As entrepreneurs, we’re pulled in a lot of different directions.
We have to balance short- and long-term goals, keep our current clients happy while also seeking new ones, manage our virtual team members, AND keep an eye on our own time.
Sometimes things can get so overwhelming that we need to take a step back to enjoy the things we love outside of work.
But, if we haven’t set clear boundaries with our clients and contractors, that can be challenging.
If our work colleagues feel like they have 24/7/365 access to our time and energy, that can lead to fast and furious burnout!
And yet, many of us are reluctant to talk about boundaries around contact, time, and availability. We know it’ll be helpful in the long run, but still hesitate.
What’s THAT about?!
Why is setting boundaries SO HARD to do?
First off, boundary-setting is always hard, whether it’s at work or home or among friends.
Human beings naturally want to please each other, so we’re never excited about saying “no” or telling other people to leave us the heck alone!
So if you haven’t set boundaries as an entrepreneur and you’re already well into the business-building journey, you’re not alone. Don’t beat yourself up!
It’s especially hard to set boundaries when you’re just starting your business because you’re in people-pleasing overdrive mode.
You only have a handful of clients and you are desperate to keep them and make sure they’re happy … so you might let them call you on weekends or get an hour of your time for free here and there.
Problems arise when you realize this isn’t a sustainable way to work and decide you need some ground rules, and the clients who’ve been with you from the start get grouchy that they aren’t able to continue working with you in the same way.
Even if you DO set boundaries at the very beginning, they tend to fall by the wayside after a while.
It takes energy and vigilance to keep them in place, and it may just feel easier to forget your guidelines and let clients and team members just do what’s easiest for THEM.
But the hard truth is that boundaries benefit your business, clients, and yourself.
They create a clearer understanding of roles, responsibilities, and the most effective way to work together. Good boundaries boost everyone’s productivity and morale.
Without them, collaboration becomes messy and communication becomes muddy.
Boundaries may be hard to set and enforce, but without them, your business will suffer and so will your sanity.
How to set boundaries while running your business
So how do you get started setting boundaries? My advice is to address the issue head-on.
With team members, call a meeting to say that you’ve let your boundaries slip and need to hit reset. Then set clear expectations for them, and for how they’ll interact with you.
With clients, draft an email that explains how you’ll be changing your working style to better support your business and offer a list of new guidelines for contact, collaboration, and communication.
Consider having a “collaboration guidelines” cheat sheet that gets sent to all NEW clients, too!
In terms of what the boundaries may look like, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Direct communication: Sugar-coating and procrastination both make good boundaries tough to enforce. Commit to being clear and direct with both clients and colleagues.
- Clear priorities: Set your business priorities and keep a list of them handy at all times. If something doesn’t align with them, you can easily skip it!
- The ability to say “NO”: Tough as it is, you must be able to decline commitments and tasks, even if they’re requested by loyal clients. Train yourself to evaluate each request and say “no” to anything that simply won’t serve you well.
- Strategic outsourcing: Get super clear on where you are and aren’t needed in your business so you can outsource everything that doesn’t need your personal touch.
- Scheduling all calls: No one from your business life should feel free to just call you out of the blue! Make it clear that calls are to be scheduled and planned ahead of time.
Finally, find time for yourself in your schedule and make sure to guard it with some hard boundaries!
Unplug and focus on self-care on a regular basis, or you’ll get resentful of your business responsibilities.
Benefits of setting boundaries as an entrepreneur
If setting or enforcing your boundaries makes you feel anxious, remember that doing so will help you be happier and more productive in the long run.
Properly balancing work duties and personal time is the ONLY way to recharge your batteries and avoid burnout, but it also helps you avoid making mistakes in your business and getting frustrated with your clients.
Like so many things we entrepreneurs tackle, maintaining boundaries is tough … but definitely worth the effort!