I know you have heard the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors.” I want to tell you that good boundaries also lead to good clients – and happier entrepreneurs.
I have learned a couple of really important things about boundaries over the last two weeks. I have learned the importance of not bending over backwards to help clients with either time or money. And definitely not both at the same time. This leads to a cranky entrepreneur.
Please know that I am not a “pleaser” by nature. Sure, I like people to like me – but I don’t need a ton of external validation to feel good about myself.
However, I do love to exceed a client’s expectations. That gives me great pleasure, and frequently some good referrals.
Guard Your Downtime
I had to work the past few weekends. Sometimes I don’t mind – and sometimes I do. If I’m doing something creative or catching up on some writing, that’s cool. If I’m working on a rush resume, I might be happy for the lack of interruptions and annoyed about working on it at the same time.
When I plan ahead, I unplug from my laptop and smartphone and have a rip-roaring good time on Saturday. And then I hunker down on Sunday. That usually works well for me because I had some fun and now I can be very productive.
During your downtime, don’t feel like you have to answer an email. Your time is precious, and needs to be treated like the treasure it is.
Spell Out What Is OK
As a small business owner, you will want to get very clear on your boundaries. You should think about:
How responsive do you want to be?
How available do you want to be to your clients?
Do you prefer clients call or email?
Are you OK with clients texting you?
Will you have different tiers of clients who will get different access to you?
Decide what your preferences are, and then clearly communicate them to your clients. You need to stick to it, too. A consistent client experience is a good thing.
Last Sunday, I had a resume client go so far over the line that they were in Wisconsin. (I live in Chicago.) They were sending me emails on Saturday, which I was dumb enough to answer. And then they called my cell phone at 9:30 AM Sunday morning. I didn’t answer and they didn’t leave a message.
Instead, they sent another email saying that they were in a panic. This and this needed to be changed. They didn’t understand why I did this other thing. My 22 years of experience didn’t seem to matter. And then they asked me if we could talk that day – Sunday.
I found myself thinking, “Even God rested on the seventh day.”
Please know that I was busting my butt doing a quick turnaround on a resume rework for them. I charged them less than half of my usual rate because they had just paid for another service, and because it didn’t seem like it would take too much time. And they were in financial hardship. And I liked them.
They didn’t respect my good advice and experience writing resumes – or the incredible gift I was giving them with the short turnaround.
And it was my fault.
Don’t Apologize and Don’t Explain
Your rules are your rules. Honor them, and make others honor them as well. Running your own business is a big commitment – and most of you are in it for the long haul.
In order not to resent your clients and your business, you need to protect yourself and your business. If you drop your price or jump every time a client says so, you will get walked over. It doesn’t feel good.
And you will be exhausted and depleted, which doesn’t enable you to serve your clients well.
Catherine Morgan is the editor of Business Unplugged ™, an engaging speaker, and the founder of Point A to Point B Transitions Inc., a virtual provider of coaching services to individuals who are in business or career transition. Catherine is the author of the eBook Re-Launch You: Discovering Your Point B and Embracing Possibility. An experienced independent consultant and former employee of three of the former Big Five consulting firms, Catherine combines strategy development with accountability coaching. Her productivity tips and career transition advice have been featured on WGN AM 720 and WIND AM 560 The Answer in Chicago, and on WCHE AM 1520 in the Philadelphia area. Catherine speaks frequently on topics related to productivity, career transition, small business, and entrepreneurship. She doesn’t take herself seriously, but takes her subject matter very seriously.