Business 101: The Business of Boundaries & Money

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By Melani Ward

The word “boundaries” gets thrown around a lot but my experience tells me that very few people know what they are, are clear about what their own boundaries are and understand why a lack of clear boundaries can be negatively impacting their business.

Boundaries are the limits or rules you set for how others can act, speak or behave in your presence or for our purposes how they respond to your offers, programs and services. That sounds kind of weird, right? You have rules for how others can behave around you. It sounds quite diva-ish but it’s true.

Each of us have certain lines in the sand that we draw that reveal our values and how we choose to operate in the world and in our business. They are not designed to keep people at bay but rather to make dealing with us as pleasurable and as valuable as possible.

Each of these boundaries act as filters that allows the good in and the uncomfortable out. They are designed to protect us. Our boundaries are the screens we carry around with us…separating us from what’s “out there.”

McEvoy defined personal boundaries as “an invisible demarcation that surrounds persons’ physical, emotional, and psychological space and controls the flow of information, feelings, and physical contact between two or more people. These boundaries provide a sense of safety, a means of regulating interactions with others, and describe the individual’s rights and responsibilities.” (Stiles, Anne Scott 2004)

When it comes to business, especially in the case of service providers, creating boundaries around money is one of the most important things you can do. Those who lack boundaries are the ones who always struggle the most to grow their business and their bottom line. Money mirrors our boundaries and when we don’t have any they show up in a variety of ways.

If you don’t have clear boundaries around money you may find yourself falling into one or more of the following business killing traps:

  1. You let your prices be negotiable. Meaning when it’s time to quote your price you say something like: “Well, it’s regularly X for this package but since you might not need all of this we could work it out a special rate for you.” Or, you let them know your fee and if they don’t respond right away you jump right in to rescue them with a lower price.
  2. You quote a price and throw in everything but the kitchen sink to get them to say yes. The best thing you can do after you quote a price is keep quiet. Some find it excruciating so instead of allowing the silence, they will start throwing in every possible bonus to make it more attractive, including lots of things that will drain you in the long run.
  3. You hesitate to set standard fees. You cater to every request that comes in the door. You are afraid that if you set a certain fee, you will eliminate many potential clients from the pool so you’d rather make it up as you go.
  4. You trade services. For some reason you think an hour massage is equivalent to an hour of business coaching. If your massage therapist charges $150 an hour for a massage and you also charge $150 an hour for a coaching session then great. Write your massage therapist a check for $150 and have her write you $150 check for and call it a day. But if you charge $250 and she charges $150, you need to write checks that reflect that too. And, don’t just trade without money going back and forth. Something very powerful happens when money flows in and out. Keep it flowing.
  5. You go into sessions with people assuming how much they can pay you and then base your fee on that. Remember this – your world is not THE world and it’s not your place to determine what they can or cannot pay. Now obviously you don’t want to sell your $1000 an hour services to a market that has no history of paying for this kind of work but if you have picked a viable market, then making assumptions about what they will pay is dangerous to your bottom line.
  6. You give away your time and expertise for free. This is the most difficult one to get a handle on for many entrepreneurs, myself included. Why? Because we’re generous with our time and often fail to create boundaries around that which inevitably leads to people expecting 24/7 availability or help solving problems free of charge.
    Now I am very clear about the level of access people get to me up front. In some programs, my clients get what I call “a reasonable amount” of access to me. At the highest level, I have ONLY 2 clients that get access to me 24/7. These are the clients that I’ll pretty much stop whatever I am doing to help them, but they pay me very well for that access.

If you find yourself doing any of the above, then it’s possible you have very poor money boundaries and much of what you do is an attempt to get your people to approve of you, like you and accept you.

You fear being rejected and as a consequence you set up your business in such a way that it’s clear that what your clients want is far more important than what you want. You would rather work more and charge less to make them happy but the problem with that is whoever said that that system would actually make them happy? Whoever said it was better for them?

Wouldn’t having clear boundaries, modeling them and sticking to them be far more useful to them than modeling behaviors that show your need for approval and acceptance? You may not think that by negotiating a lower price or letting them tap you whenever they want that you are doing them a disservice but you are. You may not think that, even if only on an unconscious level, they are thinking less of you but they are. 

How much confidence could you possibly be instilling in someone if your fees are soft and always up for discussion. That makes no sense so why would it be okay for you to do that in your business? It’s not, if you want a thriving business where people are crystal clear about how you work, how you get paid and how to get the most out of working with you.

4 Ways to Build your Money Boundaries

  1. Get Clear on Your Boundaries. When it comes to your business what is important to you? How do you want people to reach out to you? How do you want to work with them? What is the ideal client relationship? Some people even set boundaries for how they want their clients to email them with certain subject lines and formats. A lot of this will depend on your style but the more clear you are about your boundaries the easier it will be to clue in others about them.
  2. Explain Your Boundaries. Don’t hide your boundaries. Once you know what they are educate others about them. You cannot have any power over them if you don’t speak up. Tell your clients what’s up, what you expect and how you work. Then expect the same from them. When there is open communication about these topics, the relationship is markedly richer.
  3. Enforce Your Boundaries. If you identified a boundary, explained it to your client/customer, and yet they still missed the mark it’s important that you address it appropriately. There’s no need to skirt the issue. There’s not need to let things slide. Doing that often leads to inflated emotions down the road when it gets out of hand. Deal with it immediately and move on. You will both win.
  4. Assess Your Boundaries. Boundaries don’t have to be set in stone. When you create a boundary but it’s simply not working, don’t hang on to it. Change the rules. Do what works. Just be sure that you let the people it impacts know. Don’t assume they can read your mind. Go back and educate them before moving forward.
    We all need boundaries. Our kids want them. Our clients want them. And we need them to give ourselves the best chance for success. When you have no boundaries around money, you will find yourself struggling year after year to bring in (and keep) the kind of money you want.

Be sure to visit us every week for a new Business 101…our Experts are standing by!

If you have a great idea for a subject for us to tackle please, let us know. It could be featured in an upcoming Business 101!

Melani-Ward-Bottom-Bio-banner

Melani Ward, M.A., M.Ed, CCC is, among other things, a performance coach, counselor, blogger, runner, student, teacher, numerologist, recovering history addict, and a mom.
She started her own performance coaching business over 5 years ago but before that she spent 15 years teaching, counseling and coaching everyone from child victims of sexual abuse to college students to athletes.
Melani’s sole goal is to help women find their mojo through spirit, sport and service. She does this through her writing, counseling, performance coaching and hosting live Mojo Retreats in her hometown of Boulder, CO.

Melani is also the owner of Good Fun Marketing, a marketing consulting business where she helps highly successful women entrepreneurs who hate marketing to design and market their programs and products in un-hypey, un-slimy and un-boring ways via online marketing, new media, and blogging.

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3 Responses to “Business 101: The Business of Boundaries & Money”
  1. Andrea Vahl says:

    Oh boy – was this written exactly for me? I think so! Thanks Melani and Carla for these powerful reminders of how we should be treating our business – like a real business. You don’t go into a store and the owner immediately tries to figure out how much you can pay for that shirt. Why should it be that way in a service business? I’m working on drawing these lines in the sand. As I improve, my business improves.

  2. Andrea Vahl says:

    Oh boy – was this written exactly for me? I think so! Thanks Melani and Carla for these powerful reminders of how we should be treating our business – like a real business. You don't go into a store and the owner immediately tries to figure out how much you can pay for that shirt. Why should it be that way in a service business? I'm working on drawing these lines in the sand. As I improve, my business improves.

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