I know that especially in the past few months, we’ve all heard the word “boundaries” at least once a day in our regular lives. Personal boundaries, professional boundaries, you name it; what matters is that this topic is becoming quite important for many people because for too long people have been burned out, stressed, mistreated, and quite simply overwhelmed about managing life and a business. Unfortunately, though, not everyone is able to set strong boundaries with other people, whether in a personal or professional setting, so today I’m here to share with you how you can set boundaries as an entrepreneur and reach success.
Do you need to be setting boundaries in business?
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Your first question might be, “Hold on, is it actually important to have boundaries in business?”. The short answer is yes, my friend. And I’m now going to explain to you why business boundaries are important. Whatever business you run and whatever role you have, chances are that people will try to take advantage of your time and energy. Some people do it with bad intentions, and in that case, I’ll just invite you to kindly push them away, whilst others do it unintentionally, and we need a solution for them too.
You see, many people suffer from something called people-pleasing, which according to Merriam Webster is “a person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires”.
The problem is that many people aren’t aware of it, but they do it either out of the goodness of their heart, to try and be kind to everyone, to accommodate everyone’s requests, or because they have some internal insecurities that they need to deal with.
“What does this have to do with business?”, you might ask. Well, as business owners it’s actually quite easy to become people pleasers and have no boundaries whatsoever, but when that happens we’re on the road to burnout.
Have you ever been asked to do a call at some very inappropriate time, and you just didn’t know how to say no? Have you ever replied to emails when you were spending quality time with your family on the weekend because you were afraid of letting potential clients down? Have you ever lowered your prices, found a compromise for your services, refunded someone, just so you could make the client happy and not disappoint them?
Then maybe you lack boundaries, so yes, entrepreneurs 100% need to set some boundaries because you need to be able to build a successful business that works ON YOUR TERMS, without sacrificing your time, money, mental health, or relationships.
How do entrepreneurs set boundaries?
It’s not always easy to set boundaries as entrepreneurs I’m afraid, and maybe that’s because when you’re so passionate about what you do, you find it hard to say no to someone or to switch off from work mode and just enjoy some time to have fun.
I believe that the first step to set some boundaries is to identify where it is that you’re lacking them, because if you don’t know where you’re sick, how are you supposed to find a cure for it?
Also, don’t get me wrong, sometimes you may not have boundaries with yourself, not necessarily because of other people. Maybe sometimes you continue to work even though you know your family is waiting for you for dinner, or you sacrifice a weekend off because you want to finish an important project, or you check your emails first thing in the morning because you need to know what’s happening.
So as much as you need boundaries with your clients and other people interacting with your business, you also need to set boundaries with yourself. Without boundaries, you’ll slowly but surely kill your productivity, you’ll be sucked off a lot of your energy, and you’ll find yourself hitting burnout over and over again.
And remember that sometimes, all you need is a little self-care time, so don’t neglect this area of your life because it will definitely help you to show up as the best version of yourself.
Now let’s try to see what are some of the boundaries that you could be implementing in your business.
What are some great boundaries to set as a business owner?
Set business hours
One of the first things I’d say is that you need to set some business hours. Yes, even when you work for yourself (perhaps, exactly because of that) you need to set some business hours so that people will know when they’ll be able to reach you. Plus, by setting business hours and with enough self-discipline, you’ll also be able to unplug at a certain time of the day and enjoy the rest of your time, guilt-free.
If you need some help with improving your self-discipline, check out my blog post.
2. Set an email autoresponder with clear expectations
Wondering what on earth I’m talking about? Don’t worry, I’m about to explain it to you. What I simply mean by that is that you need to write (or rewrite) an autoresponder email where you explain to the person that’s tried to reach you that you have received their email and they should expect to receive a reply within X amount of working days.
If you don’t have an autoresponder and you don’t reply right away, they might think that you’re not going to reply at all or they’ll wonder when they’ll be able to hear from you. Plus without an autoresponder, you’ll feel the pressure to respond asap because you don’t want to miss an opportunity or disappoint anyone, but that’s not a healthy way to do business.
With an autoresponder, both the other person and you will know that you won’t be rushing to respond to the email and you’ll be able to enjoy a less stressful environment, so that’s what I call some good boundaries.
3. Set boundaries with your clients
Just as we’ve discussed the email autoresponder, it’s also important to let your current clients know when they’ll be able to reach you. Chances are that especially if you’re a service provider, you’ll have other ways to communicate for the duration of your contract other than email. Maybe you use apps like Telegram or Voxer, and your clients may need to reach you for any question or problem or clarification they might need.
But just because they’re your clients and they’re paying a good amount of money, doesn’t mean that you’re available 24/7. So the best thing you can do for yourself and for them is to determine right from the beginning when they can expect a reply from you. I suggest you include this in your contract or client welcome package so everyone knows what the terms are from the start, and there are no misunderstandings, complaints, or guilt trips!
4. Say NO more often to things that can’t fit with your commitments
Do you get a lot of requests for different things and you feel like they’re all important and you really struggle to say no? You’re not the only one but just know that by doing that, you’re draining yourself of your energy, neglecting your mental and physical health, and you’ll eventually disappoint someone.
The key is to always schedule everything and always put things in your calendar, and if something else comes along and you don’t have the capacity for that, you just kindly say no and move on. I know it’s easier said than done but trust me, you’ll thank yourself in the long run. By setting clear boundaries in place when it comes to receiving requests from others, you’ll be able to focus on your priorities, avoid overscheduling things in your calendar, and be able to serve your current customers in the best way.
Conclusion on how to set boundaries in your business as an entrepreneur
Alright, friend, I hope I’ve convinced you of why boundaries are essential for you as an entrepreneur, not only for your personal but also your professional life. Remember, at the end of the day you’re the one that’s holding it all together, and if you don’t make sure that you respect your time and energy and have some boundaries in place, no one else will. So I hope you’ll start spending some time implementing the changes I’ve given you (or anything else that you might learn) to make sure you have strong boundaries in place as the amazing entrepreneur that you are.