There are some basic boundaries every business owner should put in place to ensure their day-to-day life and business operates smoothly. These don’t necessarily have to do with opportunities, but they will help you manage your time, energy and bandwidth so you have more time, energy, and bandwidth to devote to the opportunities that matter.
Boundaries with Clients
Whether you’re a service provider, coach or consultant, it’s important to set clear guidelines and expectations. It’s important to set these up before there’s a problem. Setting boundaries early will help so you don’t have to give in to a client’s demand at your own detriment OR ask for their forgiveness. This will give you peace of mind around any potential issues that might pop up.
Set them ahead of time, communicate them clearly, and enforce them. The boundary conversation should ideally occur during the discovery phase but definitely during the onboarding phase. They should also be repeated in an email or in a physical welcome packet. You can even go so far as to require an initial next to those boundaries if you list them in your contract so there’s no claiming ignorance when a problem or question arises.
Also, be confident in the boundaries you set. YOU are solely in charge of how your business runs, not your clients. If they have a problem with one or more boundaries, let them find someone else to work with. Those who look for something to pick on early in the onboarding process will continue to look for loopholes or will be full of excuses as to why those boundaries don’t apply to them. Be selective when choosing your clients.
Some client boundaries might include but are not limited to:
Contracts that outline deliverables, expectations for both parties, and anything else advised by your attorney.
Communication expectations, like when a client should expect a response to an email, where they can/can’t contact you, what happens if they disappear or miss a meeting or call or other milestone, and what is expected on their end during your work together.
Sticking to your scope of work, and letting a client know quickly if something has gone outside the scope.
You should also know (and have in writing, if you desire) what you feel comfortable with in terms of communication (i.e., what types of language and exchanges you will and will not tolerate) and what you will and will not help clients with (i.e., referring out when something goes outside your expertise or what you feel comfortable dealing with).
Boundaries with Yourself.
Since you’re the business owner and backbone of the business, you need to take your own physical and mental health into serious consideration. How can you create boundaries that allow you time to decompress and relax from work? Here are a few must-haves:
Set business hours. Decide when you will and won’t work. Do you have set hours each day? Each week? Map them out on a calendar, put them on your website. Get them in writing and visible somewhere. If you’re a work-a-holic, post them in your office and set an alarm on your phone to wrap up your day.
Set a work schedule and stick to it. Quit letting work spill into every other area of your life–unless 100% necessary. Sometimes a product launch will require late nights or weekend work but plan accordingly and let your family know the schedule. Otherwise stick to your schedule so you can enjoy some down time outside the office.
Don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle client-wise. It’s actually best to under schedule yourself and overestimate how long it will take you to complete each task. There’s never any harm in turning down clients or guiding them to another resource or referral.
Business finances. What will you and won’t you spend on? Don’t fall prey to shiny object syndrome or you could wind up in debt and regret your purchases. Set up a schedule to review any monthly subscriptions or other software/ programs that renew annually. Do you REALLY use all these things, or can those expenses be trimmed?
Outsource to the experts. If you don’t know how to do something, bring an expert onboard to handle that task. A bookkeeper and CPA will both be useful keeping your finances in order and they can advise you if a purchase will be considered debt or a business write off. Know your own limits and hire accordingly.
Don’t give away your expertise. Showing up and giving value on social media or in interviews isn’t bad but know your limits. When people are used to getting free advice, it becomes more difficult convincing them to invest in a paid product or program.
Know you don’t have to show up to every single meeting, say yes to anything outside your set work hours, or take on any last minute “emergencies” or projects. YOU are ultimately in control. Having all this laid out in your earlier communications will be SO helpful! If you don’t take rush work or don’t respond to “emergency emails” or any emails outside certain hours, let it be known.
Stick to your prices and packages. You don’t have to customize your offers on a whim to suit someone else. You created your packages the way you did for a reason; trust yourself. And it bears repeating: If a prospective client balks at a price or wants a custom package, they might not be your ideal client. You’re under NO obligation to sign them.
Take time off. Plan a vacation and close/unplug on holidays. Block them off and stick to them – no matter what pops up unless it’s something you know aligns with your core values so deeply that you’d regret it. Arrange for a backup plan if your clients need it; otherwise enjoy your time off!
Don’t do anything “just because.” Don’t say yes to non-ideal clients just because they asked. Don’t take on clients just for the money (unless–again–it’s going to serve YOU in a way that aligns with your values in the end.) Don’t say YES to something because everyone else is doing it. You are in control; you think it through and make a clear decision based on your criteria.
Have clear limits on what you will and won’t provide. Just because you are serving your clients doesn’t mean you have to compromise your morals. If a request makes you hesitate, go deeper; there’s a good reason why you’re questioning it.
Set limits with your family and friends, too. Let them know about your work hours and any privacy rules you need to put in place. Allow your VA to be your gatekeeper.
Decide how much technology/screen time you’ll allow yourself to have each day. How many notifications do you allow to show up on your phone? How often do you check email? Social media? Get clear on these and don’t be afraid to unplug on the weekends.
Only say yes to meetings with a clear purpose. You can also only accept meetings on specific days of the week during business hours. Decide if you want to or physically can handle multiple Zoom meetings in a day. Take those into account when booking any other meetings to avoid overwhelm and burn out.
Schedule client priorities around your priorities. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will! Again, no explanations are needed if a client balks. Your time is valuable and sticking to your boundaries will be an example for your clients.
No doubt, you can probably think of a dozen more boundaries to implement. Each business will do things differently, so use this list as a starting point. Remember, you started your business because you wanted to create your dream life. You got tired of working for someone else and doing the grunt work for a lousy paycheck. Running a business is not all unicorns and rainbows but boundaries can help you craft the life you dream of.
Struggling with setting boundaries, head over to the podcast, subscribe, download and listen to this podcast episode with Nicole Ware as she shares some great gems about her experience setting boundaries, choosing who to work with, and how to cultivate a business she loves.