As an artistic person, I’ve always rebelled against structure and routine, believing it stifled creativity and blocked my flow of inspiration. My highest creative expression seemed to thrive after ten pm or a bout of depression. However, business boundaries provide the container I need to be productive, focused and give me a more balanced life making time for the things I love—not sacrificing them as I had previously thought.
Many creatives struggle to narrow their focus or see projects through because of their infinite source of ideas and ability to see endless possibilities in nearly every situation. It’s a beautiful gift, but a business without borders leaves even the most well-intentioned solopreneur feeling overwhelmed, overworked and perhaps a little resentful.
If you struggle to say no or fear letting your clients down, here are five things you can do to help you set better boundaries in your business so you can thrive, not merely survive.
01. Make a list of business boundaries you’d like to set
Take stock of what you’d like to change. Maybe you’ve come to realize that the way you’re working isn’t sustainable and boundaries need to be set. Or maybe you’re neglecting your own needs and not protecting your energy in your business and you know that’s not sustainable either. Start by making a list of the boundaries you want to set, for example:
- only taking on clients and projects that align with your strengths and goals (saying “no” to everything else)
- ending client calls on time (not allowing calls to go past the time you’ve set in your calendar)
- making self-care a priority (taking breaks throughout your day to recharge and reboot your energy)
- setting regular work hours or a consistent schedule (not allowing yourself to work ALL hours of the day and night)
- limiting your social media time to ‘x’ minutes per day
- letting go of clients who are stressful to work with or don’t respect you and your time (it’s okay to bless them and say farewell)
- creating offers your audience want (not what you think they need), so you can focus on the things that’ll grow your business and create a sustainable income
- raising your rates so you feel less overworked (you deserve to be compensated fairly for your time, skill and experience)
- stop answering emails all hours of the day (and weekends) by responding during regular work hours only
- dedicating one or two days per week for client calls/content creation/coaching/etc. to increase your focus and afford more time for the backend business work that falls to the wayside when life gets busy (further entangling you)
- saying no to personal meetings and phone calls during work hours, and
- taking a vacation and leaving your laptop at home.
02. Clarify your motivation for setting the limit
If you’ve got a big list of boundaries you’d like to set in your business, start by implementing the ones that are aligned with your values. This also helps you understand why it’s crucial to establish the boundary in the first place.
For example, you may be tempted to respond to that email from a client that came in at 2 pm on a Saturday, but if spending less time on a screen, and being present with your family on the weekends is important to you, then it helps to understand the deeper motivation behind it so you can stick to it.
Look back on your “limits list” and ask yourself, why does this matter? What value does this honour if I set this limit for myself?
03. Pick one new limit to implement
If you try to implement all the changes in the first week, you won’t do it. Pick one or two boundaries that you feel will have the greatest impact. You could also start with the easiest ones to establish but those may not be the most important which is why I suggest going for impact instead.
Setting better business boundaries should alleviate the overwhelm, not add to it.
04. Be clear and open about the changes
You can help yourself and others be successful at this by communicating the changes you’re making. Setting better business boundaries may require you to “re-train” people how to treat you.
As an empath in business, I have a hard time saying no and letting people down. Sometimes this can lead to resentment because I’ll take on more responsibility than I’ve been paid for which means I have less time to spend with my family or working on creative projects I enjoy.
Chances are if your clients knew you felt that way, they’d stop. They’re simply doing what you’ve taught them to do. This goes for family, friends and other people in your circle.
If you’re getting a lot of pushback, you can share your motivation for making the change and this will likely soften their reaction to the change. Of course, you’re not responsible for how others react, and setting boundaries for yourself requires no explanation, but the idea is to think of ways you can set everyone up for success.
05. Practice, practice, practice!
Setting boundaries, especially if you’re an empath or a chronic people pleaser (like myself), can be challenging so be patient with yourself and the process. Implementing changes in your business can take some time to get used to.
As you work with each limit, keep practising. It’ll become easier the more you do it. Expect some pushback and know it’s par for the course. Saying no, and setting limits is an act of self-compassion but can create a lot of resistance for yourself and others at first.
If you want to create and grow an authentic online presence that nourishes you both spiritually and financially, establishing better business boundaries is essential for maintaining your joy, energy and sustaining challenges that come your way.