On my former day-job commute, I drove a stretch of highway where the only separation between the northbound and southbound traffic was a 100' stretch of grass. Year after year, there were crossover crashes in that section because there are no guardrails. I guess they figured that the wide space between the roads was enough of a barrier to protect... though it's not much of a barrier at all.
Looking for the video on boundaries? Scroll down!
Boundaries Give You Freedom, Not Limitations
Boundaries and guardrails may seem like a limitation, but actually give us the freedom to live safe and happy within their parameters. Relationship boundaries allow for deeper intimacy between two partners. Cages at the zoo allow visitors a close look at animals that they'd otherwise never encounter (or at least not safely). It's the same way in business. You need boundaries in place to protect your business and allow you to grow in a healthy manner.
Setting Up for Success via Boundaries
Boundaries can set you up for success, especially in the long-term. Here are a few reasons:
1. You'll Build Better Client Relationships
One would think that unlimited revisions, 24/7 access to you, no consequences for cancellations or unlimited returns would make for the best customer service. But as I shared in my last post, putting yourself above your clients is what's actually best for them. Giving unlimited revisions for copyrighting, design or photo editing — anything service based, really — will keep the client from getting clear on their needs & desires, will allow them to nit-pick without making decisions, and can drag a project out. Then you'll both be frustrated that it took so long to complete.
24/7 access to you sounds great — until you shut your phone off at 6pm to be with your family, and your clients freak out that they can't reach you. Having no consequences for last-minute cancellations can keep you from booking out your schedule, which will prevent you from serving more people.
Don't set yourself up for disappointing your clients. Give them parameters to work within so they can appreciate and respect the windows of opportunity you provide.
2. You'll Work More Efficient
Setting limits to the hours you work will help you to finish things faster and make quicker decisions. I work so much better when I have a hard deadline... otherwise I allow distractions to creep in, I let perfectionism take over, and the project seems to never get done. But if I know I only have an hour or two before something's due, I'll knock it out in a jiffy! (Did I really just say "jiffy"? le sigh).
3. You'll Build Better Personal Relationships
If you have set office hours and promise your loved ones that you'll stick to them, it'll keep you more accountable for finishing your work on time. Sit down with your spouse and talk things over together to set boundaries that give you enough time to work, but still leaves space for being with your loved ones. My husband works rotating shifts and often has to work weekends... I'll then format my schedule to match his so we have time together on Mondays. Leave a little wiggle room, though — perhaps set one night a week to be your "overflow" night — in case you need extra time for work, but don't want your loved ones to feel that you're breaking your boundaries.
4. You'll Be Less Stressed
By setting limits to the hours you work, the number of projects you take on, the refunds you give, the ways your clients can communicate with you, etc, you'll have a little breathing room to keep you from being stressed. You won't feel pressured to answer emails at all times or be "on call" for your clients. It'll make for a much better working environment for you, so you won't risk burnout. You'll be able to provide a higher quality product or service when you're in a better state of mind.
Boundaries Must be Set to Work
Just thinking of what your boundaries are is sort of like that patch of grass on the highway from my first story... it's there, but not effective. You need to set in stone what your policies are, and make them clear to your clients, in order to keep yourself from going off the edge. Write them in your contract and welcome packet, list them on your website, talk about them on inquiry calls... giving multiple touch points is best, in case they overlook your policies in one location.
Need some advice for what boundaries to set? Make sure to watch the video below:
Setting client boundaries can free you up for space to work ON your business, so you have time to take care of marketing, finances, admin work, organization, web updates and so much more.