Setting Boundaries as a Small Business Owner
Do you work weekends? Do you reply to your emails as soon as they land in your inbox? We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to do things that make life harder for you, and that as a small business owner you are perfectly entitled to saying no and setting boundaries. Time and time again we see small business owners burning out, and while we’re highly passionate about what we do and willing to work extra in order to succeed, we do also need some boundaries around that work.
When it comes down to it you are going to spend hours and hours just thinking about your business. Planing things, developing new ideas, evaluating what’s working and what’s not, and all of that takes up time and energy. You’re also going to be doing the actual work it takes to run your business, and I can bet that once you do all of that you’re exhausted…
So what types of boundaries can you be putting in place to make life a little easier (and have your business operating smoother)?
Most of the boundaries you can put in place come down to who, when, what and how. How are you working with clients? When are you doing it? Who with? Getting clear on how you operate your business and then sticking firmly to that process is vital to ensuring it runs smoothly.
#1 ANSWERING EMAILS
You might want to have your work inbox on your phone and keep an eye on things over the weekend, that’s ok! But are you replying to emails then too? Choose the times you reply to emails and be firm about it.
I (Lucy) no longer have my work inbox on my phone because it was making more anxious than was necessary. Sometimes I just needed to grab something from my personal inbox and I don’t want my work inbox to also download and send me notifications - especially if I’m on vacation and I just need my flight number!
Likewise I do sometimes work at the weekend, but I do not check my emails during that time. Hard and fast rule. So, if someone emails me in an evening, when I’m not at my desk, or at the weekend… they’re not getting a reply. It’s as simple as that.
In fact I try to only check my inbox a maximum of 5 times a day. We pride ourselves on quick response times and good communication, but that can still be achieved with 1-5 inbox sessions a day.
#2 WHEN YOU WORK
Similar to checking your emails, choosing when you work is up to you. Don’t want to work weekends? Don’t. You can say no! You deserve that rest! In all seriousness though work when you choose to.
You might choose to catch up one weekend and that’s okay! We do that!
You might also find that you’re tapped out by 3pm but wired and ready to go at 6am. If that’s you, switch your schedule around to suit it and work when you feel best!
The beauty of working for yourself is that you get to choose when you work, and ultimately what works best for you (and your clients/ team members) is best for the business. Get the work done, choose and dedicate time for it, and then go have a break.
#3 HOW YOU WORK
Every now and then we get a request to text or WhatsApp with a client. Sometimes clients call us out of the blue when we’re busy. Typically these things are okay, but in general it’s not how we choose to work. We have chosen to have scheduled calls with our clients, texts only when necessary, and zero WhatsApps.
In all honesty I don’t want to be able to wake up at 7am and see texts or WhatsApp’s from a client and be straight into thinking about work.
I want to see messages from my friends and family (or no one!) in my time outside of work. Because of this we’ve set strict boundaries, and 99% of the time if a client calls me before asking when I’m free to talk, I won’t pick up.
That might sound harsh but I’m normally in the middle of something else, eating my lunch, in the bathroom or in a meeting. I don’t want nor do I need to go out of my way to answer my phone in those times as the project I’m focused on deserves my attention, and my body deserves a proper lunch break.
This is a firm boundary we’ve set for ourselves and we do have to remind ourselves of that sometimes. Sure, we’re flexible sometimes and we do text clients if they’re running late or need to quickly tell us something, but the majority of the time we choose to schedule calls ahead of time (or least say “yup, I’m free between 2 and 4 if you want to call me then!”) and it feels best this way.
WHAT IT ALL COMES DOWN TO IS CHOICE
You might notice that all these examples come down to choice, and while not every situation and every person has the choice to set their schedule and boundaries in this way, most freelancers, business owners and entrepreneurs do have some control in it. In fact, most have more than they realize! Many of us feel like we should be doing certain things in order not to be rude.
We’ve been trained to think that we have to bend over backwards and give our clients every little part of ourselves if we want to make a living, but that’s just not the case. If you’re serious about your business and treat your business like a business… well you can operate like a business, and that means having some rules and boundaries. And then sticking to them.
It also means ensuring your customer service/client experience is also great, kind, fun and all the positive things it should be! We’re not here for setting boundaries without the other pieces in place first.
What do you think? Could you be better about setting boundaries in your day-to-day operations?