Boundaries… perhaps the biggest thing that I’ve seen clients really struggle with. I’ve worked with women who started a business to do work that they loved, to share their expertise with the world, to make a difference to their clients and to create a better work-life balance but then they find themselves completely overwhelmed, they feel tied to the business and wonder whatever happened to that work-life balance they dreamed of.
They say things like:
- ‘I can’t say no because ‘x’ is a really great client, and I wouldn’t want to lose them’.
- ‘I’m the only one who can do this work so I have to do it’.
- ‘It’s good to be kind’.
- ‘I can’t not answer an email/ respond to a post in my group/ answer the phone, it would look bad’.
- It’s my business, I have to be available all the time’
Of course, all of these are just stories with some catastrophising thrown in for good measure.
When you have a ‘really’ great client, they’ll respect your boundaries because they appreciate the exceptional quality that you offer them. Where did you learn that it was wrong to say ‘no’, no matter the consequences for you?
You’re unlikely to be the only one who can do the work and even if your business involves, say for example, making bespoke handmade pieces, you may be the only one in your business who can make the pieces, but you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every commission. (I know, I know, ‘but Claire, I need the money!’ But I bet there’s some room in there for price increases for specially commissioned, handmade pieces). When did you decide that you always have to do everything? Do you feel like you need to do everything at home too?
You’re right, it is good to be kind… that includes being kind to yourself. Burning the candle at both ends is not being kind to yourself. When did you decide that other people’s needs were greater than yours?
I promise, the world won’t end if you don’t answer an email straight away or answer every call. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, you shouldn’t be answering every call or email anyway and I’ll give you some ideas to manage this below. Have you ever got in trouble for not doing something you were asked to do straight away? I bet that’s where this story that you have to act straight away has come from.
No, you don’t need to be available all of the time. Do you expect the corner shop to be open when you discover you’ve run out of milk at 2am? Do you expect your solicitor to be available for random questions at 8pm in the evening? Are you planning on asking your kid’s teacher to schedule the parent-teacher meeting for 6am? I highly doubt it! So why do you feel you need to be available all of the time? When did you decide you had to be available all of the time?
You’ll be relieved to know that you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm and that actually, by creating and strictly implementing boundaries that protect your time, and lets say it, your sanity, while you build the business you really want, you create a business that not only gives you a great work-life balance, but one that’s scalable too!
Here are 5 ways you can introduce boundaries from the get-go:
- Terms & Conditions – These don’t have to be long boring documents filled with legal jargon, yours can simply be a document describing exactly what the client will get for their money, what happens if they want or need more and what exactly is expected from the client. Think about things like:
- When the contract begins
- Anything you need to provide them with
- Your time commitment to them & when this time is available
- Description of the product/ service they have paid for and what exactly the price includes
- Details of any extras that they will have to pay for
- How they can communicate with you & how you will communicate with them
- What they can do if they have questions
- What you expect or need from them and when it should be provided
- What happens if you can’t honour your commitments?
- What happens if they can’t honour their commitments?
- Refund policy
- When the contract ends & how.
- Clearly defined service/ product offering – This one might sound obvious, but by getting incredibly focused on what products or services you do and don’t offer, you make it so much easier to say ‘no’ to work that isn’t within your zone of genius. In ShyPreneur Academy, I teach my clients a super focused strategy where their offering is fine tuned to their specific area of expertise – the one thing they’re amazing at. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. maybe you’re a marketing professional and you know how to build a website. You’re ok at it but you’re awesome at creating graphics. Stop building mediocre websites and pour all your energy in to creating those graphics that your ideal client just needs to have. If someone wants a website, they can go elsewhere, you can collaborate with a freelance web developer of you can even hire one.
- Set Office Hours – Let people know when you’re available. This one works super well if e.g. you have a group offering and you have a Facebook group where members constantly tag you asking questions. It’s great, you love the engagement, but you’d love an hour off every now and again. You can manage this by setting up and making members aware of your office hours. E.g. ‘My office hours are between 2pm & 4pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays and this is when I’ll answer all the questions in the group, so if you’ve a question, tag me in it and I’ll get back to you during office hours’. By setting this boundary you control the expectation. No-one will expect you to answer questions all day every day because they know exactly when you will be available.
- Auto Responders – It’s so simple but Messenger Bots and email responders are like a godsend to introverted business women everywhere. You can use them to let people know about your availability, to sign post them to where they can find commonly asked questions, to funnel them through to one way to contact you (e.g. a messenger bot telling people to send queries to a specific email address and when they can expect a response, so that you don’t have to constantly check for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn messages). The key thing here is to always keep it simple by reducing the number of times you have to personally interact with unpaid admin tasks.
- FAQs, blogs & video instructions – It’s highly likely that lots of customers or clients ask you the same questions over and over. Perhaps there are some common questions that people ask, maybe you need to provide instructions or are constantly on Zoom calls with customers sharing your screen showing them how to do something, e.g. how they can put a blog on the website you’ve just built for them. It’s all part of the service you offer but it takes up a lot of time and energy. So, manage that by having a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website, create ‘how-to’ videos on Loom that are easily accessed by customers and have a blog that answers questions and provides support to your customers. No Hassle Website, is a company that does this very well. They have videos for all potential queries their clients have. Your frequently asked questions page link can be added to your message & email autoresponder, instruction links can be included with post purchase emails and blogs can be easily linked on your social media profiles, your email signature and on your website. All of this saves hours of time and energy.
The best bit is that all of these can be implemented straight away, so what are you waiting for? Start saving time and energy now.