If you work for yourself and boundaries haven’t been on the agenda, chances are, you feel like you are working all day every day, right? You feel like you need to be ‘available’ all the time, every day, to respond to enquiries in case they go elsewhere or even worse, badmouth you. That leads to you checking your phone constantly, worrying about how fast you reply.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can set boundaries and not lose clients, you just need to be smart about it. You need to balance being available and having a life, and the reality is, your ideal client is going to fit right in with that.
As a horse business coach, I see it happen a lot. I see people doing things in their business that they are not passionate about, and that makes them very little money, because they feel pressured by someone asking if they do that and not wanting to say no. I see people taking work at almost no profit or even a loss, just to fill their time and bring some money in, not looking at the big picture. It’s really sad to see so many people stuck in that situation and not knowing how to get out of it.
The first thing to do is decide ‘what you do’.
You’ll need to do some serious ‘mathsing’ in your business to work out which of your products or services are profitable and which are not so you can decide on the best path towards profit for you. On top of that, consider what you WANT to be doing. After all, the chances are you chose this path to work for yourself because you wanted to do something in particular, and it’s easy to lose sight of the goal in the initial start up phase of business.
I usually suggest to my clients to clearly write down what you do and don’t do, if nothing else, for your own reference, so when that shiny object comes up to distract you, you can look at it and decide if that is the path you really want to go down.
It’s totally ok to only do what YOU want to do.
It’s your business. You determine the boundaries of what you do and don’t do, and no-one else. If you are getting pressured to do things you don’t want to do by friends, family or clients, remind yourself that it’s your business, so you set the rules, not them.
Remember the saying ‘Those that mind, don’t matter, and those that matter, don’t mind’. That applies here.
The next thing to do is to set your boundaries around times, payments and that kind of thing.
Writing a terms and conditions for your business helps with this.
It’s a good way to lay things out for yourself and your clients. It will depend on what kind of business you have, service, or product based, but the kind of things you will cover is when payment needs to be made (and how), what timeframes you offer (for example, if I ask you to come treat my horse at 6am on Sunday, do you want to be doing that?), what your returns policies are etc. Essentially, you need to think of all of the things that might come up, and cover them off in your terms and conditions (t’s and c’s).
In some situations, there may be government regulations to things like returns, so make sure you check your countries laws around that kind of thing so you are not breaking any laws.
BUT! People don’t always read your t’s & c’s! Then what?
You can post them on social media, make them tick a check box on your website to say they read it, and even mail it to them, but there’s a good percentage of people that will skim over it and not take it in at all. There’s two things you can do in that situation. One is to get all worked up about it and get annoyed that people don’t read things and message you on your day off, or ask for an account when you don’t give them etc. The other is to stick to your own boundaries and refer to your own t’s and c’s.
You may be constantly pushed to ‘bend the rules’ or ‘make exceptions’, and interestingly enough, often, friends seem to be the ones that ask that. My feelings are that real friends will support your business, not so real friends will try and use you. Friends or not, the closer you stick to your boundaries the better. Everyone will know where they stand, know what to expect and you will gain respect in the long run.
What if someone bad-mouths you?
A lot of business owners hold the fear that someone is going to say bad things about them on social media because they didn’t do something. It’s often about response times and communication. Social media has given us access to so much ‘instant’ stuff that people forget that at the other end of their message is a human being with a life too. Some seem to expect an instant answer and get snarky if they don’t get one. It happens far too often, and I have to wonder about those that send people messages at 11pm on a Friday night and get annoyed no-one replies before 7am Saturday morning. Like, business owners aren’t allowed a weekend too?
The thing is, that even if people take to social media to air their grievances, people see through that kind of thing. One negative review among dozens and dozens of positive stands out, and most people see the problem for what it is, the person leaving the review not the business. It’s not enough of a reason to feel like you need to check your phone at midnight and respond to client messages. I for one can’t string a sentence together at that time of night, so I prefer to wait until I can reply with a lucid and sensible response.
The best thing about setting boundaries is that you are completely in charge!
If you want to ride your horse in the middle of the day, you can work around that, and not feel guilty. It’s your business, your rules, your boundaries. If you have structured your business so that you can afford the time to do that, then you go ahead and do that, with your phone turned off, and enjoy your horse time.
And DON’T feel guilty about it.
Today’s task after you read this, have a think about your boundaries in your business, and whether they are working for you. Maybe it’s time to update some!