise by David C. Baker, You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen
  • Run time: 35:23



  • “If I am direct and honest, it produces much better conversations with my clients. If they get mad or if they disagree strongly then they’ll push back. And that’s what I want, I want that pushback. I want to be able to have debates.”
  • “The biggest thing that creatives struggle with often is having a reactionary business. They’re allowing their clients and their contacts, the people that are coming in, all of their incoming business, to drive the direction of their business and to control their business.”
  • “The answer to every question you’ve ever had is to communicate.”
  • “You have to decide how much you allow them to push you around. At one point, you have to have your plan B. Without knowing your plan B, knowing how far you are willing to go with this client, then you will always over-accommodate them.”
  • “If you allow your clients to misbehave, you’re going to hurt team morale. And to me, your people are more important than your clients. The people that you work with are more important than your clients. You have to protect them.”
  • “Make sure that you are elevating people to the right roles, a lot of times we want to elevate people to roles that they just can’t take on.”
  • “It’s really important that we use the right words. A lot of times, especially when we’re angry or frustrated, we can often go to bad places with our words so we have to really think about what are the words that we’re saying and how do we frame things.”
  • “Whenever you make a decision or when you expect something, tell them the why and why this needs to happen.”


  • Setting boundaries with your clients is essential.
  • Preparation makes having the hard conversations easier.

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