Does Your Business Have Boundaries or Preferences?

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are familiar with the idea of setting boundaries with your business. Of course, many of us laugh at the idea, because any successful entrepreneur knows that owning your own business requires a lot MORE work than people imagine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set strong business boundaries.

Here are some dos and don’ts for setting boundaries in your small business.

DO set expectations with your clients up front.

I suggest including something in writing as well as having a conversation about expectations. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a listing of your working hours, how long it will take you to get back to email, text, or voicemail, and a cancellation or returns policy.

Our clients want to know how to interact with us, and when we set boundaries, we’ve created a framework for successful interactions. This also avoids miscommunications, hurt feelings, or customer service failures.

DO set working hours.

Now, I know that travel agents and realtors say they are available 24/7. And I know that mompreneurs often choose their professions based on the flexibility of working hours. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set working hours. If you’re a travel agent, you can specify that after working hours you’re only available for emergencies. If you’re a creative genius who wants to work whenever your muse strikes, you can set working hours for the business side of your career. You can do this by setting a business meeting with yourself once a week: a time to do your bookkeeping, schedule your marketing, call clients, etc.

DON’T bluff about your boundaries.

This rule applies to all boundaries, no matter the situation. If you rescue a client from the consequences of her boundary violation, you’ve taught her that you don’t really have boundaries, just preferences. Whenever you set a boundary, make sure you are comfortable with every possible outcome. IE, if you aren’t comfortable charging a client for a last minute cancellation, don’t have a no refund policy. This is the best part of owning your own business: You can make a lot of the rules yourself!

DON’T apologize for having boundaries.

As women, we are all familiar with our compulsion to apologize, no matter what. But when you apologize for your boundaries -“I’m sorry, but I can’t take client appointments after 8:00 PM,” or “I’m sorry, but I don’t accept Amazon gift cards as payment,” – you send the message that you are not a professional. Nothing says “I’m an amateur” like apologizing for having limits and boundaries.