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No Mercy Business Podcast with Emily A Woodruff


Sep 11, 2022

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Hello. Thank you so much for being here with me another day, another week, I am so excited to chat with you today. I wanted to pick up where we left off the other day about setting business boundaries. And I know we kind of started talking a little bit about what that even means and what that could look like in your daily business life.

So, in, in my world, I encounter a lot of people who are, yes, men. Yes, women , they are people pleasers. They want to do everything they can to make the other person happy. And it doesn't matter. If that puts their business or their time or their family at risk. And that's what I wanna talk to you about. So setting business boundaries, this can seem like a huge challenge for so many of us, especially when we run service based businesses like graphic design or social media managers, or.

You know, web developers, content, creators, a photographer, anything, a, a salon owner, anything along those lines, anywhere that you're providing a service where you are giving yourself as part of, as part of their, their final item, their final product, it can seem so difficult to have to cut ties in some areas and to.

Absolute boundaries. So here's, here's just a look into that. I, I just wanna discuss that with you today. So it's really easy to, first of all, it's really easy to overlook your own needs while you're in the process of trying to fulfill the needs of your clients. And that is why it's so important to protect your time and your energy as a service provider.

Setting boundaries doesn't mean you're turning down opportunities or letting down your clients. It doesn't mean that you still can't provide a memorable experience while also protecting your time, your mental health, your space, your energy, your everything setting boundaries is vital to your business.

As someone who owns and operates their own small business, not only are you responsible for your own. But you have also been tasked of managing client expectations. Um, you might find yourself saying yes to requests, even if they don't really align with your goals or your services, just because, you know, it'll make the other person happy.

If you lack boundaries, you're probably gonna find yourself in a place where you might compromise your own values and that. Can lead us into a whole different discussion. You might end up letting the clients take the lead and letting them dictate which way your project is gonna go. And that is most likely going to end in your deadlines being lost and off the rails and off the charts and unmanageable.

When you set boundaries that work for you. You end up creating a sustainable business that can make an impact on your clients and yourself. It allows you to stay passionate. It allows you to stay eager and excited to keep doing the work, and it helps you to build a better relationship. Helps you to build trust helps you to create memorable client experiences, and it helps you to manage your time easily.

Boundaries help your business survive and thrive your clients. Appreciate your commitment to providing a streamlined experience for sure. A lot of times. And we kind of touched on this before. A lot of times it's mostly just our fear of setting boundaries that, that holds us back. There's something inside of us that tells us.

It's not okay to stand up for what we want. It's not okay to stand up for ourselves. It's not okay to, to declare work hours or to say, no, I'm not taking this on today. That's not true. That's a lie. There are several times. And I've, I've shared about this before. Um, in my virtual assistant work that. I'm very upfront.

If we have family things going on, or if I get home super late or recently I've been dealing with some medical things and I I've just had to say, I just can't today and I'm not gonna be able to be here for you. I'm not available tonight. If it's an emergency, please let me know. But aside from that, I'm, I'm just not available.

And every single time they're AC. As long as you stay in the know with the other person, they usually don't care. So I wanna talk to you about some signs that your boundaries aren't strong enough, as you know, there's definitely some warning signs for when your boundaries aren't strong enough. And the most obvious one of those is just the overwhelming feeling of stress. It doesn't mean you have to be completely burned out.

It doesn't mean that you have to be going haywire. It just means that stress and anxiety might become more frequent in your day to day at your job than it used to. That's a really good indicator that you need stronger boundaries in your business. When you don't set these boundaries, you are telling your client that they are running the show when your client gets to make decisions for you.

And when your client makes, makes the schedule and determines how often you're gonna work and, and expects you to do things, whether they're within your scope of work or not, you're letting them run the. You're saying yes to every single demand and this really results in overwork on your end, unrealistic expectations and never ending projects.

It's really important to remember that your client hired you for a particular reason. And just in case you didn't know it wasn't to spend their time running your business for you. Setting realistic client expectations before you work together is vital. So something you can do is create a welcome packet.

You can establish boundaries and determine if you guys are a good fit. I highly recommend having a conversation before going into a contract with them, like a real conversation, not just emails back and forth, or a text message here or there. Sometimes just talking with each other is enough to establish.

whether you guys are a good mesh or not. I always suggest letting people know what your preferred contact method is. I am somebody who I have multiple jobs. I'm pretty busy.  um, I do not accept work via messenger or text messages. I need everything to be in an. Because I'm always in different places like physically in other places, I can't always be at my computer.

So when I do come, come back and I have time to work and I'm sitting down to do my work. All of my tasks are laid out for me in my email. That way in that way, I know that our most recent string of conversations, if there is an action item, it's in an email, one of my clients. Frequently forgets that I, I just don't accept work requests via messenger.

I have no problem going over little things or checking in with each other on messenger. That's actually preferred like to chat and just clear some things up, but work requests have to come through email. So she will send me a message and I'll say, Hey girl, , I'm not gonna share their names. Um, Hey, you know, This sounds great.

Please send me an email, a detailed email with what you're requesting from me. I, I don't wanna be responsible for, for losing track of it. If it stays in this message, please email me. And every time it's like, oh right. I'm so sorry. I forgot. It's in our contract. Most of the time they'll do it. And most of the time they appreciate it because they know that they're setting you up for success too.

They are typically the one that is asking you outside of what your contract has already laid out. So you're just reminding them of a boundary that you have in place. And that is a good thing. When you, when you lack strong boundaries, a lot of times it's gonna lead to you losing profits. You're gonna end up spending extra time, extra money.

You're gonna shortchange your other clients and you're gonna end. Not coming out on top because of it. It's really great to wanna go above and beyond for your clients, but you have to do so within reason, a lot of people follow the principle of under commit and over deliver. And I'm all for that, but you have to do it within your means.

You can't over commit every single time to every single client and expect yourself to not be burned. Or expect yourself to gain extra money because you're giving more than what they paid for. You are an expert at what you do, giving away too many things for free can undervalue your work. And you're setting a precedent for future clients who expect the same exact perks.

A lot of different types of services are they're. They're very well perceived. If you can define packages like service packages based on what your clients frequently request more of anything that requires more than what your service packages have laid out will be issued a fee, unless you plan on offering extras or bonuses to sweeten their experience.

My philosophy is usually to have everything completely laid out and. Here's package a, B and C a includes, the smallest amount B has a little more C has a little more, if you need anything past that, here's my hourly rate or, or task rate, because certain things I just don't do hourly rates for, and they can expect that.

So that, so then if there is something that comes up and I say, Hey, you know, I know that things have been tough for you, or I. This is a really exciting time for you. I just wanna do this for you as a gift. Here you go. I can say that. And they had already expected to pay me. That's what sweetens our client experience.

If I'm able to just say no, I'm not gonna actually send you an invoice for that. That's where an impact can be made. So another indicator of, of having loose boundaries. Is not having enough time to work on your own business when you are constantly catering to your clients. It's really easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and forget what your vision is.

As a business owner, building your business matters just as much as building your client's business, you need to focus on your business growth in order to get clients in the first place. If you need help auditing your business and evaluating what needs the most attention, shoot me an email. I would love to work with you on this, focusing on where you should be pouring your energy is really important and it's the only way that your business is gonna grow.

So now that we've talked a couple talked about a couple of indicators of what loose boundaries might look. Here's here's a couple of ideas on how to set better boundaries in your business.

The first one might seem really obvious setting office hours. And that doesn't mean that you,

it doesn't mean that you can't work outside of these it limits when people can reach out to. For your services setting office hours sometimes only means these are the times that I'm available to clients. I know as entrepreneurs, part of the reason that you're an entrepreneur is because you don't wanna wake up at 6:00 AM or because your kid has a play at school today at one 30, and you wanna be able to go and not have to take a vacation.

To go to a 45 minute presentation where little Jimmy's not even looking at the right person and he forgot the right color shirt. You shouldn't have to miss out on a paycheck because your kid is doing something. Setting office hours strictly can mean. This is when I will accept work requests from my clients.

You can set auto responders. You can, if you have a Facebook page, you can and should indicate your office hours on there. You can simply reply and just say, Hey, I will get back to you in the morning on this. Thanks for reaching out. That's an incredibly polite way of saying I'm not available. I'm appreciative of your work.

We'll talk in the morning. This doesn't matter if you have an in person environment, or if you work from home online business owners need an need office hours more than anybody. And this way your clients know when to reach you and they don't expect anything outside of your, your written schedule. It's okay.

If they reach out, it just means that you don't have to respond.

Some people even put it in like. Their signature in their email. Thanks for reaching out. I allow myself 24 hours to respond to any service requests, something along those lines. Super easy, super informal, super informative. Another way to toughen up your, your boundaries is to use email templates. A lot of times you might notice yourself slipping up on boundaries based on your mood or circumstances that your client is in flexibility can really cause you to create new policies just out of thin air, which in turn undermines your personal boundaries can email responses or pre-written email template templates.

Can keep you from making exceptions for clients on a case by case basis, you can use things like onboarding email templates. You can set up responses for uncomfortable client situations. You can set up sales emails, and then a workflow of those to go on past that they really help to create structure in your business.

And they also hold your clients accountable and they protect you from sneaky clients who are trying. Get you to do more or to bend your policies in a way that you're not comfortable with.

So another way to, to protect yourself and protect your business from loose boundaries is to clearly establish your role when you welcome team members. When you welcome clients, another really great way to set business boundaries is to clearly establish your role. Protecting your time and energy really means to identify your, your ability to be the expert in that area and assigning everything else to the next person you would trust the next person who is best in your business.

Once you have clearly identified your key roles in your business, you can start outsourcing. Other important tasks, or you can start delegating them elsewhere, identify that you can, you can start doing this by identifying the areas where you need the most help without compromising your expert time. Make sure you make a list of non-negotiables so that you make sure that you don't regret not having them later.

Make sure that you respect the boundaries. Of the person you're hiring because they are running a business too. The best way to do this is to make a list. You'll probably hear me say that a lot, make a list of the most important tasks of your business and categorize them by things that only you can do versus things that somebody you trust could do for you spend as much possible time doing the tasks that only you can do.

It makes you even more. So you've taken my advice and you're ready to see what's gonna change. Here's the things that can happen when you have strong boundaries. When you have strong boundaries in your business, you make a space in your business for the things that set your soul on fire, you'll become more profitable and more purposeful when it comes to serving your clients.

 Founders give you the space to keep client work in a separate container. And that really makes it easier for you to manage the hours that you can build to them to manage the service that you are providing to them. And it just really helps you to keep track of everything. Overall, you'll start booking the right clients for your services.

By having boundaries. Also, something that I learned that's really important is to, to understand that not every person is your ideal client and you don't have to work with every person that comes your way. There are many times as a photographer. This feels funny to say out loud and to even really admit, but there are, there were many cases that, that I, I felt morally wrong by accepting certain clients.

Um, and I guess that's not even true in just photography, something that I, if I don't feel right in my heart and in my. That working with a client is beneficial or it is morally sound. I don't feel bad about doing that. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I usually will tell people straight up.

Hey, I appreciate you so much for reaching out to me. I am thankful for your inquiry. I'm so glad we got to talk. I just don't think that we would be the right team to work together. And I think that's enough to say I don't like your product. I don't like your lifestyle. Um, I don't like your, it doesn't mean that you don't like something it's I don't agree with, but you're still doing it in a really respectful way.

And you're still protecting your values and your business, and you're not compromising on. And it, it cuts things off in an early professional way so that they haven't wasted time with you, um, or set their hopes too high either. And I think that's okay because honestly, if I worked with somebody and they felt like my business, wasn't something that aligned with their beliefs.

So like, let's talk about my OI photography business. I have, I have a lot of friends. I have a. Um, business contexts that do not work with BWI photographers because they don't agree with it. They, they have moral objections to it. And I think that's awesome. I think it's fantastic that they are so strong in their beliefs and they're so strong on their morals that they don't want their name to be tied to something that could possibly question.

That's an example just of, of me being somebody who has been told. No, no, I'm not gonna work with you because I don't, I don't agree with that type of business. Um,

you'll learn, you'll learn more who your ideal client is, and you'll start to book more of the right clients more frequently.

It also is gonna help you to. The right services and pro I'm sorry to provide the right services to your client. Most of the time, your clients don't know what they need. They need you to guide them in the best way to make sure they're getting the, the, the best for their money

and setting business boundaries is gonna help you to find work, find time to work on your business. With the right boundaries in place, you can, you can start to differentiate between client work and your own work. The best part is once you're comfortable with your boundaries, you can start being more flexible here and there.

You can start time blocking and content batching, and making sure that you have time blacked out for special, important dates. To make sure that you're able to do all the things you need to. These are, these are really simple examples of how you can manipulate your business to work for you when you have solid boundaries in place.

The time to start setting boundaries is now at the end of the day, setting boundaries means you need to get serious about what really matters to you as a business.

Here's a couple other things. Um, just to keep in mind, as you are taking this advice in and working it into your own everyday business, remember that you are not success. I'm sorry. Remember that you are not responsible for the success of someone else's business, you, social media really plays into. How much other people think that hiring someone else on will just drastically change their business.

You are responsible for your piece of the work and the deliverable that you are providing them, but you are not responsible for the reach that their social media posts get. You are not responsible for the website clicks that their new logo brings to them. You are not responsible for what happens when somebody moves off of Instagram, you don't control the responsiveness of their website unless you're a web developer.

there's a lot of factors can, that can go into whether someone converts and you are only responsible for making sure that the top of your, your sales area performs the way that it is supposed. And not to mention the humanness on their end, if they deviate from the strategy and the, the tips and advice that you have given them, you can't guarantee the results of the content or of that service if they aren't carrying it out.

So just something to remember is that you are not responsible for the success of their business. Another super easy thing to implement is to not give your personal cell phone number out. A lot of people find this difficult, especially as entrepreneurs, because most of us work in our living room or, you know, a corner of our toddler's room or something, and don't keep a work phone and a personal phone, but there are tons of freeway to get a free phone number that can.

Convert over to your number. So you don't have to physically give out your actual personal phone number,

making sure that they know they don't have access to you. 24 7 is vital and not having your personal cell phone number is a great way to protect that if somebody wants to get ahold of you, they can do so during business hours in one of the methods of communication that. Offer and prefer. And then the last thing I would say is just to make sure that they know you can't be more passionate.

You can't care more about the project than they do. You cannot care more about their business than they do.

This seems unreal to even process because I know how much I care about the projects that I work on. And I know how much I care about my clients and the success of their brands. Once I'm done working with them, I will move calls around, I'll move appointments around. I will, you know, I'll do everything that I can to accommodate my clients because I care.

What came up with their families. And I care about what came up with X, Y, and Z. I think about the projects that I have on my plate. The second I wake up and until the second that I fall asleep, I strategize and dream and follow their content on all of my social media pro profiles in hope, for the best for them.

I pray for them. I want them. To achieve success, but I can't care more than them. I need them to partner with me on growing their business. I can't force them to use the branded content that I provide them. I can't force them to stop using 17 different types of fonts. I can't force them to only take on their ideal.

I can't, I can't be their mom, but if you want to see the best results, I need you to participate enthusiastically alongside me. And I need you to care more than I do.

I hope that this has been so clear to you. That boundaries are not just about me and my wants or you and your businesses wants. They can be, and they are about protecting your mental health and your longevity as a business owner, but they also protect your clients and your working relationship with them.

They protect your energy in a way that allows you to show up as your best, most effective self for the people who have trusted you with their business blank, whatever that service is, it enables you to have the most respectful. And productive business relationship as possible. And this is why setting boundaries and enforcing boundaries is so important to me.

So I'd love to know what kind of boundaries do you set in your business? Is it something that you struggle with? What could you work on? I would love it. If you would send me an email at hello, Emily, a woodruff.com or shoot me a DM on I. I'd love to know more about how any of this has impacted you. And I'd love to just follow up with you a little bit.

Thank you so much for being here today. I hope that you have an awesome, awesome day.