Work never stayed confined to work hours. It seeped into every part of the rest of my life, and you know how that goes.
Suddenly, you’re saying yes to everything, and you have zero free time…or sanity left over.
Becoming a parent forced me to create and fortify those boundaries, and I’ve carried those lessons with me into my two businesses.
Because it’s a slippery slope for us business owners with our clients, isn’t it?
-You take a meeting outside of work hours.
-Which leads to agreeing to do something beyond your original scope.
-And suddenly, you’re fielding WhatsApp voice messages from this client at all hours of the day and night.
Take a big breath and a HUGE step back with me.
Because boundaries aren’t just vital to your personal life.
They’re essential for your business as well.
And we can create those business boundaries by being extra savvy in the way we use our contracts.
**And just before we go any further:
Everything I share is legal education and information. It’s not business, financial, or legal advice, and it doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship between us.
Please chat with an attorney in your area to make sure you’re protecting your business.**
Why contracts are the key to setting business boundaries
Contracts are a foundational part of setting business boundaries.
They enable you to lay out expectations and set the ground rules before you even say the word “go.”
So what kind of boundaries can you set in your contracts?
Honestly, you can outline anything you know you need to hold yourself–and your clients–accountable for.
Some obvious must-haves to include would be:
-What the deliverables are
-What the timeline looks like
-What the payment terms are
-How cancellations will be handled
And then, I would challenge you to explore other expectations that need to be set, like:
-What do you need from the client?
-How many points of contact will you talk to?
-How many rounds of revisions are included?
-When can clients expect a response from you?
-And how long will you accept radio silence from their end?
I find that most business owners already know what kind of expectations they need to lay out (usually from hard-earned lessons with past clients), but still haven’t implemented them.
Sometimes it’s because they don’t know how to do it in a way that feels firm but polite.
That’s why including these things in your contract is such an effective way to set and hold those boundaries.
Almost no one feels strange about wording their contracts in straightforward language.
The consequences of unmet expectations
Here’s where things get a little harder for most business owners:
Once you’ve used your contracts to set the boundaries, you have to be ready to hold them.
When things get uncomfortable, and your knee-jerk reaction is to let your inner people-pleaser out to “Yes Man” whatever your clients are asking of you, you’ve got to be ready to go back to the expectations you laid out in the contract and stand firm.
Let’s say you’ve set office hours in your client contract (a practice I strongly advocate for).
You’ve outlined when you’re willing to take client calls and the best way to set them up–say via your Calendly link, Monday-Thursday from 10 am-2 pm, for example.
Except, you’ve got this one client who always reaches out via email 10 minutes before 4 pm on a Friday.
And you accommodate them.
You take that first call at 3:50 pm on a Friday once, and suddenly you find you’ve killed off 3 Friday afternoons like that.
The worst part is that you have no one to blame but yourself.
It isn’t really the client’s fault.
It’s yours for not protecting your boundaries.
And you’ll kick yourself when those Friday calls snowball into a whole load of other issues, not just with that client but with the rest of your business and even your team if you have one.
It’s your job to know when to say no
Clearly, beyond setting boundaries, you have to be ready to stick to them and lay out some language that details the consequences of those expectations–your boundaries–going unmet.
It’s your job to know what’s in your contracts and hold those boundaries.
Your client can choose not to comply, and you can choose to carry out the consequences of those unmet expectations–even if that ultimately means terminating the relationship.
Because, as a business owner, those boundaries are part of who you are.
So grab a fully customizable contract template from the legal shop and start setting those boundaries, boss!
And to learn even more about protecting your business, join the exclusive listeners on the Uncomplicating Trademarks podcast.