You've done it. You've taken the bull by the horns, you've quit your day job and you've started your business. You love what you do and it feels awesome to have the flexibility to set your own schedule and be your own boss. You're living the dream, my friend!
Except you're not. Something feels... off. You're working your tail off, and yes, you are getting enquiries, invitations to speak at events and so on. But if you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that something isn't right -- you don't feel valued or respected, or worse, you feel taken advantage of -- then it's time to set stronger boundaries in your business.
This is an especially tough call for those of us in helping professions -- whether it's coaching, counselling, or any type of physical or emotional healing, we want to be generous and giving.
Of course we do. But as we're reminded during safety announcements on flights, we need to put our oxygen masks on first before we help others. Because if we're collapsed in a heap on the ground, we can't help anyone, can we?
Here are three tips for setting better boundaries and taking care of yourself as you're building your business.
Set your house rules
When I worked in the corporate world, each company I worked for had a framed document placed prominently in the office that displayed the company's values. What they stand for and how they choose to operate.
I have something similar, only it includes my house rules for my business. In it I outline what I will and won't accept, how I will be treated and what I will be compensated for. I outline the maximum amount of pro bono speeches I will give each year, and for whom.
Also listed there is who I will give free advice to, how much and for what period of time. This may sound pedantic, but it's necessary because -- spoiler alert -- I made these mistakes when I started out. Having these ground rules marked down in black and white are a solid reminder of the lessons I learned.
They also serve as a helpful guide when emotions are running high and I need to make a decision on next steps based on logic rather than feelings. Try it!
Have a contract and a scope of work
I know it doesn't sound super sexy, but it's essential you have a solid scope of work when starting out with a client. Include it with a contract, plus your payment terms, and have both you and your client sign and date it.
Obviously the details of this scope of work will vary greatly depending on your industry, but as a general rule of thumb make sure to write down what is included in the work, quantify it in solid numbers (hours, number of sessions and such), and specify the timeframe of your work together.
It sets expectations from the client's point of view, and also helps you to prevent the dreaded "scope creep." And let's face it. Nobody likes a scope creeper.
Reassess your self worth
They say the state of your business as a solopreneur is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself. This is totally woo-woo of course, but I've also found it to be absolutely true.
In situations where I was giving it away for free -- too many pro bono speeches, doling out free information to people who refused to cough up the dough to work with me, doing extra work and not asking for adequate payment -- I took a good hard look at myself.
Why was I doing this? Why didn't I view my services as high value? Was I afraid to ask for what I wanted? In what other areas of my life had this been a pattern? And yep, you guessed it, I called in all the coaches and counsellors of the day to help me figure this sh*t out.
Turns out I found it tough to assert my needs, which stemmed from personal relationships and was spilling over into my business. Who knew!
Point is, you cannot look at your personal life and business life in complete isolation. One gives you clues on the other. And you are doing yourself a great disservice if you don't connect the dots.
I believe in you. YOU believe in you and your vision. And I trust these tips will help you as you go out into the world and build your empire.
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