Setting Boundaries – 5 Ways to Enforce your Business Boundaries

Are your clients driving you crazy with last minute requests? Do you find yourself saying, “Yes” to projects that you really don’t have the time or energy to take on? Are you tired of work demands taking over your personal time?

It’s about time to get tough with your boundaries…

Boundaries. You know, the invisible line you draw in the sand between what you will and won’t do? The problem isn’t just your boundaries – chances are you know exactly the rules you want to play by. Your lack of boundaries is merely a symptom of a different problem: confidence.

The trouble is you lack the confidence to enforce the rules. Instead of standing firm when people get pushy, you bend the rules because you are secretly afraid that if you enforce them, your clients will say no and refuse to work with you (or even worse, not like you).

There’s a difference between polite and pushover…

Don’t tell me that you are just being nice and “doing them a favor this one last time” because we both know it’s always the same people who are asking again and again. There is a huge difference between polite and pushover (and polite ended about four ridiculous requests ago).

Polite is the quiet confidence to smile and say exactly what you want to say, and make the rules of engagement clear. Pushover is when you bend the rules to the point of breaking them – all in the name of ‘customer service’. That’s why boundaries require confidence.

The confidence to politely to let the people around you know that they need to respect the rules. The confidence to decide what is or isn’t a priority starting at 5 o’clock on a Friday. The confidence to enforce the rules without feeling the need to apologize or even explain.

5 Ways to Enforce your Business Boundaries

#1: Last-minute Requests – Sometimes your clients may call on you for last-minute help, which in a service business isn’t a problem. The trouble is when last minute become the norm and you can’t manage your project load because you are constantly rushing for the chronic offenders who just can’t seem to get it together.

The boundary fix: “Just so you know, we normally charge an additional rush fee. I’ll let it go this time, but now you know for next time.” and show the rush charge on their invoice with the amount canceled out.

#2: Managing Client Roster – Sometimes it seems scary to put a new client on hold until you have time in your schedule to take on their project, but it’s critical from a quality (and sanity) control perspective.

The boundary fix: “My client roster is full for the next , but I’d be more than happy to meet with you to discuss your project and get you in our calendar.”

#3: Scope Creep – More often than not as you get into a project, you discover more ways you can help your client. A little extra here, a little bit there and before you know it, you are doing double the work.

The boundary fix: Know when to put on the brakes when it comes to doing extra work. “That is beyond the original scope of work and will require additional fees. I will send over an estimate of the additional amount required to complete those tasks.”

#4: Rules of Engagement – It’s ENTIRELY up to you how you want to work with your clients.

The boundary fix: “Before getting started, we require a signed proposal and a deposit.” and nothing (and I mean NOTHING) gets done until that step is complete.

#5: After Hours Work Calls – Just because your clients work late at night, on the weekends or what seems like 24/7, doesn’t mean you need to. Be clear with what hours you are available to take business calls and respond to email.

The boundary fix: Actions speak louder than words so if you happen to be up at 4 o’clock to catch up on work, save your replies to client emails as a draft and send during your office hours.

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About Carla Young
Carla Young, MOMeoMagazine.com Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched MOMeoMagazine.com to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!

Comments

8 Responses to “Setting Boundaries – 5 Ways to Enforce your Business Boundaries”
  1. Ali Davies says:

    Boundaries, both professional and personal, is one of the biggest challenges I hear my own clients talk about. As you point out, a lot of it is about having the confidence to teach people around us the “rules of engagement”. I think also that fear plays a big factor and the epidemic of not being able to say “no”.

    Getting clear on what our boundaries are and what actions we will take if they get overstepped is a very powerful skill to have in the tool box.

  2. Jackie Lee says:

    Carla ~ this is a FANTASTIC article. I particularly love the boundary fixes you offer at the bottom. Sometimes it’s easy to know you’re crossing the boundary ~ having the words to say it to the client may be something else entirely. Thanks for the push in the right direction.

  3. Anonymous says:

    LOVE this post! Boundaries are so important, whether you are wearing your mommy hat, your business cap or your spouse fedora… having clearly defined limits is essential to success!

    The one boundary issue that I have personally struggled with (up until recently) is #2 – managing the client roster. I wanted my business to grow and bring in more revenue, but I was tapped out in terms of one on one time… so my solution was to add a passive revenue stream and beef up the marketing. The result… enough revenue to equal 3 more private clients, without the additional hours of time!

    Sometimes we have to think outside the box (or step out of our most comfortable shoes) in order to see the possibilities. It is just as important to be clear about your vision as it is to be clear about your boundaries. I love this post because it not only gives you some ideas about how to solve these common issues, but it simply gets you to think about where the boundaries lie in your business (life) and how these boundaries may actually be holding you back from achieving your goals.

    Great post. Thank you!

  4. Carla Young says:

    You are spot on, Ali! One of the best lessons I learned was how to be upfront and frank with people and say, “Look, mama needs a new pair of shoes so I am going to have to charge you for that expertise!”

  5. Carla Young says:

    You are absolutely right – boundaries are necessary for EVERY aspect of our lives (because everyone in our lives seems determined to push them)! I love that you had the confidence to limit your one-on-one client time and found a way to substitute that revenue!

  6. Carla Young says:

    You are welcome, Jackie! One of my favorite masterminding activities is brainstorming and sharing how each of us handle common client scenarios and challenges. Your entrepreneurial peers are your BEST resource for stuff like that!

  7. This is so critical! Especially #5. They all know I’m up and working. They can see me on Facebook! I can see how these fixes are seriously going to bump up my bottom line and my time off! Thanks!

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