As solopreneurs and micro-business owners, we are often teams of one working hard to get everything on our To-Do list accomplished. It takes discipline to keep on task, make progress, and fight procrastination. It’s especially difficult when you work from home because the lines between life/family/business are so blurry.
This is why it’s so important to establish boundaries with your clients, your loved ones, and yourself.
Business owners with good boundaries:
- Don’t work for free (unless they really truly want to)
- Don’t work with just anyone—they’re selective and choose the right fit
- Are picky about projects
- Don’t allow unnecessary interruptions—from clients, friends, or family
- Create barriers to entry
- Make space for fun, celebration, and flexibility, while still getting work done
How to set good boundaries
The most important thing to do is start by letting people know what you will and won’t do, and what your expectations are. For example, if you’ve booked a new client, let them know how and when to contact you. If you don’t want them to text you or message you on social media, make sure they understand that.
“My business hours are Monday-Thursday from 9am-4pm. The best way to reach me is by email. You can email me anytime, and I will respond to you during my business hours. If you prefer the phone, you can leave a message, and I will reply during regular business hours. Please do not contact me via social media or text message, as I do not use those communication methods for business and may not see your message.”
A few areas where you may want to set boundaries
- Time (interruptions, slave to someone else’s calendar, fake emergencies)
- Physical space (requesting that your desk doesn’t become a family dumping spot)
- Emotional space (taking time to be alone or to recharge when needed)
- Money (getting paid what you feel your services are worth and not caving or feeling bad about saying “no”)
- Client choice (choosing someone who is a good fit vs. working with just anyone)
- Means of communication (phone, email, in person, text messages, FB messages, etc.)
How to enforce boundaries without looking like an asshole
You don’t have to be a jerk in order to stand your ground with your boundaries. If you’ve done a good job of making your policies and expectations clear, any boundary breach should only require a gentle reminder to get things back on track.
“Hey there! I see that you tried contacting me via text message over the weekend. I don’t use my messaging apps for business, so I’d appreciate it if you would email me next time. I promise to get back to you the first chance I get on Monday. Thank you!”
What strong boundaries will do for you
The beauty of strong boundaries is that your clients will respect you for it. When someone knows the rules, they are more likely to respect them. If they choose not to, and a reminder doesn’t do the trick, then it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue working with that client or not. Firing a client is never easy, but it’s much easier if your clearly-defined expectations aren’t being respected.
Do you clearly outline your expectations with your clients? How do you respond if someone oversteps?