While you wear many hats as an entrepreneur, setting boundaries can save you time and safeguard your personal life from sinking into everything business. It also allows you time to think how you can grow the business. However, setting boundaries during the initial phase of a business can be challenging since your main focus is building a client base and portfolio for your business.
We asked entrepreneurs how they set boundaries and here’s what they had to say;
#1- Set clear expectations
Boundaries—something that has and will continue to evolve throughout my business journey. In the beginning phases, I kept repositioning my boundaries and compromising the brand of my company to land more clients. It never felt right, because I knew I was worth more. It was within the last few months that I have owned my worth as a business owner and as a company. Setting hard boundaries has been the best thing for my business because my expectations are clear and clients respect that and even more so want to work with me. Without boundaries, you are opening opportunity to be taken advantage of. Stay on the course and be consistent—the right clients will come!
Thanks to Ría Safford, RiOrganize!
#2- Using three techniques
One of the biggest struggles that we as entrepreneurs have is remembering that we are not our business, and our business is not who we are. Yes, they are closely intertwined, and perhaps the success of one depends on another. However, when I was able to separate my personal happiness from my business performance, I found myself making more rational decisions that were both calculated and analyzed. In order to reach this point in my life, I implemented three techniques that I still practice to this day: First, I surround myself with mentors. Entrepreneur networks have allowed me to remind myself that others are going through the same trials and tribulations that I do. This helps me to feel more grounded and present in my challenges. Secondly, I exercise regularly. Typically, I exercise 5 days a week at 6am, alternating between Yoga and high-intensity interval training. For me, this is a stress management mechanism that allows me to think clearly. Lastly, I leave my professional challenges out of my relationship with my loved ones. We all get stressed, and we all have things going on. But the energy I choose to bring home is focused on love, laughter, and joy. At the end of the day, I believe you can make the choice to be happy, no matter how difficult the day may have been.
Thanks to Arjun Jolly, adQuadrant!
#3- Clear and direct communication
I think setting boundaries is a great way to show respect for yourself and the value your time. If you don’t set clear boundaries with your clients or staff, no one is sure when they are crossing them. Be clear and direct in all communication. If a client asks you to do something that is outside the scope of your contract, let them know politely. I find that most people are considerate and appreciate the clear lines. A difficult lesson I learned a few years ago was that “being busy and being profitable is not the same thing.” Be mindful of how you spend your time. If you don’t respect your time, no one else will either.
Thanks to Fauzia Burke
#4- Pausing to unplug and focus on self-care
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine and to feel glued to your smartphone, so I set boundaries by pausing to unplug and focus on self care. I go for a walk, run, or do Pilates to get active and naturally re-energize myself all over again.
Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!
#4- Know your priorities
One of my major reasons for wanting to work for myself was to have the flexibility to work when I wanted to. As a surfer, having a corporate job just didn’t cut it. Nature doesn’t mind whether it’s the weekend when it sends good waves. The amount of times I would realise that the best surf of the month was coming in the middle of a Tuesday morning board meeting finally pushed me to start my own company, driven by, amongst other things, the hope of setting my own schedule. As an entrepreneur time is your greatest asset. It’s critical to put in some long hours when starting out but many of us find that this isn’t something that is easily sustainable long term. When starting out I didn’t appreciate just how busy I would be! The dream of disappearing off to surf when the conditions were right has indeed happened to an extent but finding that balance between working hard and getting to switch off when necessary is something that I am still working on getting right. I believe the key is in knowing your priorities and setting these firmly before you begin. I then make sure I am reviewing these regularly to ensure I’m being true to myself, and those priorities. I will sometimes want to work 20 hours straight when I am inspired or really need to take care of something that just won’t wait, but ultimately, for me, my relationships always comes first. I know that I will always put those dear to me in font of business, it’s just who I am.
Thanks to Will Manders, Zoonibo Fashion!
#5- Say no
Saying No Is A Good Thing – Your team will kill you if you let them. Having healthy boundaries and know that saying no is a good thing. Don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Keep driving towards your vision, and know that team members will come, and others will go.
Thanks to Josh Lannon, Warriors Heart!
#6- Being aware of where I am needed and where I am not
When I think about setting boundaries, the first thing that comes to mind is setting boundaries for myself. One of the most consistent challenges as the founder of a startup is understanding and accepting your own strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we are great at, and others we struggle with, but not all of us can admit that there are some things we just shouldn’t be doing. Growing a company is often compared to raising a child. We want to involved in every last detail and minutiae, and make our opinion known in every decision. This turns out to be counter productive. As a founder, I care deeply about our businesses. So to me, when it comes to boundaries, I want to be aware of where I am needed and where I am not.
Thanks to Shinggo Lu, U GIT GUD!
#7- Limiting calls
Running your own business differs in some major ways than working for someone else. When I worked for others, I had no problem giving advice and having long lunches explaining my industry. Now that I run my own, it’s really important to say no to those phone calls, coffee requests and lunches. My first year in business, I gave away hours and hours on meetings that were actually brain picking sessions. I’ve learned to ask the person kindly what is it I can help with and to please send an email that I’ll respond to shortly. If they ask for a call, make sure to set a time limit on the call, 20 minutes for example. Personally, I love helping people and love teaching them what I’ve learned. But 1.5 hours later on a call, you’ve lost time and giving someone else your decades of knowledge.
Thanks to Tanya Bershadsky, Casting influence!
#8- Little escapes from the grind
Work/life balance is a tough issue for entrepreneurs. Being connected through apps and mobile devices means you never leave the office. And to be honest, work rarely is not top of mind. I do my best strategic thinking on long hikes with my headphones on and no one to bother me. I used to work on vacation as well. Stopped that a few years ago. I also CrossFit, which makes it impossible to worry about work when you are trying to catch your breath. So, little escapes from the grind keep you sane. If you trust the team you have built, the role of the CEO should be making sure they have what they need to succeed. It has been hard to let go, but if you want to scale and create a real business, it is a key transition.
Thanks to Lee Reams II, TaxBuzz!
#9- A number of ways
It’s very hard to separate personal life and work when you are at home if you don’t have a set schedule. I often find myself working through at dinner time and skipping dinner. It’s important to; Have a set schedule and stop working as if the office doors are closed. Update your messenger away status to show people you are away or offline. Update your away message during lunch times. Communicate your work hours with people in the office. Take breaks as if you would at work. Let all message gather in the inbox and never answer outside of work hours, this telling them you work outside of traditional hours. Never use personal computer/phone when you are working from home.
Thanks to Kevin Tash, Tack Media!
#10- Internalize the concept of diminishing returns
A limit on their work and a clear separation between their work and personal lives. This easy to say, but difficult to do in practice. The only way I’ve been able to get myself to follow these rules is to internalize the concept of diminishing returns. That 13th hour of work isn’t productive. Not only is it not helping your business, it then makes thing pile up in your personal life (and make you feel more guilty!). The key, in my opinion, is to apply yourself to the most important things early in the morning and then, no matter what, understand that you have to leave work even when there are fires to put out! (I borrowed that last phrase from Reid Hoffman — it’s too accurate to business owners.)
Thanks to Safa Mahzari, Alluxo!
#11- Put the working conditions in writing
I learned to set my boundaries as a business owner early on. As a blogger for companies, I’ve had a lot of instances of scope creep on projects I worked on. Because of this experience, I learned to put my part of the collaboration in writing – typically in contract form that both parties sign. If I do not include a contract with each client project, the clients will try to put more and more work on my shoulders until I get nothing done for them. Usually, they ask me to write a certain amount of blog posts per month. They might then ask for graphic design or social media management on top of the blog posts. Without a contract that expressly states what work is being done on my end, I would have no proof of what it is we agreed to collaborate on. That is how I set boundaries as a freelance blogger.
Thanks to The Fearless Gamer Chick
#12- Put time for yourself
I started a global branding and marketing firm out of my home 16 years ago and for the first few years I worked all the time. I realized it was not sustainable, effective or smart and if I did not pace myself or take vacation I would burn out. I had to set boundaries so I started blocking time to exercise, I turned off the computer at a reasonable hour (vs. working until midnight regularly). I even took a vacation. My business did not suffer, in fact we kept going strong and continued to grow. I started treating myself as well as I did my best clients because I realized if I was not at peak performance I would not be as creative, energetic or at my best every day. A coach friend of mine told me to set an alarm for quitting time to turn off my phone and computer and respect it. Put time for yourself on your calendar and treat it like an important meeting because it is. I am in marketing I am not a heart surgeon, no one dies if I don’t call or e-mail them back until tomorrow.
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#13- Four rules
I have four rules that I use to make sure that I abide by the boundaries I have set for myself. Be present – If I can’t be present with my family, when working with my clients, or working on my business I make a point of stepping back to refocus and then I go back to work; Keep my business and personal lives separate – I make sure to “turn work off” and enjoy my reasons I for stepping out into the world of entrepreneurship – my family and freedom; Give myself permission to pause before responding to clients and business contacts – Although this one is hard for me, taking a breath before responding to a call, text, or email gives me time to both digest and formulate a well thought out response and therefore improves my personal interactions; This is my favorite, build in time for “self care” – This is a buzzword right now and for good reason, and for good reason, it is very necessary. When building in this time, I don’t define what it is I will do. Depending on how much time I have, I may curl up and watch a documentary, go for a walk, or indulge in float therapy. I make sure to take the time to recharge my battery and therefore, care for myself. There are times when I want to “bend my rules” but I remember why I put them in place and how important they are to me, which allows me to keep my focus in the many roles I fulfill.
Thanks to Kyana Brathwaite, KB CALS – Caring Advocacy & Liaison Services!