There’s a lot of well-intentioned talk about setting boundaries in business. Boundaries are critical for healthy businesses and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, a lot of Instagram posts lack the nuance to help people navigate real life. In this post, we take a look beyond why boundaries are important to the complications that arise when we try to put them into practice. And, of course, we share three of our favorite tips for setting yourself up for success.
Why Setting Boundaries in Business is Crucial
The biggest reason why setting boundaries in business matters is that it makes business sustainable. Boundaries enable you to create something long-term that gives you the resources you need, including time to rest. When you run your own business, you could work 20 hours a week or 80 hours a week. There’s no one to set your schedule for you, so it’s easy to barrel towards burnout. Boundaries around your time and energy help prevent that.
Setting boundaries in business helps you avoid scope creep, too. Scope creep is when you take on a project to find that, over time, more and more gets added to your plate. Sometimes you end up with a much bigger project than you initially signed up for, or the additional services fall outside of your wheelhouse. Scope creep can complicate working relationships, lead to dissatisfied clients, and contribute to burnout. Again, boundaries are a safety rail protecting against these problems.
When Boundaries Get Hard to Build and Maintain
Even when you know how important setting boundaries in business is, they can be hard to implement. If you’re struggling to figure out what parameters are most supportive to you, give yourself grace. There are two common reasons that entrepreneurs have trouble figuring out boundaries
1. Histories of trauma impact our businesses.
We’re all humans with lifetimes of experiences that we’re bringing to our businesses. A trauma-informed approach to business is especially helpful here. We often talk about it in relation to marketing and client experience. It applies to how we take care of ourselves in our businesses, too, though.
Maybe you had a previous job where you were made to feel like you owed your employer everything – all your time, personal information, wellbeing. We both worked for charter schools where we were expected to give up weekends, evenings, and vacation time to work. People who pushed back on these demands were made to feel like they didn’t care enough. That kind of toxic work environment can make it hard for entrepreneurs to design healthy businesses later on.
Personal relationships can impact our approach to setting boundaries in business, too. It’s easy to think that relationship trauma only impacts relationships, but it can manifest itself in all kinds of ways.
2. Social media adds to the pressure.
Regardless of your generation, the pressure to share on social media can be a bit overwhelming. Some coaches appear to share everything with their audiences. (We promise it’s more curated than it looks, even for many chronic oversharers.) An element of privilege comes into play here. For entrepreneurs who hold marginalized identities, sharing personal information on social media isn’t always safe. Trolls aside, some people are just more private than others. That’s ok! Setting boundaries in business gives you the chance to honor those parts of yourself.
3 Tips for Building Better Boundaries in Business
We know why boundaries are key to a sustainable business – and why they can be challenging. So how do you create and maintain healthy ones? These three tips will help you on your journey.
1. Build your boundaries into your systems.
Take stock of what you already know about yourself. Do you work best if you limit the number of calls you schedule in one day? Do you have family obligations that make evening meetings hard? The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you get to design your business around those needs. This is a big reason we believe entrepreneurship can be great for neurodivergent folks who struggle in typical 9 to 5 jobs.
2. Notice how you’re feeling about your clients.
When it comes to our work, the ideal is to live in a place of gratitude. It’s not possible to feel that way all of the time. We can’t control every situation we encounter, but boundaries in business can help mitigate issues. If you find yourself feeling bitter about your work or your clients, it might be time to reevaluate your systems. Ask yourself if there’s a way you can adjust your services or systems to avoid that feeling in the future.
3. Practice communicating your boundaries from onboarding onward.
You can create the best boundaries in the world, but their success hinges on your willingness to communicate them. If you’re a service provider, start with your onboarding process. Tell clients exactly what to expect, and they’ll be less likely to ask for something that doesn’t align with your offers and needs.
If you’re interested in setting boundaries in business, we’re guessing that you want to build a business that’s ethical and sustainable in the long term. In our Patreon community, we share monthly masterclasses on trauma-informed marketing, business for neurodivergent entrepreneurs, photography, and more. Join our community of ethical entrepreneurs!