Today we’re talking about something that every business owner needs to do, which is set boundaries. This topic is very exciting for me because this was a big hurdle that I personally had to get over when it came to business. I am an Enneagram Type 3w2, and if you don’t know anything about the Enneagram, you should go online and take the test! Figure out what your Enneagram is and read up on it.
A 3 is just a very hard worker, and we love progress. The 2 part of me loves helping others, and I get very stressed out when I feel like I’ve pissed someone off or like someone’s upset with me. That really makes me upset, and it makes me feel like a failure because I let someone down.
So, in this episode, we’re talking about setting boundaries in business. As I said, this was hard for me to do initially because setting boundaries equals making other people mad because they don’t get what they want. Then they’re upset with me, which then, in turn, made me upset with myself. I’m assuming there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same way about setting boundaries in business and about saying no. But honestly, once I got over it, and once I decided that I had to do it for my own sanity, I realized that I shouldn’t have been so afraid of it in the first place. To be honest, nobody was really that upset with me.
Today, I’m going to explain how I go about setting boundaries in my business so that it works out as a win-win situation for both parties, and nobody gets upset. I think the key to setting boundaries is setting them right in the beginning so that everyone understands that the boundaries are there to protect each of us, and they’re there to protect the project.
If you’re a service provider, you need to make sure that you have a contract in place. You also need to make sure that that contract is strong because you’re going to go through situations where you’re going to need to use it. I’m not going to lie; there haven’t been many times since I’ve been an entrepreneur where I’ve needed to point to my contracts so that my clients understood what was happening. But I just recently went through something with a client where I actually had to do that. What happened was we went through branding together, and unfortunately, this person continuously wanted more drafts, more drafts, more drafts, more options. The client didn’t understand the difference between the options I was showing her, even though I was explaining to her why they were so different from one another.
Honestly, she just didn’t know what she wanted, and she didn’t understand branding and what it was. We were just on completely different pages, and she didn’t understand the strategy behind her business, which made it really hard for her to make choices when it came to her branding.
I structure my entire process for branding and website design in a very specific way. And that structure is based on all of my experience working with my previous clients. I don’t structure my projects for me. I structure my projects for my clients based on what has worked with my clients in the past and what’s been needed. So, in my projects, we have two rounds of edits on everything.
The first round of edits is dedicated to multiple different directions so that the client can see what their business name and what it could look like in all these different directions. Then they choose a direction, and in the second draft, I go into three different options so they can then choose what their final branding will be. This approach has worked for almost all of my clients. I’ve never had a client pay for an extra round of edits. It is something that I usually offer if somebody needs it if there was some sort of disconnect with something, and I just usually give it to them for free. So, for this client, I did what I typically do, and I gave her the first extra round of edits for free, and I literally did exactly what she wanted.
After I had done multiple rounds of free for her, I finally told her, “Hey, we’ve now come to the point where you’re going to have to pay for these extra edits if you want them. We’ve gone weeks over the timeframe, and obviously, I have to give also my attention to my other clients. So, this is out of the scope of work.”
She got upset about that. And then she demanded a full refund on the entire brand project. And in my contract, there are no refunds and there are no guarantees. The reason why I have to put “no guarantees” in there is because what I do has to be in collaboration with the person that I’m working with. It’s their vision that I am executing it as a designer. If they don’t have a clear vision, if they don’t understand what branding is and if they continuously change their mind over and over and over, I can only do so much, right?
So, that’s why the “no guarantees” contract is there. There are also no refunds in the contract because no matter what, I’m putting in so many hours so you can’t get a refund on the services because it’s my time. I have had a lot of success in what I do, and I know if something goes wrong, there’s just a disconnect between the client and their needs, what they’re looking for, or there’s a lack of education or strategy.
I don’t offer refunds because I’m trying to screw people over. I always do my best no matter what, to make sure that my clients are happy at the end of it. I’ve done extra free works in projects because the client’s expectations were not met. Generally, that’s because they just weren’t educated in what branding was. So that’s why I have contracts in place because this client is now demanding a full refund for what she had paid for months ago. And I have to say, “I’m sorry, but in the contract, it states no refunds.”
I even offered her extra rounds of edits for free, that of which she never commented about. This was right when COVID hit too, so I almost feel like she just needed the money. So, she was just harassing me, like she was sending me emails and saying really hurtful things, and I would just respond back and just be like, “I’m sorry, in the contract it states there are no refunds.” I was reiterating everything I was saying based on the contract and just being professional and not getting emotional. But she was sending me these super, super long emotional messages stating that I don’t care about my clients or all I care about is making money.
It was hard because I had to sit there, and I had to tell myself that what she’s saying isn’t true. That was difficult for me. However, I was so happy that I had my contract in place because, as I said, this is honestly the first client that I’ve had to deal with in this capacity with High Moon Studio since I opened.
I know not everybody’s going to be my best friend when it comes to business, and I know I’m going to have situations like this, and every successful entrepreneur does. It doesn’t mean that I’m a bad entrepreneur, but I was just so happy that I had my contract in place so that when that happened, I could just refer back to the contract that she had signed.
I hope that if anyone of you has dealt with somebody like this, this episode makes you feel less frustrated with the situation. So, make sure you have a contract because you will have to use it at some point.
This was something, again, that was hard for me to get over in the beginning because I just want to make everyone happy. I was tempted to say to this client, “I’ll finish the work for you so that you write me a good review.” I would have gone above and beyond what the contract even stated to please this person. But when you are setting boundaries in business, you need to remember that you don’t have to be a people pleaser because those are boundaries there for you.
If you are always a people pleaser, you’ll do everything in your power to make people happy, and you’ll realize they’re never fucking happy. So, then you’ll go right back into that hole of feeling like, “Oh my God, I can never make them happy.” Then you’ll try and please them again, and you go above and beyond, but you get nothing in return. So, you let them suck dry all of your energy and your giving mentality, and you just feel worse than you did before when they were unhappy.
So, you’re setting these boundaries so that you don’t have to be a constant people pleaser. Setting that boundary made me realize that I don’t need to feel bad that she’s still unhappy. I don’t feel bad because I know that I did everything possible with my experience working with hundreds of brands.
I know that my contract was in place and I don’t need to refund her. She’s not happy because she doesn’t know what she wants, but she’s taking it out on me, so I don’t need to please her, and I’m okay with it. After all of that, I’m okay with not pleasing her, and that goes for other things too.
Now that my accounts are growing, I get all these messages from people who are like, “do you want to collab?” Stop asking people to collab! First of all, it is like the most annoying message ever. I’m like nails on a chalkboard for sure. They see that I’m like having success in my account and then they want to collaborate on something. I don’t have any sort of relationship with them so, why would I want to collab with you? It’s just a get rich quick fix that they’re trying to do, and it really bugs me.
For those people who ask you to collab, for those people who ask you out for coffee to pick your brain, don’t feel bad when you say no. Don’t feel like you need to please those people because you don’t. They’re there for their own benefit. They’re not there for your benefit. They’re asking you for shit for free basically. So, don’t feel bad when you say no.
Set that boundary in your head because the bigger your company is going to get, the more boundaries you’re going to have to set. You’re going to have to realize like this is not an emotional experience anymore. Setting boundaries cannot be emotional. It’s all business, so don’t feel bad and don’t feel like you need to please everyone.
People treat you the way you let them from the beginning of any relationship that you have, whether it’s business or personal. Whether it’s something small or something large, set the boundary right from the beginning because people will treat you the way you let them. So, if you let people from the beginning make their payments late without any repercussions, they will continue to miss their payments every single month because they know that you’re not going to do anything about it.
So, don’t let people walk all over you right from the beginning of them doing something you dislike. It doesn’t need to be this blown out, huge mess of a conversation. It just needs to be a conversation like, “Hey, I don’t like it when you do that.” Or “Hey, I’m sorry, but in the contract, it states that if you miss your payment, you get a hundred dollars late fee.”
So, it’s up to you. Set those boundaries in the beginning. Don’t allow them in the very beginning of your relationship to piss you off or to do something that goes against the boundaries that you’re setting. You just have to lay it down right away. The best way to leave the drama at the door is to like to be open and honest and communicate.
That’s all that I care about is honesty and communication, and trust. Don’t let people treat you a certain way if you don’t like it because the longer you let them, the harder it is to set the boundaries and the worse the relationship is going to get.
It can be hard. But the more I did it, the easier it became and the more respect that I got from other people. It’s amazing when you set boundaries, people will respect you more because they can’t walk all over you and they know that your boundaries are there for a reason.
So, I do it for the betterment of my business, their business, and our relationship. So, people understand that. People know that the boundaries that I’m setting are realistic, and they would do the same if it were their business. So, don’t feel bad about the boundaries that you’re setting with your clients because, in all reality, you have to be a little bit selfish for your business and you as a human.
There are people out there who love taking advantage of others, and you deserve better than that. You don’t deserve those people. And to be honest, the only people who get upset about boundaries are those who are trying to take advantage of you. The good ones, the good people in your life, the good clients, they’ll respect you more because of the boundaries, and they will happily abide by them because they know that they’re there for the betterment of the project.
So, don’t get upset. Don’t feel bad. You’re doing this for you. Yes, it’s a little selfish, but it’s selfish for the project. It’s selfish for the relationship. It’s a good kind of selfish. We have to be selfish sometimes in life. We have to stop being the people pleasers all the time. We have to be selfish to move our businesses along to live a balanced life to have strong, great relationships in business and life.
So, I hope that these tips helped you today and made you feel less alone when it comes to setting boundaries and business. If you ever have any specific questions, feel free to reach out over Instagram or email. I’m always here to chat!