As an entrepreneur, you know that mapping out a successful business plan isn’t just about how many sales you’re getting or the profit numbers. You also have to bring in something else: boundaries in business.
Sure, having too few parameters may seem tempting when your goal is growth, but it will lead to nothing but chaos and disaster down the road. Think of boundaries like guardrails for a winding mountain road – without them, one wrong turn could send you careening off into the ditch!
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the importance of setting up clear-cut boundaries in order to achieve success in today’s business world. It might sound intimidating now (we know bringing structure can be hard!), but we promise that it doesn’t need to be overwhelming – as long as you have these key points on your side!
Why should you have boundaries in business?
Boundaries can help you not feel overwhelmed. They’ll help you feel more in tune with your business, and they’ll also make you a little bit more excited to show up to work every day.
Now, when you first start your business, it’s very easy to want to have boundaries in place, but you tend to be a little bit of a people pleaser when you first start your business. And trust me; I was the same exact way.
That’s just because you want to make sure that your clients are happy, but at the end of the day, your happiness is super important too. That is coming from somebody who has suffered from burnout multiple times.
We tend to have periods in Inkpot where we are very go-go and then periods where it’s a lot slower, and it’s either all or nothing a lot of the time. So having boundaries in place has been something that we’ve been trying to work on.
It is always a constant work in progress. So know when it comes to boundaries and everything, you are not alone.
Business Boundaries as an Online Service Provider
Don’t let clients tell you what to do
You really have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re the service provider, right? You’re the one providing the service. So you are the one that should be seen as an expert.
That means that you need to make sure that your clients know that you’re the expert and that what you say is coming from a place of experience, right? Because you’ve been working with many clients who have hired you for the same thing.
So your client should not be in a place where they can tell you exactly what to do unless you ask them. When it comes to the project and your recommendations, your client should not be walking all over you.
If you do have a client who is telling you what to do exactly, you can just politely remind them, you know, that you’ve worked with a lot of other clients in the same service, you know exactly what you’re talking about. Maybe you even have a degree related to it.
Just politely remind them that you do know what you’re doing. And, of course, at the end of the day, though, you do want to make your customer happy.
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Say no to what you don’t offer
Another boundary we have in business, and this one might seem super, super obvious, is saying no to things that we don’t offer.
Since we started offering blogging about a year ago, we’ve actually had a lot of people reach out to us for copywriting, which we don’t offer. We always actually recommend some other copywriters.
So when people do reach out to us for copy, for instance, since we don’t offer it, we straight up say, sorry, that’s not something we offer. We actually require copy to be done before we even start to design your site. But here are our recommendations, and we just kind of corral them towards the people that we really trust.
That is a strict boundary for us because we’re not going to start offering something that we’re not genuinely interested in, that we don’t think we could do super well. Because copy is not something either of us really feels that we’re good at because content writing (blogging) is very, very different than copywriting.
Don’t take on more than you can handle
Another one of the top boundaries in business is to not overschedule. This isn’t just for you and your own sanity but also for your clients because you really want to make sure your clients are receiving the best version of what they can possibly get from you.
I find that it’s always best to play around with your schedule a lot when you’re first starting your business to try to figure out what you can handle. Always start with less first, so take one project at a time first, and then you can try to layer on other projects at the same time.
As you hone in on your process and everything, you can figure out how you can layer your projects strategically. If you do ever find that you have overscheduled yourself, you can either just work later hours if you have that option, to still make sure that you get everything done by the deadline, or you can always just send a super honest email to your clients, depending, of course, on what your contract says you can do.
Be very careful because if you do take on too much you can end up burnt out and being burnt out is never fun.
Not giving too much away for free
Be careful not to give away too much for free. Of course, you can give away special tidbits and pieces of education in your social media, your marketing, your podcast, etc.
But just really make sure too, that if people are popping up in your DMs and asking very specific questions, make sure you’re not going out of your way to give away so much free content that people don’t really see the benefit in working with you anymore.
Work strictly during your work hours
Another boundary is to set a work schedule. And by this, I mean at least the days of the week that you’re going to be working.
So for the most part we tend to work on projects for clients Monday through Thursday and then Friday tends to be a heavy internal day. But it really depends on the week and everything like that.
You could also try to set very specific work hours. So I’ve tried to do this so many times and I just have to tell myself that at this point I think I’m just not meant to work certain hours because of course one of the freedoms of running your own business is having your own hours that you can work. I’d try to work from 9-5 which is such a corporate mindset, even though it’s not how I work best.
But trying to set at least days of the week and general times that you can try to work I think is good. Of course, there are some days where I’m just not feeling it when it comes to work, and on those days I’ll do other things throughout the day and then I’ll sit down and work at night.
Having a work scheduled an also help you have more of a social life because you’ll be able to tell people when you’re free to hang out.
Work with only clients whose values align with yours
Last but not least, and this is one that’s really important to us here at Inkpot is only working with clients who are in line with our own values.
And of course, our main value at the forefront, if you couldn’t tell by our rainbow branding, is inclusivity. That’s because we’re a queer-run web design studio. So we don’t want to work with people who aren’t going to use pronouns properly or who refuse to answer the pronoun question on our contact form or don’t see the point in pronouns, things like that.
So really try to only work with clients who are in line with your own values and that’s because too, you kind of have to think about who are you comfortable having your name attached to at the end of the day as well.
Because especially as a web designer, Inkpot Creative is normally at the bottom of a site credit when we build a site. So just try to think about who you’re okay with being attached to and that really goes back to your own values as well as your business values.
There you have it! This post was all about boundaries in business.
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KP (she/her) is the founder and designer behind Inkpot Creative, which was founded back in 2020. She specializes in Showit website design, blogging, and SEO. Over the years, she’s built custom websites for more than 50 photographers and has helped grow client’s monthly website traffic between 20% – 77.7%. When not designing, she can normally be found hiking in the mountains, working on her travel blog Volumes & Voyages, or trying to find the best iced chai in her city.