I felt compelled to write this blog post about boundaries, as I often feel as a business owner, it is really hard not only to create our boundaries but to stick to them too.
In the past year, I’ve had clients cross my boundaries many times and many times I’ve not enforced or stuck to my own boundaries.
I’ve had clients call me at weekends, when I’m on holiday and late at night. I’ve had clients decide that they can’t afford their due payment so they’ll have to pay it the following month. I’ve had clients decide that they don’t have to stick to my contract that we both signed. I’ve had clients call and say what they want doing is urgent, and allowing myself to leave the task in hand to go and help with their urgent ‘thing’, when I was already busy for another client. I’ve had clients send me one email, which if hasn’t been replied to within an hour, send another, or a messenger message or a WhatsApp message.
And there has been plenty more!
I think I’m too much of a people pleaser at times, and I love going above and beyond for clients, but when it’s against my own boundaries, then I’m left feeling like I’m being taken advantage of.
I can feel overwhelmed and frustrated and sometimes guilty and even resentment.
In a bid to become better at sticking to my own boundaries with clients, I’ve put together a list of things that will hopefully help the process!
I hope they help you and please share anything else that works for you!
“Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden.” -Lydia H. Hall
Be Crystal Clear
This sounds so obvious right! But, I honestly tell my clients as much as possible when we start working together. I send them a contract and ask them to read before signing, but you’ll be surprised at how many boundaries are crossed still.
If you don’t want to work at the weekends, or after a certain time, let your clients know. If you are taking a holiday where you don’t want to work, give them some warning, so they know you won’t be around those days.
If you don’t like answering messages via messenger, WhatsApp, IG, Twitter, emails, texts and phonecalls- let your client know. Make sure you add as much in your contract as you can, or even when you start working with a client, jump on a call and let them know what works for you and find out what works for them!
What automations could you put in place to remind clients of your working hours or how you work? Could you put an auto-responder on your FB page or email letting people know you’ll reply within 1 working day for example?
3. Checking your emails just once a day
So many people in business swear by just checking their emails once or twice a day can do wonders for productivity. If you relay this to your clients, then they’ll at least know that there is no chance of expecting an instant reply. This also stops you getting distracted and concentrating on one task at a time.
4. Take Responsibility
Act like the business owner you are and take responsibility for the decisions you make in YOUR business. If you’ve let clients get away with things once, the likelihood is, they’ll try to do it again. You need to set the boundaries that work for you and your business and not let yourself cross your own line!
Communicate and stand up for your own boundaries. (Harder than it sounds I know, I’ve been there!)
5. Say No
If it isn’t possible, you have the choice to say no. I know this can be tough at times, but we all have the choice. If a friend wants to call over in the middle of a workday but you simply don’t have time, you are able to say so. If a client wants you to drop it all for their urgent request when you are already working on other tasks and you really don’t have the time, then again, you can say no. Of course, I’m not suggesting you be as blunt as that, and I’d always try to offer another solution or time, but sometimes we simply can’t do it.
If a client asks for something to be done late on a Friday afternoon/evening, I’ll politely let them know that I’ll take a look Monday for them, as it’s important for me to switch off and spend time with my family.
6. Let your client know what you need from them
If you have payment terms that need to be stuck to, don’t let clients pass these. The payment schedule set out from the beginning should be stuck to. You are also running a business and have set your terms to suit you. If you had 5 clients that all paid late, where would that leave you?
If you need content or copy from a client by a certain time, again, they need to know this, so you can get on with your work, on schedule. If not met, this can lead to major frustrations and slow work down. So make sure your client knows throughout what is needed from them and by when.
Is it possible your client may have simply forgotten something? A simple reminder may be all it takes to let them know that you have a set of boundaries and so you both know where you stand. Could you give updates, so the client knows if a payment is due, if they are running short on time etc. Again, make sure you are clear in your contract from the start.
8. Be clear about the time required
Make sure you are super clear about the amount of time some tasks can take you. As a Virtual Assistant, some clients seem to think the list of tasks I can get done in 10hours a month is huge. Now, I’m good at what I do, but I’m not a magician. If you are in an industry like mine, if you have used the hours a client has asked you to do, don’t be tempted to do more ‘as a favour’ or ‘to help out’ or ‘finish the list’.
If you are doing something unpaid for one client, it takes you away from another client who will be willing to pay for your services
I’m sure there are plenty more and I’d love to know how you help set and stick to boundaries in your business.
Book a call with me here
Have a great day, gorgeous,