How to Make Bold Boundaries the Backbone of Your Business
If you’ve spent any amount of time with me at all, you know that “boundaries” is my second-favorite B-word. (As soon as you clicked on my website, you learned my first-favorite. 😜)
What I love most about boundaries is how powerful they are:
They protect your energy.
They impart your value.
They make your life so much easier.
Boundaries also help us prevent unnecessary conflict. And when disagreements do arise, boundaries show us how to navigate them healthily.
It’s a no-brainer that our businesses can’t operate smoothly without boundaries, but how do we establish them in the first place? How do we enforce them? What happens when we need to change them?
It feels intimidating and maybe even guilt-inducing, but with these tips and a little practice, you’ll be a boundary-setting pro.
1. Limit how and when people use your time.
The easiest—and perhaps most important—boundary to set is the one guarding your time.
There are two ways to do this:
1. Build your workday around you, not just your clients.
2. Give yourself a closing time and disconnect from your business every day.
Instead of opting for a work schedule that doesn’t work for you, choose business hours you enjoy. (You’re the boss, so you can do that.)
Don’t work mornings if you’re not a morning person. Don’t schedule back-to-back sales calls if you know you need breaks. It really is that simple.
That second part, though? It can be a little harder.
Some people view 24/7 availability as a selling point, but that’s only the case if you can maintain it. Most of us can’t commit to that sort of round-the-clock readiness. In fact, I’d argue that we shouldn’t.
To prevent burnout—and to function well in general—you’re gonna have to rest. In addition to peppering downtime throughout your workday, you need to decide when you’re done working, period.
Choose a cutoff time, and stick to it. No checking your socials, no responding to clients, no nothing. Give yourself time to be a full person, not just an entrepreneur.
Not only will that put much-needed distance between your personal and business lives, it’ll teach your clients (and vendors and employees) that you can’t be reached all hours of the day. And trust me, that’s a very good thing.
2. SAY NO. ALL CAPS. FULL STOP.
Most of us say yes when we don’t mean it to avoid letting people down or to avoid drama. But listen:
People-pleasing is not a recognized industry, so don’t make it your business.
You do not have to take on every client—especially if you don’t want to. You do not have to try every new marketing trend—especially if you don’t want to. You do not have to (and better not ever!) customize your offers—but especially if you don’t want to.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Resist the urge to make decisions that don’t sit well with you, no matter how big or small those decisions seem. When we take on work we don’t enjoy or don’t have time for, we erode our sense of peace. Nothing is worth that loss.
3. Be clear, and for the love of God, be consistent.
Your boundaries must be clearly communicated in order to be effective. Avoid wishy-washy language and be direct. You can’t expect anyone to respect a boundary you don’t disclose, right?
Likewise, you need to assert your boundaries anytime they’re threatened. If you don’t, you tell people that your boundaries are suggestions rather than non-negotiables.
If you mean no refunds, say no refunds—and then don’t give any refunds. If you don’t want clients calling you after 6pm, don’t answer after 6pm. Whatever boundaries you’ve decided on, stick to them. Exceptions to the rules should be rare, with a direct benefit to you or your business.
We have to take our boundaries a step further, though. In business, it’s not enough just to say what your parameters are. You have to give them a little umph. How do we do that? Airtight, legally-binding policies, my friend.
4. Convert your boundaries into authoritative policies.
Whatever boundaries you create in your head…also have to exist on paper. That’s where your policies come in.
Think of policies as boundaries for business, terms for working with you, guidebooks that dictate what happens in potentially difficult situations.
What’s the protocol when a coaching client needs to reschedule a session? Under what conditions can a customer return a T-shirt? How much of your course can a client consume before they’re ineligible for a refund?
Have a lawyer review your policies, if not draft them for you, to make sure you’re in compliance and haven’t left any loopholes. Then, put these policies where clients can easily access them.
They should be available on your website, linked in your welcome packet, consented to at every opportunity. (Think checkboxes that say “I agree to the terms and conditions” and signature lines on contracts or payment agreements.)
This is especially important for any policies that may not always work in a client’s favor.
Your client doesn’t like that you won’t accept returns? Oh, well. They agreed to your refund policy. Mad that you won’t revise their logo for a 50th time a month after they accepted the final draft? Too bad, so sad. They agreed to your revision policy.
TLDR: Boundaries are what keep you sane in business. Policies are what back them up.
Healthy boundaries are key to a well-functioning enterprise
There is literally no way your business can run sustainably without boundaries. Don’t wait until you’re burnt out, exhausted, and regretting your leap into entrepreneurship to put limits in place.
Instead, begin every new venture with a vision for how person-to-person interactions will occur.
Similarly, you should reevaluate any existing ventures and look for time-sucks and energy-drains. Identify what’s not working and adjust your boundaries accordingly.
(Setting and implementing boundaries isn’t always easy, but it’s one of my specialties. Apply for coaching now so we can put business boundaries to work for you.)