I didn’t have boundaries in my business for a long, long time. This ultimately left me feeling exhausted, often. I over delivered. I answered queries in the evenings and on weekends. These were times I really should have been switching off and resting.
I also had terrible boundaries with myself too. In terms of when I was on social media answering questions. My working hours – at the time I was working 10 hours a day. I’d have jam-packed weeks, then feel burnt out by the end of it.
Boundaries are essential in our businesses. It allows you to protect your energy and deliver to your highest standards. But it also means you can set clear expectations for your customers, so they understand what they’re getting when they work with you. Everyone really does benefit when you set boundaries in your business.
Your working hours
This may seem obvious, but this is about setting your working hours. Consider when you actually want to be working in your business. We need to be strict and stick to the boundary you set yourself.
Maybe for you, your ideal hours are from 10am to 3pm, five days a week. And perhaps you want to have your weekends free too. Maybe you know that at these times you’re able to show up most powerfully for your customers. When you hit 3pm, you clock off and don’t think about the business until the next day.
This does take some practice. I’ll tell you that now because this took me a few years to get to the point where I had strict working hours. And for me that means switching off entirely, not answering emails or DMs, not answering questions on social media when it’s evening or weekends.
This is about coming up with a work schedule that absolutely aligns with you. Then claim it, make a decision, make a choice, that this is when you’re going to work. Then communicate to your audience and potential customers that these are the times you’re available. It really is that simple.
How you want to show up
Consider how you want to show up online, and what’s going to most align with your personality and energy levels. Don’t feel like you have to do something in your business just because you know your peers are.
So for example, maybe someone you know is going live on Facebook every day or every week. Maybe they’re doing reels on Instagram and you’re thinking that doesn’t feel good for you.
Instead, think about how you want to show up. How you want to interact and engage with your audience online, and do that.
So for example, for me as an introvert, showing up on video consistently just doesn’t sit that well with me. Around five years ago, video was a big struggle. There was a time where I was absolutely terrified of being visible in that way and I avoided it for the first five years in my business.
Today I don’t have the confidence issue, but I know that doing video and especially going live, drains my energy. So instead I do it occasionally. But it’s not something that I want as a consistent marketing strategy in my business because it just doesn’t work for me. So think about what’s going to suit you. You don’t have to do the things that don’t bring you joy.
Consider when you’re going to be available to respond to emails and answer phone calls. When will you make yourself accessible to other people? Really think about that. And again, think about your working hours and your schedule as it will likely fall within that timeframe.
When I was first in business, I would answer emails at 9 or 10 o’clock at night. I was answering phone calls the minute they came through. It became exhausting to be on call all of the time, every day. I was even answering emails and phone calls when I was on holiday.
So get clear on when and how your customers can contact you. For example, are you happy giving out your mobile number and answering calls at any time because your mobile number is visible on your website?
A couple of years ago I removed my phone number from my website. People can no longer ring me up out of the blue. That can be hugely distracting. Especially if you’re busy working in your business. It can derail you. So instead, I invite people to book in for a zoom call, email me, or get in touch via the chat box on my website.
Be clear and set expectations for the people in your orbit.
Be clear on your deliverables
Don’t fall into the trap of over giving with the customers you work with. So for example, maybe you’re a dog trainer and you agreed on a six week package to support them with their new puppy. But actually you find that they’re asking questions every day via email which wasn’t included in the package. But you feel like you need to answer so you massively over deliver on what was initially agreed.
This can be the thing that ends up draining your time and energy, and can even make you a little resentful. Because then it ends up being a hell of a lot more work that’s piled on top than what was initially agreed at the price.
This is about tightening up your terms and conditions. And any of those contracts that you send out to new customers as well. Make it so obvious for people that there’s no way that they can misinterpret that.
It’s ok to say no when you want to
It really is ok to say no. This was a big problem for me during my first years in business. It got to the point where I had so many clients and my workload was off the charts, I’d still get people contacting me asking for support.
And instead of saying no, I’d squeeze them in where I could because I really wanted to help them.
You might have been in a similar situation. Especially when it comes to pets and their owner, it can feel horrible to send people away.
But sometimes it can be absolutely necessary to protect your energy. It’s ok to say no. You can give them the option to go on a waiting list, perhaps point them to an online course or membership you run so you can help them in a different capacity. Or the last resort, refer them on to a colleague. Maybe you already have some great relationships in your industry and you can refer work to each other. That’s a lovely thing to have in business.
What we don’t want if you’re already at capacity, is to squeeze people in where it’s eating into your time off relaxing, or going out and having fun.
Be strict on not giving out free advice
This may be more relevant to those of you that are dog trainers or behaviourists. You might get people hopping into your emails or DMs offloading their problems and asking to pick your brain. Which can end up with you forming lengthy replies for free which takes you away from serving paying customers.
This is a massive drain on your time and energy. And the best thing to do here is be strict with yourself and have a boundary process in place for this scenario.
When people do hop into your email inbox or into your DMS to ask for free advice, it’s okay to say no. Or you could say you understand the problem they’re going through right now and you’d love to help them. Tell them you can’t possibly answer this in five minutes, but here’s the link to book in for a consultation. Then you direct them to book in for a paid offer where they can benefit from your expertise.
You deserve to be paid for the amazing work that you do. So come up with your own system, your own process for dealing with freebie seekers. And don’t feel guilty for turning people away or inviting them to your paid service.
That was my six powerful boundaries that you can set in your business right now. Which will help you feel much less exhausted in your business, much less resentful towards the people that you work with. It means you can better protect your energy and ensure that you show up in the most powerful way and set those expectations for your customers right from the start.