Is it time you set some new business boundaries so you can stop wasting time and start making more money?

Did you start your business in the hope to have a more flexible schedule and more time with your family?

Me too.

But maybe since starting your business you’ve become overwhelmed, squeezing work into any spare pocket of time at all hours of the day?

Or maybe you’re struggling to find enough time to dedicate to your business and are frustrated with how slow it is to get things up and running?

If either of these rings true with you, then you are not alone.

So many of us who started our business with that time freedom in mind end up disappointed when things get stressful or feeling out of control.  

In fact, overwhelm and not having enough time (either for their business, themselves, their family) is a common complaint of many of my clients when they first come to work with me.

Do you know the other reason clients typically come to me?  Not having enough income from their business.  And the two are related.  

If you are feeling overwhelmed time-wise in your business, you're unlikely to have the time or mental energy to think of new ways to generate income for your business.

The great news is: it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Common Problem

Do you know how long you spend on marketing yourself on social media each week?  On engaging with your potential clients?  On sales activities?  On business admin?  On sending emails?  

I could go on.

So often we aren’t really aware how long we are spending on things, or even what is an appropriate amount of time to spend.

What often happens is that first of all we don’t have a fixed idea of the activities we should be performing each day in our business.  And secondly, we don’t set boundaries for those activities.

So our lives and businesses blur together a little too much.

> Ever found yourself quickly answering an email while your child watches Paw Patrol?

> Ever found yourself engaging with your Instagram followers in bed at midnight?

Yeah me too.

And while neither of those things is going to kill us as a one-off, they start to have a detrimental effect when they start adding up over time.

Having too many items on your To Do list and working on them all off and on takes up your cognitive processing energy (brain energy).  Which leaves you feeling overwhelmed and mentally exhausted.

Time equals money, ladies!

And while I’m a massive advocate for pricing and packaging your products/services in such a way that largely escapes the pounds/dollars for hours trade; all hours that you dedicate to your business are an opportunity to be performing money-making activities.  To be moving the needle on your business.

So if you want to start making some strides towards making more money, you HAVE to get smart with your time.

Getting smart starts with business boundaries.

A Quick Note About Over-Delivering

OK so before we get cracking setting those business boundaries, I just want to address where over delivering fits in with all of this.

Setting business boundaries does not mean you can’t or shouldn't over deliver for your clients. But it is about being very intentional about the what, when and how of over delivering.

Decide in advance how you would like to over deliver for clients and keep it up your sleeve (i.e. don’t tell them to expect it!).

Deciding in advance means that you don’t end up chucking everything into the “over delivering” bucket and end up back at square one with no boundaries.

3 Types of Business Boundaries
 

  1. Business Hours

  2. Client Communication Hours

  3. Service Scope

1. Time Boundaries for YOU a.k.a. Business Hours

If you’re feeling frazzled and a bit overwhelmed, the chances are you could do with some better Time Boundaries in your business.  I find people generally fall into one of two camps here:

  1. Spending too much time working ON their business and not enough time IN it - a classic situation for the new entrepreneur who is busy consuming all the free online content imaginable, scratching her head over social media, sales funnels, automation and the like.

  2. Spending too much time working IN their business and not enough time ON it.  On the flipside is the freelancer or entrepreneur whose business is fairly well established and she is so busy with client work that she struggles to find time to think strategically about her business.

If you find yourself complaining about “not having enough time” or being “too busy” then it’s time to set up some time boundaries and it starts… with YOU.

You need to start keeping YOURSELF in check.

Do you know the quickest way to stop working too many hours?

To just stop.

I’m sorry, but it really is that simple.  I know you’ve probably got a list as long as your arm of reasons why you need more time, can’t work fewer hours.  

I know that you’re scared that working less will mean getting less done and it will negatively impact your business.  But the opposite is true if you get more intentional about your time.

(Have a read of THIS BLOG POST to find out more about Intentional Planning).

This is an exercise I often complete with new clients to help them get intentional with their time and set their own time boundaries:

  1. Decide how many hours you want to work each week and when

  2. Make a list of high-level essential business activities - including time IN and ON your business

  3. Create yourself a rough schedule.  So for example, Marketing Activities every Wednesday 10 am - 12 pm or Sales Activities everyday 2 pm - 3 pm.  

Now you have your business hours, start trying to treat them as you would if you were employed.  If you’ve decided not to work after 4 pm on a Tuesday get disciplined with sticking to it.

What you will likely find is that by establishing business boundaries with yourself, you will gain back a sense of an improved work/life balance, will feel less mentally fatigued and as a result will be more productive during your business hours.  Win win.

2. Time Boundaries for Your Clients - a.k.a Client Communication Hours

One key thing to remember with all of your boundaries - but in particular here - is that you only get what you tolerate.

If you have a “nightmare” client sending you texts and emails at all hours of the day or night and when you’re on holiday, it’s because you allowed it (sorry).

But aren’t my Client Communication Hours just the same as my Business Hours?

No, not necessarily.

We all enjoy working flexibly, right?  That’s one of the reasons we decided to be self-employed, to begin with!

But just because you decide that we are comfortable with working two evenings a week, doesn’t mean you should be available for client communication during that time.  

Unless you really want to be.

The point is - again - to get more intentional about when you are available to your clients.

In my experience, it is hugely beneficial to have pockets of protected time built into your schedule where you don’t feel obliged to answer client queries.  

It just helps psychologically to feel like there are fewer demands on your time at certain points in your week and you will start to find you are more productive during these time with less mental distractions.

So say that on a Monday you set your business hours to 9.30 am - 2.30pm, you could decide to keep the first hour of the day protected and tell your clients you answer queries between 10.30am and 2.30pm.

Wait, but won’t my clients get annoyed if I go ahead and implement these boundaries?

No, not if they’re decent human beings.  

And we only want to work with decent human beings, right?

Setting up time boundaries in this way helps set client expectations and clients feel more comfortable when they know what to expect.

In mine and my clients’ experience, the vast majority of clients are completely respectful of such boundaries.

Have a think about the message you send to your clients if you are available all hours…

If you’re answering an email at 11 pm, for example, there are two things to consider:

  1. You look disorganised to the client - "only someone who is overwhelmed would be answering emails at that late hour", they might assume.

  2. You won’t produce your best work - if you are mentally fatigued you are much more inclined to make mistakes.

How to Establish That Boundary

Once you’ve decided your Client Communication Hours, send an email to all of your clients informing them of what they can expect.

Example:

Dear {Name}
In my/our efforts to improve efficiency and the client experience, effective immediately I/we will be contactable during the hours of {insert hours}.
If you send a communication outside of these hours, I/we will endeavour to respond within 24 hours, Monday - Friday {or whatever turnaround time you can happily commit to}.
Kind regards,
{You}

Then, set up an auto-responder to send a similar message informing them of your contactable hours and response times to go out to all emails that you receive outside of your communication hours.

3. Service Scope

What is a Scope Boundary?

So glad you asked.

It is when you start performing activities for your client(s) which are outside of your usual remit.

Have a think about the recent client work you’ve done.  Have you been consistently performing activities outside of your intended service?

If so, time to re-establish your scope boundaries.

It can start with a seemingly harmless client request.  You know it will only take you 10 minutes to do.  You like the client.  So you do it.  No big deal, right?

Well not necessarily.

While I’m all for over delivering - see above - we should be very intentional (there’s that word again!) about it.  

Example: when my clients sign up for 1:1 private coaching with me, their Client Agreement clearly states that they will get x number of private coaching calls which will last exactly 50 minutes each.
I can then use my discretion to let the call run over the 50-minute mark by say 5-10 minutes - if I decide it is convenient (i.e. I don’t have back-to-back calls).  I won’t do this all the time (as my schedule doesn’t allow it) and therefore it won’t become expected (crucial point there!).
But I will not take any additional calls.  If a client needs assistance between one weekly call and the next, they know that it is within the scope of the service they are paying for to ask me any questions or for any support online via Basecamp (a software tool I use to communicate with clients).  I am extremely firm about never adding an additional call as to do so - even as a one-off - is to fail to respect the scope boundaries I established for a good reason (to protect my time, energy and income).

I hope that illustrates the difference between setting Service Scope boundaries and sticking to them and still having room to over-deliver for added client satisfaction.

Implement Service Scope Boundaries

Take a look at your services/packages.  Are you super clear about what exactly IS included? Are your clients clear?

You might want to update your website to be more specific about what exactly is included in your services.

You might want to review your Client Agreement and make sure that is water-tight in terms of establishing client expectations.

Then ask yourself: in which ways are you happy to sometimes over-deliver?

And then: what have you been doing for clients that you want to stop?  Make a list and start cracking down.

Start on the Right Foot

The best way to establish any boundaries with regards to clients is to have a very clear discussion with them at the very outset of your working relationship.  Tell them what they can expect from you and - if applicable - tell them what not to expect.  Most clients will be relieved to have been told up front.

For existing clients, a simple email worded in a positive way is a quick and easy way to set those boundaries.

Stand Firm

I know that it can be uncomfortable to have to say no when a client requests something that is outside of the scope of their service or is pestering you with calls/emails/texts outside of your set hours.

But you have to remember that it is your time, energy and income you are protecting here.

And you can still be polite/helpful when you address the issue with them.

It’s far better to send a very slightly uncomfortable email politely declining to perform an activity than to just do it.  Sure, it might be a quick job but by engaging in the activity, you’ve essentially told the client that you don’t adhere to your business boundaries and allowed them to expect the same in the future.

I’d invite you to try setting and sticking to some Business Boundaries for a week and see how you get on.  I bet you will be amazed at how much more productive you are and how much more energy you bring to the work you do.

So go and decide on the Business Boundaries that suit you, implement them and stop wasting time (& energy!) and start making more money!

If you enjoyed this blog post and have successfully implemented new boundaries in your business, I’d love to hear about it!  Head over to my Facebook Group - Self Made Mothers - and tell me!

Or if you’re struggling with overwhelm, finding it hard to know what to focus on first in your business and need some support in creating or scaling a Flexible, Fulfilling and Profitable Business, then I am your lady.

Click on the button below to book a FREE call with me to discuss the possibility of working together to create you more time, find you more clients and make you more money.