When you’re an entrepreneur (especially if you’re a one-woman shop), it’s easy to end up over-worked, overwhelmed, and underpaid – but boundaries can help. You are your business’s greatest asset, so you need to take care of you.
In this post, we’ll discuss the power of setting boundaries as a business owner.
What are Business Boundaries?
Boundaries are simply guidelines that you put in place in your business. When you’re proactive about setting these guidelines, you avoid things like burnout and unhappy clients.
Boundaries in business not only help you effectively juggle your schedule, but they also let others know what’s okay and what’s not. Essentially this protects you from getting taken advantage of.
Why You Need Boundaries in Business
You need to set boundaries for your business because they help you stay on top of things. Businesses without any restrictions will often fall victim to their own success.
5 Signs That You Need to Set Boundaries
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, then you either need to set boundaries or beef up the boundaries you already have in place:
- You feel annoyed or resentful when others place demands on your time.
- You have trouble sleeping because your mind is whirling with all the things you need to do.
- You feel burned out.
- Your personal or business relationships are suffering.
- You feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of setting strong boundaries.
Boundaries help you avoid conflict
When you set clear boundaries for your small business, it helps avoid conflict with customers and clients. You can also communicate more clearly about what is expected from family and friends. This will help you avoid any potential arguments that could arise from misunderstandings about work time vs. personal time.
Boundaries help you stay focused
Setting boundaries will help you say yes to more of the right things instead of everything. You’ll be more productive as a result.
Boundaries help you improve work-life balance
Balancing your life and work is a challenge for many people. But by setting business boundaries, you can have the best of both worlds-fulfilling personal time while still pursuing opportunities that make money!
When Is The Best Time to Set Business Boundaries?
So when should you start setting business boundaries?
When you first start your business, it can be overwhelming. You might feel like you have to hustle all the time and take on as many projects as possible to get your business off the ground.
But this is a recipe for burnout. Setting boundaries in your startup will help you avoid that.
And if you’ve been in business for a while, but don’t have any boundaries in place, then stop what you are doing right now. Take a little time to think about the boundaries you need.
Boundaries You Want to Set Now in Your Business
I know you’re probably pretty excited to get started on creating your boundaries, but maybe you need some inspiration. So here are some ideas that have worked well for me and my business.
Set Office Hours
Office hours are a big step toward improving work-life balance. This is especially true for those of us who work at home. Unfortunately, people often think that means we don’t have business hours.
Office hours let you set aside time for work (which people in your personal life should honor). Of course, you’ll also set aside time for your personal life (which you and your clients should honor).
Office hours also help you to be more productive and focused. For example, when you know your workday ends at a certain time, you’ll be less likely to waste your work hours.
Turn off Your Phone During Office Hours
Boundaries don’t always mean nobody can call – but it does mean that you decide when it’s okay to be interrupted by phone calls or texts. Just make sure that your clients understand what to expect.
This also helps to keep family and friends from invading your workday.
Turn Off Notifications
And take that a step further by turning off notifications on your phone and computer.
Notifications can be a huge distraction. What’s more, constantly checking your notifications is a form of multi-tasking, which can sap up to 40% of your productivity.
Set Boundaries for Your Schedule
Remember to set boundaries for your schedule. When you’re busy, it’s easy to get involved in projects that aren’t good for your business (or yourself).
I’ve struggled with this because I like to be helpful and accommodating. But boundaries help me better identify which opportunities will really benefit my target market and allow me to grow.
Plus, schedule boundaries help you avoid overwork because you are intentional about making time for your personal life.
Some of my schedule boundaries include:
- No meetings or appointments after 5 PM.
- Friday mornings are set aside for bookkeeping and other admin tasks.
- Friday afternoons are personal time.
Don’t respond to messages outside of your established office hours
It’s essential to be careful about how you answer work texts, calls, and emails outside of your office hours. You run the risk of people getting used to the idea that they can expect a response anytime, 24/7. (This is a mistake I made in my corporate days.)
Ensure that your office hours and/or response times are clearly communicated so that people know when to expect a response.
Set Boundaries with Your Clients
Note: I’m using the word “client” in this post, but you can substitute customer, student, buyer, patron, etc. – whatever term applies to your specific business.
It is vital to communicate your schedule with clients from the very first discovery call. You should also include your office hours, response times, turnaround times, etc., in your welcome packet. (You do have a welcome packet or welcome email, right?).
Also, don’t be afraid to say “no” if clients request something outside your normal scope of work.
Clear communication is the backbone of a good client relationship. Make sure they understand exactly what they can expect from you. And then be consistent about sticking to your boundaries.
Set Boundaries for Your Scope of Business
One of the easiest ways to be stretched too thin is to say yes to everything just because you can.
Decide what you want to do.
Then say no to anyone or anything that falls outside your present objectives.
For example, I toy with the idea of starting a podcast from time to time. But I already have a full plate. And it’s really something I think I should do, not something I want to do.
It’s better to just say no.
Set Boundaries for Personal Time
Being a successful online business owner takes more than hard work. It’s also essential to take care of yourself. You can’t keep going if you aren’t well-rested. And that means taking a break from your business.
Make sure that you actually take days off weekly. And schedule longer vacations from time to time.
During your personal time, don’t check email or messages (or maybe only once a day). Don’t take appointments.
Vacation time will go more smoothly if you let your clients know ahead of time that you’ll be out of pocket. You should also set up an email auto-reply so that people know you aren’t available.
Put policies in place
Business policies are another way of setting boundaries.
Some policies to consider include:
- How to deal with no-shows or late arrivals for meetings. How long will you wait? Will you charge for your time?
- How will you handle refunds? Will you offer refunds at all? If yes, what is the time frame for the request?
- How to handle late payments. Will you pause the work? Remove access to your course?
Having written policies can help alleviate the stress of dealing with unpleasant situations. You won’t have to worry about what to say or do because you’ve thought it out ahead of time.
Tips to Make Boundaries Work for You
Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries
I said this a few times above, but I think it bears repeating. The best way to make sure that your boundaries work is to communicate them clearly.
That means spelling them out:
- in contracts
- in welcome packets or welcome emails
- on your website’s contact page
- on your Facebook page
- in your client/student Facebook group
Not every boundary needs to be communicated in every place. Instead, decide what makes the most sense for your business. I do believe it’s better to overcommunicate than under-communicate, however.
Review Your Boundaries Periodically
And to make sure that your boundaries work for you for the long term, you need to review them periodically. If something isn’t working, then make an adjustment. You can add, remove, or adjust your boundaries at any time.
Remember, this is your business. You get to set the rules.
Boundaries are essential in any business. They help protect your time, energy, and resources so that you can focus on what’s important – serving your target market and growing your business.
In this post, I’ve shared some tips for setting boundaries in business, including boundaries with clients, family & friends, and yourself.
Be sure to communicate boundaries clearly to everyone involved, review them periodically, and make adjustments as needed. Doing so will help you maintain a healthy work/life balance while running a successful online business.