Setting boundaries can be tough. If you’ve never been the type to establish boundaries as a child, it can be especially tough now to learn to establish them as an adult. But whether you’re running your own business or you work for somebody else, understanding the process of creating and enforcing your own boundaries is an invaluable skill that will save you time, money, and a whole lot of stress.
When I was starting to take on more freelancing gigs, boundaries weren’t a thing. I answered emails no matter the day or time they came in. I’d work at varying times of the day, and my clients would see it. I’d even give some clients my phone number.
There was one time when I was asked to pull to the side of the road as I was driving to my internship to fix an issue on a site and I ACTUALLY DID IT. I had no concept of the word “no”. I fixed the issue and was rewarded by being late to my internship and the client wasn’t happy anyway.
I don’t want this to be you. So let’s learn how to establish and enforce our own boundaries.
Understand what makes you happy. If you like working in the evenings and taking calls with clients at 8 PM your local time, then great. That can be what you do. If you like to spend the weekends knocking out work but you don’t want to communicate with clients during that time, that’s also totally acceptable! If you only want to work business hours on weekdays like most traditional jobs, you do you. There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s first and foremost what you want it to be. You establish these boundaries.
Be assertive. Setting your boundaries is only half of the solution. The other half is following through. Being assertive doesn’t mean being an asshole. It means standing up for yourself and letting someone know they’re approaching the outer limits of your boundaries. This includes being assertive with yourself. “No, I don’t need to respond to this email after hours” is a very acceptable thing to tell yourself. “No” is not a powerful word, not a bad word.
Go easy on yourself. I highly recommend one of your personal boundaries being how much you work in a given week and making sure you allow yourself to take breaks. “I just need to get this one last thing done and I’ll take a break” can turn into not getting up and away from your desk for six hours. We’ve all been there. “If I don’t work, I won’t get this done, and I won’t get paid.” Sure, there’s truth to this if you won’t get paid until you have delivered the work, but you also need to sleep, eat, and take a break.
Manage expectations. When I first started freelancing, I have no verbiage in my contract about working hours, nor did I discuss it on our initial calls. If my clients don’t know I have boundaries, how can they respect them? Start early on with client discussions by communicating your boundaries around working hours, communication expectations, and the methods of communication that are acceptable.
And remember: all of these things apply to your personal life too. If you don’t want your family members calling you every single day, or you don’t feel comfortable with your friends talking about certain aspects of your life, set and communicate those boundaries as well. Mental wellbeing stems from a healthy balance of maintaining both personal and professional boundaries.
Until next week,
Loved your post @Kelly. Very valid points.