Whether you are an introvert setting boundaries can be a difficult conversation with a client but it is essential to the success of your business. Setting boundaries means allowing you the space to not only do the very best for your business, but for your client as well.
There is a quote from Brené Brown, in The Gifts of Imperfection, that demonstrates best why boundaries are “Life-Changing”:
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Setting Boundaries essentially is a three-step process:
1. Decide what is appropriate and what isn’t when it comes to your clients and your workflow,
2. Communicate that with your clients,
And there is the essential step…
3. STICK to your Guns.
Now you might be asking, how do I figure out what I do and don’t need in my working life – how do I approach this with my client?
Let’s expand on those 3 essential steps when it comes to setting boundaries with your clients as an Introvert.
Decide what is appropriate and what isn’t when it comes to your clients and your workflow.
What this means is – look at your values, how you work best, and what is happening recently that might be causing you stress – frustration – anger or making you feel overwhelmed in your business.
This could mean where your client is pushy with communication, not respecting your deadline requests (ETAs etc) or possibly trying to get you to do things that aren’t in your zone of genius just because you are “contracted” to them (i.e. you are a Systems Master and they want you doing cold calling to fill in the time.)
Take stock in these scenarios and compare that to the agreement you have set with your clients. If you are seeing behavior that is infringing on this, then its time to start documenting examples and preparing for a conversation with your client.
As a Virtual Assistant, yes we are supporters of our client’s business but we are not employees. We have these agreements in place for a reason – it is our zone of genius as well this is the area that our clients needed our support in.
Communicate those boundaries with your clients.
Now, this can be an awkward conversation, especially if you are newer as a Virtual Assistant, however, it needs to happen to maintain an ideal working arrangement with your client plus it also is essential to you as a business owner yourself.
This isn’t something you need to just “attack” your client with – if you aren’t ready to sit down to have a full conversation in one sitting. Or it could be very infrequent where they are breaking your boundaries, you can always start by replying to requests that aren’t in line with you and your business with suggestions to fix (i.e. Mr. Client, that is a great idea! However, I think that we need to bring in a specialist to do this task, as it is out of my realm of expertise. I have some suggestions on a few people we could bring in to handle that for us so that we can continue building up the XYZ task we are working on.)
This gentle nudge could be enough for your client to realize that you not only care about ensuring the task is done but that you are showing that you aren’t always the person they need.
If you have a client that is emailing/communicating with you at all hours and getting upset when you don’t respond immediately, this could be an opportunity to have a chat with them to discuss your office hours and create a firm response plan.
This could be “Ms. Client, I really appreciate the open communication we have developed but I just wanted to chat today about the expectations of a reply. I have created time blocks to respond to communications to ensure that when I’m working, as it improves my workflow so that you get the best work from our arrangement. Typically these times are (and list the times you would be checking i.e. beginning of the day, middle, and end of the day). If you are in urgent need of something reviewed, if you could put that in the subject of the email or as your key word at the beginning of your message, that will help me in prioritizing my reply to you if there is something you need sooner.”
The key is to set boundaries that you will reply when you are able, and not a minute sooner. You are looking for the same respect for your business, and if you have multiple clients, balancing theirs as well. This will ensure that you are peaceful and confident as you work through each “to-do” for each of your clients.
At the end of the day, you are the master of your own business and workflows – this is why you are being sought out as a professional. You need to have these in place to ensure that everyone has the same expectations as well it is for the good of your mental health and business growth moving forward.
The final piece: Stick to your Guns
This part is both the most rewarding and most difficult to do. When you create (or enforce) these boundaries, the next step is to follow through. Now, this might cause some frustration or disappointment in your client, but if they value your point and your contributions, they will respect them.
You need to remember, that if you allow your boundaries to be ignored or infringed on, you will become or continue angry or overwhelmed which is not a place you want to be. Take some steps to protect yourself and in the end, your clients will thank you! With that, what other boundaries have you set up that we didn’t cover? Would love to hear in the comments below!