Do you ever feel like business would be sooo much easier if other people weren’t so freaking annoying?
Like, WTF is up with that client of yours who won’t stop emailing you?
Why doesn’t your family understand that you’re not just surfing the web all day… that you actually run a business?
When will your spouse finally stop worrying about how much money you’re making?
How can you get friends to stop asking to barter with you or get your services for free?
Ohh and my personal favorite: What the heck is up with people who email you with “one quick question: HOW DID YOU BUILD YOUR ENTIRE BUSINESS?”
Like, are these people serious?
Yes, dearest rule breaker. They are serious. And they’re not trying to be annoying… they just have the courage to ask questions!
And YOU have a right to say “no”.
Let me say that again: People have a right to be annoying. And you have a right to say “no”.
The way to do this, my dear, is with BOUNDARIES.
Of course, I’m not the first person to talk about the importance of boundaries. Danielle LaPorte has philosophized on it more than I probably ever will and Denise Duffield Thomas has a hilarious blog post about creating better business boundaries.
So here’s my personal take…
Boundaries = Freedom
But unfortunately enforcing boundaries also can sometimes feel like being a bitch.
We resist putting up boundaries because we think…
(A) Other people should know better. We expect our clients, family, friends to be able to read our minds. I guarantee you’re suffering from this if you ever think, “How dare they do that?!”
(B) We should be generous and answer everyone’s whim. What the heck, Courtney? Don’t you teach us to be overly generous in our businesses? Yes, it’s true. But the ONLY way that you can be generous is if you have boundaries on that generosity. Otherwise, you will die in a swamp of requests from other people feeling resentful that they didn’t realize you were overwhelmed. Also, sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is NOT give into their whim.
Having solid business boundaries allows me to:
- Be super freaking generous with my free content. I don’t answer “pick my brain” emails (or any emails, really) because I give SO much content away for free on the blog.
- Live the lifestyle that I desire. I started my business to have freedom, so I have to schedule that freedom. This means, for example, only taking calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Work in my zone of genius. As business owners, we are the WORST people to handle customer service for our own businesses because we take everything so personally. I have an awesome team who handles that stuff for me so that I can write blog posts like this one and focus on our paid programs like Yay for Clients.
What kind of boundaries do you need? Here are some ideas:
- What are your expectations for your clients? What are the consequences of not meeting those expectations. You don’t have to instil the fear of God into people (that’s a bit much) but you do need to be clear about “I need X by Y date otherwise there’s a fee”.
- How should clients communicate with you? Please drop the “24/7 email access” nonsense.
- What is your cancellation policy / scheduling policy for calls? You need this even if you’re offering something for free!
- Don’t let your clients text you (I personally don’t give my phone number to anyone for business purposes, but that’s just me)
- Establish your work hours and let people know you’re not available (you don’t have to be weird and awkward about this, just let it slip in conversation that you work from 9-4 every day so you can’t pick up so-and-so’s dog from the vet at 10am on a Tuesday).
Spouse / Partner boundaries:
- Be clear with your partner / spouse what the expectations are for your business. In order to do this you have to stop going to them for validation and simply tell them what’s going on.
- LADIES. If you are asking a family member for financial support for your business (even and ESPECIALLY your spouse or partner) put clear terms around it like you would any other loan or line of credit.
- Have a budget. At the female entrepreneur events I’ve been to, less than 10% of women had budget for their businesses. This terrifies me. It doesn’t have to be difficult unless you have complicated expenses. Create a simple list of your business expenses on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall.
- Do you use credit / debt to finance your business? What bank do you use for business expenses? Decide these things in advance.
- Pricing – Do you offer a friends and family discount? Do you barter (I hope not!)? Decide this in advance.
Customer service boundaries:
- The best thing you can do for your sanity as a solopreneur is to start creating a Google Doc of canned email responses to common customer service questions.
- Set up an info@ or hello@ email account for your business and ONLY answer customer service questions through that inbox (even if you do it as yourself).
- Don’t answer “pick your brain” emails.
Friends / people you spend time with boundaries:
- Don’t talk business with non business friends. They can’t help you and will probably make you feel weird and give really bad advice (like lowering your prices or getting a job)
- If friends ask you to do something when you need to work, tell them you’re working and offer a time when you are available.
The last thing I want to say on this topic is that you don’t need to be defensive or super serious when you enforce your boundaries. That usually doesn’t work.
When the client sends you a Facebook message instead of an email, you can model the correct behavior by waiting a few hours (even a day) to respond to the message and then send a message that says, “Hey so-and-so! Would you mind sending this to my email instead? I don’t use messenger for business. Thanks!”
Boundary successfully enforced.
Tell me in a comment below: What’s the one boundary from the above list that you MOST need to implement in your business?