How good are you at saying “no” and having clear boundaries in your business?
With so many things to manage, setting clear boundaries will allow you to eliminate many issues and be far more effective in all that you do.
But it isn’t always easy.
When you’re first starting out, or your confidence is low, it’s easy to get into the habit of over-delivering, not valuing your time (and sanity) and feeling like you’re on call 24/7. This leads to burnout and resentment of your business and those around you. It’s also a killer for productivity and profitability.
As a business owner, it’s up to you to set the guidelines within your business and educate your clients (and staff) on what they are.
Often the need for boundaries will arise when a client steps over the ‘reasonable’ line, or you start to get frustrated by certain events. Take control of the situation, learn from your frustrations and keep evolving these boundaries as required.
Boundaries vary widely but here are a few examples for you to get started. They can be written into your client agreements, included in your email signature or outlined on your website. Be open and clear about them and clients will learn to respect them.
Do you shudder every time your phone rings?
You get to determine how and when people can contact you. If constant phone calls interrupt your productivity, creativity and flow, limit client contact to email or designated Skype calls.
If you hate replying to email, set up regular check in meetings with clients or staff online.
Play around with what works for you and stick with it. Your clients will soon learn how you operate and have no drama if they’re aware of these boundaries from the start.
Sick of getting client calls at 8pm Sunday night?
Have clear guidelines around when clients can call you or expect a reply. I know you often feel compelled to reply straight away, but this is often feeding unrealistic expectations.
Set up an auto-reply on your email outlining your office hours and that you’ll get back to that email within a certain timeframe. I’ve seen people happily use timeframes of 12-48 hours, it really depends on what works for you and your business.
Always being asked by clients for ‘just one more thing’ that’s not in the scope of work agreed on?
When you’re developing your products and services it can be hard to gauge how long something might take or how much refining and feedback is reasonable. Learn from each project or client you work with and constantly refine what you offer.
If you’re always being asked just one more question, or continuing to receive emails after your service has ended, consider offering an ongoing mentoring or maintenance option for past clients. You could also direct them to your calendar to book another (paid) session to cover off these questions or concerns.
Are you a batcher or do you flit from task to task?
One of the best things I have learnt is business is batching. I used to jump from job to job, email to phone call and notification to alert. But that’s just not a good way to stay sane or be effective.
Set clear task boundaries within your days and stick with them. Stop jumping around and close off your distractions such as email, social media or other sites you’re called to ‘check-in’ with when you’re working.
Batching and task boundaries will help you be far more productive and less frustrated when you’re trying to juggle so many different things.
Cancellation and Refund Boundaries
Do you charge clients for last minute cancellations?
Last-minute cancellations can take you from a full day of clients to barely breaking even. It’s important that you set up clear cancellation and refund policies to protect you and your schedule. I understand that sometimes life gets in the way, but your time is precious. Communicate your policy clearly and you’ll see a huge shift in how people value your time.
Have you said “yes” to a client when your gut said “no”?
Don’t get sucked into the scarcity mindset around saying no to clients or projects that don’t feel right. We’ve all had that feeling when something doesn’t feel right. But when we don’t respect our own alignment boundaries we always end up regretting it.
Be clear about the type of work you want to do and the types of clients you want to work with.
Do you have designated ‘non-work’ days?
If you love your business as much as I love mine it can be hard to switch off. We want to keep working and tinkering each and every day. But taking time away from your business is vital to keep your energy and creativity in full swing.
My to-do list is never done but I start most days with an hour out running with my dog, breakfast with my family and dropping the kids to school. Then I start my work day. It makes me feel more connected with me, my family and my clients.
Time away from work also gives your mind some time to settle and process all of the ideas and information running rampant. You may designate the whole weekend to be work free, or perhaps just a day. Find what works for you and give yourself permission to take a break.
What’s the secret to boundaries in business?
Setting firm boundaries may push some of your insecurity buttons in the beginning but you will gain strength and confidence as you start to enforce them.
The real secret to setting firm boundaries is to start. They won’t be perfect right away, they will evolve and you will get better at enforcing them. But like any new thing in business, you can’t perfect it until you start.