There’s a common theme around boundaries that comes up with my clients again and again. As I think about why it’s so hard for service providers — especially female ones — to create and enforce boundaries, I realize that it all comes back to being selfish. But setting boundaries with clients is an absolute must to preserve your sanity.
Truth: Selfishness is a state we’re taught to avoid or even run from.
For instance, we focus on teaching our children to share from a very young age. We remind ourselves that we need to give and give — to our clients, our families, our partners, and our friends — so we don’t come across as selfish.
The end result is a load of emotional labor, on top of our “true” labor, that’s crushing us. In fact, we’re often drowning in a sea of responsibilities we don’t even remember signing up for.
But what if we stood up and said ENOUGH?!? What if we instead said, “I’m going to stop treating being selfish like it’s a crime and start doing for me”?
Would the world as we know it crumble? Probably not. The laundry may take a little longer, and the house may get a little messier. The unreasonable deadlines we set for ourselves may get softer, but the work will still get done.
On the flip side, we’ll likely find ourselves happier, more content, and even more ready to conquer our goals than ever before. That’s why setting boundaries with clients is a kindness for both you AND them.
Selfish Isn’t a Dirty Word
One way to become more selfish is to put some boundaries in place that support your own priorities — in life and in business.
Boundaries are not a bad thing. They’re the thing that helps you have a strong foundation to build everything else upon.
Having proper boundaries in place makes such a huge difference in life, business, happiness, and so much more. We know this logically, but boundaries are often challenging to enforce, so we let them go when we’re tired, stressed, too busy, etc. But the fact is, setting boundaries with clients is the first step to taking control of your time.
Sound familiar? I know many (if not all) of my clients can relate. In fact, most of my calls touch on boundaries every single day!
Look at your business boundaries for:
- Scheduling calls
- Work hours
- Clients you’ll take on
- Expenses you’ll keep or remove
If it feels overwhelming to put boundaries into place in all of these areas, pick one that’ll have the most impact on allowing you to work on your own priorities.
Scheduling boundaries are often one of the main ones holding us back from getting our own work done. If your schedule does not support what you want and need in your business, it will be next to impossible to devote the right amount of energy to the right things. So, look at whether your schedule has the boundaries you need it to for you to be successful. Here’s some other great boundary examples!
Once you establish some normal scheduling boundaries in your life and in your business, don’t forget to consider special circumstances, like travel.
As a service provider, travel can feel like a huge undertaking. For starters, there’s figuring out all the travel arrangements, then there’s figuring out how to take care of your clients in the process!
My tips for scheduling travel with proper boundaries in mind:
#1. Block the calendar early
I block off my scheduling calendar as soon as I decide on a trip. So even if I decide on a trip three, six, or nine months out, I immediately block off the days.
Far too many times, I’ve forgotten to do it until a week or two before the trip and then looked to see 10,000 things that need to be rebooked. Annoying!
#2. Add a day on either side
Whenever I travel for business, I do my best to arrive the day before and leave the day after the event. I used to try to avoid any extra expenses and make my stay as short as possible, but this increased my stress tenfold.
Now, I’m much more realistic about needing time to fully enjoy the event and not rushing to get there and back.
I also make sure not to schedule any appointments on travel days because there’s nothing worse than rushing to make a call after 12 hours of traveling.
#3. Set expectations early
When it comes to clients, I make sure to let them know at least 30 days in advance — and remind them frequently!
Generally, travel will impact calls, and sometimes turnaround times, so it’s important to plan ahead. If clients have plenty of notice, we can work together to ensure smooth handling of their tasks.
Balancing Your Personal Life
As a small business owner, business and personal are often inexplicably intertwined. So while business boundaries are essential, so too are personal ones. The boundaries you have (or don’t have) in your personal life are intrinsically related to your business success and your overall health and happiness.
Establishing boundaries that work for you is the first step to improving everything. What works for you is the barometer I´d use to measure pretty much everything.
There’s no perfect answer to what your personal boundaries should look like. There’s only what makes sense for your life right now. And what makes sense today may change in three months or stay consistent for three years. Focus on the boundaries that you need in your life to make both your business and your life work — and throw out the rest.
At the end of the day, you’re in charge, so what works for your wins!
How No Is an Important Part of Setting Boundaries With Clients
As you’re working on setting boundaries with clients, you’ll often find that saying no becomes an integral part of the process. Service providers very often focus on delivering (over delivering really!) and serving clients so much that they forget to stop and ask if they really should be doing something.
In fact, saying no can actually help you earn more in your business.
Consider the power of:
- Letting go of less than ideal clients who are taking too much time.
- Saying no to clients who don’t want to follow your processes.
- Saying no to potential clients that aren’t a good fit.
- Saying no to projects you aren’t excited about.
Taking on less than ideal clients and projects you don’t like leads to major drains on your business, energy, and bottom line. By saying no you’re opening yourself up to having the space to say yes to better opportunities!
When you’re overwhelmed in your businesses with the wrong things, it can be impossible to make the changes you need to add in the right things. But saying no can shift that balance in the right direction.
So, what can you say no to that isn’t helping you achieve your goals?
By focusing on setting boundaries with clients and in your personal life, you will improve so many things in your business and your life. It takes work, but you’ll be glad you made the effort in the long run!