Tonight, I want to talk to you about setting boundaries.
Now, this is a topic that I know is talked to death in the entrepreneurial world. I even had a sales expert lead a whole guest training (shout out to Katy Prince!) on it inside Click-worthy Creative Academy.
We all know how important it is to set boundaries. To teach people how to treat us. But I don’t think we talk enough about how tiring and downright awkward it can be.
Right now, I’m in a period of serious growth with my company. I have new leads consistently coming in every week, and many of my current clients are interested in signing on for bigger and longer contracts. I’m expanding my team to keep up with the demand. It’s an exciting time and one I certainly don’t take for granted since, as recently as a year ago, things were a lot different.
But growth also means more questions and requests and conversations and negotiations, and frankly – I’m tired.
I feel like I’m being pulled in 100 different directions. I’m constantly setting and upholding boundaries to maintain my health and sanity and ensure I can deliver on the work I’m taking on.
I’m saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ or ‘not like this’ more than I ever have before. It’s what I have to do, but I never thought it would be this draining.
I think this is because there’s not enough nuance in the conversations we have around boundary setting.
Sometimes you can set a boundary, and the person on the other side will immediately accept and say ‘works for me!’ and you can both ride off into the sunset together.
But more often than not, it’s an awkward shuffle of a dance. Both parties need to bring a decent amount of vulnerability and empathy to these conversations to make them productive, and it can take a lot of energy to keep your feelings in check and stay present.
I want to talk about this emotional element of setting boundaries because I think it’s part of why this practice is a lot easier said than done. And I think if we can all recognize just how stressful it can be, then we can give ourselves more grace during those times when sending that email or scheduling that call feels really freaking hard.
While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I did post my thoughts on Twitter and got some great responses.
Alana compared boundary setting to a muscle. “You have to use it a lot to get comfortable (which is half the battle). But if your overuse it, or it’s overextended, you’re in pain and take a while to recover (the other half of the battle, it seems).”
From this, I think we can take away that we should be easy on ourselves when we need to have a tough boundary-setting convo. Whatever self-care looks like for you, indulge a little more when you have to when you do boundary work.
Anne shared what works for her: “I’m starting with a focus on one boundary: I do mostly camera off calls now unless [the] client is included. I just can’t. I hate them, I hate being on camera, and I only own like 3 shirts anyway. So no. And somewhat surprisingly, no one has cared or called me out.”
I love this tip because I think it’s a good reminder that we don’t have to do all of the things. For example, if you know you have a couple of clients who email you after hours, maybe that’s the boundary you address this week, whether that’s creating a client guidelines document that you can send out to future clients or directly calling in the client in question for a quick chat.
For me, what works for setting or upholding boundaries is approaching them as conversationally as possible. Keeping an open dialogue with your clients can help with this. Be communicative and upfront with what you need, and try not to let things fester for too long. At the end of the day, how you run your business is entirely up to you, and some clients might not like how you operate, and that’s okay. Still, it’s important to understand your client’s needs so you can set boundaries that work for both sides or pivot your business to serve a different client base that would be more supportive of what you need to do your best work.
Phew? This was a heavy one, huh?
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading. I’d love to keep the conversation going. If you have any thoughts or tips you’d want to share, hit reply. I read them all and always respond!
’Til next week, friends!
Big (virtual) hugs,