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Boundaries for Microbusiness Owners: What Are They Good For?

January 28, 2013

I gasped when I saw the title of Danielle LaPorte’s latest blog post flit through my Tweetstream this morning.

Photo by Kevin Dooley courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.“Bag your boundaries,” she says.

WHY? was my first thought. Designing and keeping clear boundaries is one of the things that’s helped and is helping me grow, professionally and personally. Boundaries help me sleep better at night (no reading email in bed, no responding to important client emails from my iPhone, no work on the weekends unless it’s my idea). They make client relationships run more smoothly. They enable good projects to get done more efficiently. And I’ve noticed that when my peers, colleagues, and clients step up to enforce their own thoughtful boundaries — business gets better, blood pressure goes down, and those Wrong-Fitting clients show themselves the door.

You can read Danielle’s take on boundaries here.

Here’s my thoughtful alternate take on why boundaries are so important for values-based microbusiness owners:

Danielle writes:

“You know what’s a major turn on for potential clients and collaborators? This: ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to makes this awesome.’ Hellohhh, beautiful.”

As someone who works every day on creative projects with small business owners, both 1:1 and as the leader of a team, I appreciate the spirit behind DLP’s perspective. It’s gorgeously open, enthusiastic, and in the big picture, it seems ‘right.’ However, I think it’s irresponsible advice, especially in light of an audience comprised of many newly minted coaches, creatives, and solo business owners. Let me tell you why.

I completely agree that as service providers, it’s necessary to do our best work.

We owe our openness to the creative process to our clients. Even if, occasionally, that somehow takes us past the promised number of revisions, or if we go 15 minutes over the hour on an intake call. I would rather deliver my best work and feel inspired doing so than stick to my contract to the letter but deliver work that I don’t believe is my best effort, and that I doubt has an optimal likelihood of satisfying the client’s business goals and brand objectives.

But, I think newbie practitioners and those who have a hard time with boundaries anyway will take Danielle’s post today as a license to consistently overdeliver (to the detriment of their business and their craft) and a credo to bend over backwards, because “DLP says it’s good business.”

As creatives, most of us have had clients who would have gladly run us ragged requesting endless re-works and revisions if we’d let them. Not because the work we deliver isn’t good or great, but because the clients are not actually ready for the process we deliver. Thus, they feel perpetually dissatisfied, confused, and unclear as to what they want.

As Creative Director of a boutique copywriting, branding, and marketing agency, it’s important to me as I build out systems and processes for The Voice Bureau that we don’t sacrifice the human touch in favor of a more scalable and sustainable business. There’s a balance between boundaries that work to support client relationships, and boundaries that simply keep everyone from feeling seen, heard, and satisfied.

In the comments, I really want to know:

What are your thoughts and experiences around boundaries in your creative business life? Good? Bad? Do yours need tightening up or loosening up?

***Please know — I do NOT see this conversation as about Danielle, so please keep that in mind as you craft your response. This is about a topic that is VERY important to business owners and I welcome all points of view.

(Photo credit.)

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