Two weeks ago, I received an email from a client. The course of action that followed really had me thinking about where we as nurturing expert service providers and business owners draw the boundaries. I realized I actually hadn’t set effective business boundaries or I wouldn’t have received this email in the first place. It was a last minute request, to do a favor, that I don’t typically do in my business services, and it required more time (on my side), than the client had the money to afford for the work.
Guess what, a few weeks before that I got an odd call from a previous consulting client in the middle of the day, but not during my normal working hours. The interesting thing about it, was although this was a consulting client, the call’s premise was to ‘connect and pick my brain for free’, prior to scheduling the actual (or another) consulting time to talk. Whoa! I had to check in ask myself, what had I done to contribute to these obvious boundary line pushing instances.
Whew… so here we go. I know you are a business owner too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this article, and maybe you have dealt with boundary issues a time or two … or have you?
The bottom line I know is this: We WANT to support our clients in the best way possible. We want to see them succeed, and when there is work to be done we are willing to bend over backwards to make sure it happens. Your clients know this too (it’s the bending over backwards, that may get you into trouble in the long run).
Consider that from the angle of how it applies to your business. If your client pops up on a Friday afternoon with work to be done by Monday, do you drop everything and do it? Perhaps even dropping precious family-time and commitments? Are you working every night trying to scramble to get all the ‘last minute’ things done that keep popping up?
If you always jump and go whenever your clients pop up with stuff, then they are always going to expect that of you. And really, it’s not their fault… if you’ve always done it that way then why wouldn’t you just keep doing it? Which of course becomes a vicious cycle… last minute projects taking up all your evenings and weekends, ugh! And so I challenge you – take a good close look at your boundaries.
It’s about time to get tough with your boundaries…
Boundaries. You know, the invisible line you draw in the sand between what you will and won’t do? The problem isn’t just your boundaries – chances are you know exactly the rules you want to play by. Your lack of boundaries is merely a symptom of a different problem: confidence.
The trouble is you lack the confidence to enforce the rules. Instead of standing firm when people get pushy, you bend the rules because you are secretly afraid that if you enforce them, your clients will say no and refuse to work with you (or even worse, not like you). That’s the truth in a nutshell. OUCH!
There’s a difference between polite and being a pushover.
Don’t tell me that you are just being nice and “doing them a favor this one last time” because we both know it’s always the same people who are asking again and again. There is a huge difference between polite and pushover (and polite ended about four ridiculous requests ago).
Polite is the quiet confidence to smile and say exactly what you want to say, and make the rules of engagement clear. Pushover is when you bend the rules to the point of breaking them – all in the name of ‘customer service’. That’s why boundaries require confidence.
The confidence to politely to let the people around you know that they need to respect the rules. The confidence to decide what is or isn’t a priority starting at 5 o’clock on a Friday. The confidence to enforce the rules without feeling the need to apologize or even explain.
Here are 5 Simple Ways to Enforce your Business Boundaries
#1: What To With Last-minute Requests – Sometimes your clients may call on you for last-minute help, which in a service business isn’t a problem. The trouble is when last minute become the norm and you can’t manage your project load because you are constantly rushing for the chronic offenders who just can’t seem to get it together.
The boundary fix: “Just so you know, we normally charge an additional rush fee. I’ll let it go this time, but now you know for next time.” and show the rush charge on their invoice with the amount canceled out.
#2: How To Manage Your Client Roster – Sometimes it seems scary to put a new client on hold until you have time in your schedule to take on their project, but it’s critical from a quality (and sanity) control perspective.
The boundary fix: “My client roster is full for the next , but I’d be more than happy to meet with you to discuss your project and get you in our calendar.”
#3: Scope Creep? – More often than not as you get into a project, you discover more ways you can help your client. A little extra here, a little bit there and before you know it, you are doing double the work.
The boundary fix: Know when to put on the brakes when it comes to doing extra work. “That is beyond the original scope of work and will require additional fees. I will send over an estimate of the additional amount required to complete those tasks.”
#4: Setting The Rules of Engagement – It’s ENTIRELY up to you how you want to work with your clients.
The boundary fix: “Before getting started, we require a signed proposal and a deposit.” and nothing (and I mean NOTHING) gets done until that step is complete.
#5: What About After Hours Work Calls? – Just because your clients work late at night, on the weekends or what seems like 24/7, doesn’t mean you need to. Be clear with what hours you are available to take business calls and respond to email.
No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage. Setting clear personal boundaries is important to ensure that relationships are mutually respectful and fulfilling. Strong boundaries are a clear indication of your self-esteem (or lack thereof). They are a way of saying, “I deserve to be treated well” or “I don’t deserve to be treated well.”
The boundary fix: Actions speak louder than words so if you happen to be up at 4 o’clock to catch up on work, save your replies to client emails as a draft and send during your office hours.
Now don’t get me wrong, there will always be super busy times that may require a bit more of you and your time. But you want those to be the exceptions and not the norm.
I’m blowing the whistle for you, as a reminder to other nurturing business service providers and owners. Respect your time and your business, and you will continue to attract the right clients who will automatically do the same. So set your boundaries and stick to ‘em!
Sound off below, what are your thoughts? Have you ever had challenges with setting the right boundaries in your professional or business life? What rules do you have in place that you must stick by to ensure healthy boundaries in your business? Please share your comments below. And I would love it if you would share this article with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. I appreciate you. xo