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Boundaries in business – setting women up for success

As a female entrepreneur it is vital to set boundaries in business.
A happy female entrepreneur at work at her computer who has set boundaries in business

As a female entrepreneur it is vital to set boundaries in business. We are going to uncover some important reasons that you need to be setting boundaries in your business, explore some helpful tips of actions to take as of tomorrow, and understand how it will impact your business for the better.

The top reasons women want to work for themselves

Most ambitious self-employed women have come from corporate or salaried jobs. Moreover, there was a reason that they wanted to leave and to set up on their own. What are the most common reasons that women set up as female entrepreneurs?

  • Fed up with being told what to do, and when to do it – now you are calling the shots
  • Needing freedom and flexibility, working your own hours
  • Choosing who to work with rather than having clients forced upon you
  • Having more spare time to enjoy life
  • Doing something that makes you happy and pursuing a passion
  • Financial independence

Why female entrepreneurs need to set boundaries

The thing is, without clear boundaries, these reasons that we went into our freelance life in the beginning start to fade and blur. You can end up still being told what to do by less-than-ideal clients. You may find yourself striving to reach unrealistic deadlines set by clients who want things done ‘as soon as possible!’

A business woman talks on the phone to a client, setting boundaries so that everyone is clear with expectations

Perhaps you have found yourself working way too many hours late into the evening, and then when you lie in bed your mind is whirring. Additionally, you are feeling guilt creep in when you are out at the weekend, thinking you have too much work to be doing? Ultimately, you feel your passion for your once-loved work starting to slip.

These scenarios are so common for quietly ambitious women, who are often so programmed to over-achieve and to keep everyone happy at all costs. The result is burnout, exhaustion, and anxiety.

Do you recognise any of these attributes in your personality?

  • I am a perfectionist
  • I want to please everybody and not let anyone down
  • It is hard to say ‘no’
  • Often my own self-care gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list
  • I don’t take criticism very well and see it as a reflection of my failings
  • Can fall prey to imposter syndrome if not careful

If you have answered ‘yes’ to a few of these attributes then it is important for you to recognise the traits and note when they can become troublesome. Personally speaking, I can say ‘yes’ to the entire list and they have caused me to run into issues a few times. I am going to share my story with you so that hopefully you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes! Having dealt these difficult and stressful situations has made me stronger, and taught me valuable lessons.

Times I have learnt the hard way

Scenario 1 – The Old Boss

I got back in touch with a previous boss of a company where I worked when I was in my early twenties. During the time that I worked there I learned loads, and absolutely loved the experience. I worked hard, followed direction, ‘climbed the ladder’ and progressed. So, when I agreed to now work for my previous boss in my self-employed capacity, I made some ill-advised assumptions.
1. He will view me in a different way to when I was his employee because I am an entrepreneur in my own right. 2. We will work together with mutual respect.

Warning bells

  • He insisted that I drove to his office as he had to explain in person what was needed, and this couldn’t be done over Zoom. (In reality, could have been said over a 5 min phone conversation) This wasn’t just one time…this was each time he wanted to see me!
  • ‘This is an emergency and I need to have this project done for tomorrow’
  • ‘I know we agreed to work on that project, but I changed my mind and now I want this project done instead.’
  • I was being emailed in the evening with the expectation to respond instantly.

What were my mistakes?

  • I should have set clear boundaries as to my working hours and when I would respond to messages.
  • I should have been clearer on expectations about our working relationship BEFORE we began, so as not be treated like his employee
  • Get an agreement in writing, or a brief written before commencing any work.

Scenario 2 – A client with warnings

It’s not very often you get sent a potential client who comes with warnings! But I had been recommended to a woman who was renowned for causing scenes and being unpleasant to her staff…and even customers. Unfortunately, I was drawn into the fray by feeling sorry for the ‘poor, misunderstood’ woman. She had previously suffered let-down after let-down from her hosting company, email provider, website designer…

Warning bells

  • The sheer number of companies that she had worked with who she described as being ‘rubbish’
  • She asked for ‘something with pizzazz’ – but had no examples of anything that she had seen that she had ever liked
  • She ‘didn’t have time’ to understand how things worked, and just needed it done for her
  • She never gave feedback….and then waited until the last moment to criticize the design.

What were my mistakes?

  • I should have listened to the warnings straight away and just said no to working with anyone who has been unpleasant to others
  • In my attempt to people-please and help everyone I made my life miserable in working with her – it is ok to say ‘no’ when you are not aligned to a potential client.
  • Ensure that your client is as invested in the success of a project as you are!
  • Always insist upon having a clear brief and expectations laid out in advance.

What boundaries can you put in place?

This goes back to remembering why you went into this in the first place – freedom, flexibility, happiness, independence, pursuing your passion. Boundaries should be put in place to prevent you from falling back into old habits, but also to educate your future clients. By setting boundaries in business you will evoke respect, clarity and a calm working relationship with your clients. And if someone is not happy with your boundaries, are they in fact your ideal client at all?

What are your client days during the week?

You should ideally set aside a half or full day to be your business time where you sort out blog writing, social media planning, finances, self-education, etc. So be clear on the days that you keep aside for your own business, and which days you work with clients. Could this be written in the signature section of your email footer?

When is your time off in the week?

You absolutely need time off for yourself, and it really helps to schedule your self-care time. It may be an entire day off in the week, or perhaps you choose much shorter working hours for 5 days a week. In either case, stick to it and make it non-negotiable. Taking care of your physical and mental health is only to improve the impact you make in your business! Do your clients know when your time off in the week is? Make sure that you have told them, and so your ideal client will know not to expect a response from you during that time.

When do you take your holidays?

Another non-negotiable is taking holidays. I find that during my holiday time I am able to refresh myself and I return full of vibrancy, inspiration and ideas! If you plan in advance, it makes it easier to manage your time and your clients expectations. Taking a holiday is nothing to ever feel guilt about (gone are those days!) so be upfront with your clients, and let them know when you are away in advance. This could be through a newsletter/email that you sent to everyone, or as I have recently done – adding it to my email signature section. I am proud to still work term-time only, even though I no longer work at a school.

Responding to enquiries

Remember the days before mobile phones with their 24 hr alerts? Sigh…. It has slowly become an expectation that contact can be made at any time in the day (or night) and that responses should be almost instant. If you add Whatsapp and Messenger into the mix then people can see that you have read their message and are waiting for you to reply. They can even see if you are typing…!

Consider if you want to provide your Whatsapp or Messenger details to your clients at all. Maybe just to a certain few?
You could look to pre-program a response that thanks people for their message and gives a timeframe for responding. The other method would be to be upfront straight away about when you intend to look at messages, and when clients should expect replies. A dream client will respect the boundaries that you put in place.

It also comes down to you and your determination to not look in the first place! Do you need to have alerts for every email you receive? Can you be strict with yourself about assigning a certain time in the day where you are happy to read messages, and then a cut-off point for when you are not?

I’m not going to pretend that I have this all sorted…it continues to be a work in progress…but I know that if I look at an email outside of my working hours, it sets my mind whirring about how to help to how to respond. It’s best not to look past a certain time in the day.
A recent improvement has been for me to not begin each day with looking on my phone, but to have the mobile phone reside elsewhere in the house (more to come on positive mindset and morning routines another time).

Knowing your dream client

The two characters I shared with you earlier were not my ideal clients. These situations occurred earlier in my business when I hadn’t yet refined who my ideal client should be. Had I known who my ideal client was, I would have instantly recognised that these people were not them!
Nowadays, I have the strength to choose my clients that I wish to work with, hence I am blessed with working with such lovely people with whom there is mutual respect. I am so grateful!

Having clear messaging that speaks to your dream client on an emotional level will also mean that you will put off the not-ideal customers. If you are open, honest and authentic on your website and in social media you will actually repel certain non-fit customers…while attracting the right people.

Impactful branding is vital in communicating your personality and vision as soon as people come across you, and it’s amazing to see how you start to attract the right clients naturally – more information to be found here

Terms and Conditions

Get super clear in your terms and conditions about how you work and what you will and won’t provide. Also, layout your expectations of your client. If you expect them to respond in a timely manner, to give appropriate feedback within a set amount of time, complete a written brief in advance…. then you should have it all in writing. Get an agreement from your client before you being working together. If a situation arises you can then easily refer back to where they have agreed to your fair terms and conditions. Have these available on your website and be confident in referring people to read through them.

Top tips for setting boundaries in your business

Work with me

Would you love to transform your life by having an online business with standout branding? Would you love to attract your ideal clients through how they see your brand? 
I work with ambitious women who are ready to push themselves, are ready to make an impact and want to serve! Is that you? If so, let’s chat.

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