A wise person once said: “You teach people how to treat you” This statement should be kept close to your heart as you embark on an entrepreneurial adventure. Just like undercharging, it’s really difficult to make changes later, so it’s imperative that you start out on the right foot NOW.
Let’s start by talking about time. Many female entrepreneurs are also wives, mothers, caregivers to elderly parents, and perhaps employees! Does this sound like you? Are you dragged in 10 directions at once and feel like one of those rubber armed dolls? This is precisely why you need to set some very firm boundaries for your time.
Strategise and schedule
The person most in need of boundaries, is you. You heard me right. It’s you. You are the person most likely to step over the line that you have set as your boundary. You’ll work too late, you’ll then sleep in too late to get in a workout, then you’ll get the kids to school late, you’ll get to work late, you’ll be sluggish and drink too much coffee, you’ll crave something comforting and junky for lunch, the snowball of misery just continues. Please don’t’ do this to yourself. Be kind to your very busy, Wonder Woman self. Set a definite schedule and strategy with yourself.
Example: Meet Sue. Sue has a fairly rigid schedule set up, that is designed to keep her, her family and her clients “within the lines”. Sue is a wife, mother, business owner and employee. Beginning with the evening portion of her schedule we see Sue sitting down to a home cooked meal with her family at around 6pm. While she is eating her dinner, she is jotting down a list of food she will need to prepare for herself to eat tomorrow. While Mr. Sue and her children are cleaning up from dinner and washing the dishes, Sue gets to work on her business, but she has pre=determined that she will spend an hour on each of two clients this evening. Boundaries! 10 pm rolls around and she thinks “Geez, I know I can squeeze this last blog post out by 11:00” That’s when her strategy/schedule angel pops out onto her shoulder and reminds her of that 5 am workout, and how much of a difference there is between 6 hours of sleep and 7 hours of sleep. Boundary challenged, boundary held. She’ll be thankful tomorrow when she’s not slogging through Pilates half asleep!! The boundaries continue during her daytime work where she doesn’t allow others to pile their work on her, keeping her from performing her tasks efficiently and accurately.
Stand your ground with others
The next challengers to your boundaries are most likely to be your family. Some may realise that you are operating a business in your “spare” time, and steer clear of asking you for extra help with things, but some may not realize, or appreciate just what you are trying to do. (Like Sue’s 12 year old daughter who just wants to hang out with Mom) In the case of the kids needing you, obviously exceptions are to be made, but ideally, the kids know what Mom’s work schedule is, and they do not interrupt her during that time. In the example I’ve used 6:30, 7:00 pm-ish until 10:00pm, for older children that’s probably perfect, they have homework, or want to be in their rooms texting or talking on the phone. For smaller children, this would probably shift until post bath/bedtime when the house is quiet. Different strokes for different folks, you have to find what works for you, but setting firm boundaries is key.
The customer is always right….
The customer may OFTEN be right, but when they are crossing your boundaries, they are not. Depending on the type of business that you have, your customers or clients may be calling, texting or emailing you after your established business hours. Be sure to establish your available hours in your contract at the very beginning of the relationship. If that person insists on trying to contact you after hours, you have a few options.
- Ignore the phone call and make a note to check in with them on the next business day to see what they might need.
- Set an outgoing voicemail message on your phone that reminds them of your set hours
- Create a form that they can fill out that equates to leaving you a message so that you can tackle their issues the next day.
Once you let a customer or client cross that line, they will do it again and again and again, just like your family, and just like YOU! It’s sort of like setting a rule for a child. Once set, that rule needs to stay consistent or confusion sets in as well as disobedience and disorganization. Flying by the seat of your pants if you will. Consistency is KING (errr…Queen!)
Now there’s always going to be that rush job, or emergency client issue that comes up and needs immediate attention. Fine! These things will happen, but make sure that you let them know that you are handling this under the circumstances but in the future you will adhere to your hours of operation.
Your clients or customers will respect you and your time so much more if they see that you are respecting it as well. Stand firm to your boundaries and your stipulations, everyone will be happier!