The Value and Process of setting Boundaries in your Business
One of the most important parts of having a great relationship with your clients is managing their expectations, which means setting boundaries. If you want to be able to enjoy the work that you’re doing, and have time for your family, self, and personal life, boundaries are a crucial part to your business. As a wedding planner and owner of REFINE, Amber Anderson knows plenty about managing working relationships with clients, and does it while enjoying time for herself and maintaining her sanity. Now she’s giving us her incredible insight on why boundaries are actually so important in working relationships, what those boundaries should look like, and how you can communicate those boundaries to the people you’re working with.
HOW DID SHE GET HERE?
Amber got into the wedding industry by complete accident. She has a degree in Exercise Science, and was a personal trainer, but graduated during the recession when no one had the money to hire a personal trainer. She ultimately took an admin job with a financial company, and it was there that she ended up getting into planning their corporate events. She enjoyed it for the simple fact that she didn’t have to sit at a desk, but it wasn’t much later that she moved to Austin and married her husband. Amber felt like her wedding was such a cluster and she knew that she could provide better service and coordination than what she had on her wedding day.
She ended up being asked to consult for a venue, leading her to start her own wedding planning company in 2010, and after some unfortunate events, had to find new venues for 16 clients in her first year of business. Her business grew quickly and hasn’t slowed down since, and after 5 years in business, she started business coaching with the original owner of REFINE for wedding planners. The coaching was a game changer for her business and she ended up being asked to take over REFINE in the beginning of 2018 when the original owner retired.
WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN TO SET BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR CLIENTS?
Some of the most common examples we hear of boundaries are having office hours, not texting clients, or responding at 10pm, etc. The part about boundaries that we don’t hear much conversation about is that we have to give ourselves the permission to do what we need to do. We all know deep down that we shouldn’t respond to emails on the weekend’s when we’re not working or shouldn’t text our clients back at midnight, but it’s actually telling ourselves that we’re allowed to not do it that’s so important. The idea of having that confidence and giving ourselves that permission is where the gap is.
“When you say ‘no’ to one thing, you’re actually saying ‘yes’ to another.”
When you say ‘no’ to something that you know will have consequences or repercussions, you may feel like you’re being mean or not solving a problem, but you’re actually protecting your client and their original vision of your work. You’re actually being kind to them, even if it doesn’t feel that way initially.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THESE BOUNDARIES AND THEIR NECESSITY TO YOUR CLIENTS?
It starts with your brand and your messaging. If we have clients that respect our boundaries, then we praise them for that on Instagram. We have blog posts about boundaries, and we’re not afraid to voice our feelings on it. Ideal clients know that going into working with us, and they’re already prepared for those rules. It’s all about making your clients hyper aware beforehand what the process is like and how it’s going to be.
I love saying no to things, because it means I get to say yes to something else. You have to confidently speak your mind about your boundaries and then stop apologizing for it afterward. If I know something needs to be done a certain way, I’m not going to tell my client that and then say “I’m sorry.” I’m confident in my abilities to protect their vision and our relationship, and respect my own boundaries enough to stand by them.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE SAYING ‘NO’ LESS OF A NEGATIVE IMPACT TO CLIENTS AND COLLEAGUES?
You have to start with patience. Avoid using passive language like “As I said” or “Like we talked about” and start asking more questions. try to get to the bottom of why they’re asking or what it is they actually want, because most of the time you’ll find out that you don’t actually have to say no. When you get to the heart of what they need, you’ll probably find that you can solve their problem another way, and you can avoid saying no entirely.
If you can’t avoid saying no, start with making the clients think it’s their idea. If you can get down to their why then a lot of times you can explain things or give ideas in a way that makes them almost believe it was their idea in the first place. Remind them of their original vision or goal, educate them on the pros and cons of the situation, and lead them to the right answer instead of just saying no. People need structure and they don’t flinch when you’re confident in what you’re telling them.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO SET THOSE BOUNDARIES WITH THEIR CLIENTS BUT HAVEN’T YET?
My biggest advice is to work on your confidence, because that’s what it all comes down to. You have to believe that these boundaries are important and that you deserve success and work-life balance at the same time. You almost have to fake it ‘til you make it, and just work on growing your confidence in your abilities and expertise. Practice when you have nothing to lose. The more you work on your confidence when there’s nothing at stake, the easier it will be to have confidence later.
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