The Importance Of Setting Boundaries In Business
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a concept almost everyone experiences. It’s that pang of regret you feel after saying “no” to an invite—and then seeing photos of everyone having a good time.
But FOMO doesn’t just exist in social circles. It’s also a powerful force in the business world, especially for young entrepreneurs.
New entrepreneurs don’t usually fear missing out on social events; they fear missing out on business opportunities. They worry if they don’t take on everything that comes their way, they won’t climb fast enough or make enough money.
The problem is, people with that mentality have trouble setting boundaries.
And when you can’t set boundaries, people take advantage of it. You wind up getting caught in a vicious cycle of giving more and more of yourself for less and less—until you finally hit the wall. I know, because I’ve done it. And the only way I got past it was by finally buckling down and setting boundaries for my clients and my schedule.
After setting my own limits, I saw several reasons why strong boundaries (not a lack of them) are the real secret to success.
When you teach people you have a life, they actually respect you more.
No real professional is available 24/7.
Just try calling your lawyer at 11:00 p.m. this Saturday. If by some miracle he or she actually picks up, the bill you get afterward is going to ensure you never, ever do that again.
That’s because professionals are good at setting boundaries around their availability. And if you do the same, people will respect you for it and treat you like a pro. Unfortunately, a lot of young entrepreneurs think they have to do whatever it takes to earn that respect. In reality, you earn it by showing them you’re a human being with boundaries, integrity, and the capacity to say “no” once in a while.
So next time you’re signing up new clients, don’t tell them, “I’m free 24/7. Here’s my cell phone number.”
Tell them you’re available during business hours on weekdays and, maybe, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday—if it’s an emergency. Outside of those hours, they’ll have to wait until Monday morning to hear back.
Truthfully, 99% of clients won’t even ask for your personal number. They’re used to working with professionals who aren’t on call 24/7. So they won’t expect that from you unless you tell them otherwise.
Bottom line: if you want to be treated like a professional, you have to act like one.
When you have respect, you get better results.
There’s a simple progression at work here: setting appropriate boundaries leads to respect from your clients. When they respect you, you have the time and energy to focus on doing great work for them.
And when you start delivering results for clients—even just two or three people—word gets around.
Telling a prospective customer you only worked with two clients last year, but increased sales by 600% for both, sounds both impressive and exclusive. Now, think about walking into that same office, short on sleep with bags under your eyes, and saying, “I worked with 200 clients and increased sales by 5% for each of them.”
Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
I used to be the guy who looked like he hadn’t slept in a month, but my career really started taking off once I began setting boundaries for myself. Shortly after, my success looked like the classic “hockey stick” graph. I stopped trying to do everything for everyone and started using the 80/20 rule—only concentrating on the 20% of work that generated 80% of my results.
By concentrating on getting great results a few times, rather than doing a mediocre job 100 times, you quickly build a reputation of respect.
If you haven’t been setting boundaries from the start, it’s tough to pull in the reins and get respect.
If you always walk your dog with a short leash, they’re fine with it. That’s all they know. But if you start out with a long leash, it’s a lot harder to suddenly rein it in.
The same principle applies to clients. It’s much harder to set boundaries after you’ve shown that you don’t have any. But it can be done. If you’re finishing a project for a client, just tell them it’s been great working with them, but you’re getting other offers and have to renegotiate the terms if they want to continue working with you.
Hours outside availability, extra meetings, phone calls—put a price on all of it. And set it in stone.
They may complain or want to negotiate, but if you’re doing good work for them, they’ll likely be fine with it. If they aren’t, the world is full of opportunities.
Don’t let anyone take advantage of you just to get their business.
Remember, no project or client is worth letting someone cross the boundaries of what you feel comfortable with. You don’t have to let people run you ragged or call at all hours of the night to succeed. First-time entrepreneurs without boundaries often say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
But it’s worth considering that you’ll die a lot faster if you don’t sleep.