When it comes to your business, you need to be clear about who you are, what you do and when you work. You also need to be clear on who you work with and what’s expected during that relationship. This information helps you to form your business boundaries – and it’s these boundaries that help you AND your clients have a successful and beneficial two-way working relationship.
Are business boundaries important?
If you want to grow your business and have successful relationships with your clients, you both need to understand the terms of that relationship; this is why the boundaries you set with your clients are so important. They highlight everything, from the hours you work through to your preferred way of receiving client work files and requests.
Business boundaries also help you work more efficiently too. By clarifying your hours of work and the timescales involved, you minimise burnout and stress. Those boundaries are there to protect you and your health, as much as they are there to assist and protect those of your clients.
How to set your boundaries
So, how exactly do you set out boundaries in your business? Firstly, you need to write down a summary of:
- Who you work with – your typical client and/or business niche, the type of work you do (and don’t) deal with
- How you work – i.e. workflows and timescales, preferred methods of contact and file sharing, preferred ways of interacting with clients and scheduling meetings, the software you use, whether you’re proactive or reactive (and if this is on a per client basis) and what your criteria is for bill payments etc.
- When you work – the hours and days you’re available
- What you expect from your clients – timescales, interaction, frequency, etc.
You can then use this information to write out policies, your onboarding processes and documentation, welcome letters, client charters etc making it crystal clear how you work, what you provide for your clients and what you expect from them, in return.
Learn to protect your boundaries
Remember, you’re your own boss so, once you have your boundaries in place, you need to ensure you, your family and your clients honour them. Whether instilling the importance of your working hours to your family or letting a client go who doesn’t adherer to your timescales, you need to be prepared to enforce your own boundaries and rules. Sometimes, this may simply be a case of saying ‘no’ or turning away an unsuitable client; other times, it may mean shutting yourself behind office door and away from the family or turning off your phone after the end of your working hours. You’ve worked hard to start and grow your business, now it’s time to protect your boundaries and its reputation.
I know when I set out in business back in 2012, I told my clients my boundaries but I did not enforce them – so when I did start to enforce them clients were confused.
So as hard as it is set them and adhere to them from the start, or be prepared to have the awkward conversation with the client about them further down the line when you realise you are allowed to say no…
I also think you have to breach your own boundaries sometimes to realise what is actually important to you, your family and your business. One of the lessons I learnt was which platforms to use for the sharing of work between my clients and I; as an example, I never used to use Whatsapp or Messenger with my clients because invariably they would send a message late at night when their brain wanted to offload something (which is perfectly acceptable) but I would see the message at the point they had sent it, think oh I will deal with that in the morning. And guess what? By morning I would have forgotten about it! So by enforcing the no Whatsapp or Messenger to share work, and instead getting them to send via email / CRM / task management system, meant the work did not get lost or forgotten about. But do you know what I had to go through the pain of using those great tools – forgetting work to realise it was a boundary I did not want to breach…
Do you have business boundaries in place or is this something you need to work on? If you have already created your boundaries, what policies and procedures have you drawn up, to ensure they’re adhered to?
This blog was first published in 2016 and has been updated to reflect the lessons I have learnt while coaching and training hundreds of Virtual Assistants.
Subjects like this are ones we cover as part of our VA Membership. If you haven’t heard of the VA Membership it’s a way of working with a VA Coach / Mentor as part of our group programme.
The VA Membership is the only UK VA business accelerator that’s designed specifically to help you build and grow your VA business, to help you create recurring revenue and consistent growth through regular and consistent action. With over 100+ hours of courses, weekly co-working sessions, weekly group coaching calls, a private support group and the ability to pay as you go – when you’re ready to grow or scale your business online.
The VA Membership has the option to upgrade to more one to one coaching and mentoring support as part of the Luminary VA coaching and mentoring options.