How to Set Boundaries as an Entrepreneur
Setting boundaries is difficult for almost all of us - many of us were taught that putting ourselves before others is utterly selfish, and being selfish makes us a bad person. I've started learning how to enforce my boundaries when it comes to self care. It's a work in progress, and I am nowhere near perfect at it, but I am getting better. I'm still getting used to self care being an integral and interwoven part of my day, but when I am able to remember to self care I am good at boundaries. I've frequently gone through periods of feeling uninspired, anxious and like things are slipping too fast. It took me awhile to realize that a huge part of the issue is that I haven't been setting boundaries around my professional life. Setting boundaries as an entrepreneur is different than in the rest of my life. Now, not only do I have the fear of not being liked, it is tied to my ability of being able to pay rent and living expenses. Because most of my work can be accessed on my phone, I'm always available. I'm on it much more than I'm comfortable, and it takes away from me being present. At times I've said yes to every project, contract or booking out of fear that if I say no to one thing there will not be anymore opportunities for income. As a freelancer who is entirely dependant on projects, this is something HUGE I need to figure out my boundaries around. There is very frequently times where it get to the point that I can't really function in life; I have a bit of writers block, I'm craving an abundance of alone time, and I can't seem to connect in my relationships. So here's what I've decided to do.
Let It Go
I need to somehow find the trust that what is meant to happen will happen. If I set a boundary with a client and they choose to no longer work with me, then I must trust that it is for the best and a partnership that is a better fit will come along. I also need to learn how to not take things on personally, but I know that this one will be an ongoing journey.
Does it align with my goals, priorities and values? Is it something that supports my wellbeing rather than trigger anxiety and depression? If I'm taking on projects that don't truly align, I'm not be able to put the care and attention into the things I do actually care about in the way they deserve. My philosophy for shopping is "buy less, invest in high quality" and that applies to projects as well; less projects means investing in higher quality (both of the type of projects and the quality of my work).
Remember "No" is a Complete Sentence
This is the biggest one for me. I'm so scared that if I say no, then I will not get more contracts or projects. But by saying yes to everything I spread myself too thin and either have to sacrifice my well-being or the quality of my work. Inevitably it always ends up being my well-being. My need-to-please drive is so deeply ingrained that when push comes to shove it's the one that takes over since self care is so new. So now, I'm trying to say "no" to the things that don't align with my priorities before this even becomes an issue.
Set Clear Boundaries
Whether it is setting deadlines or deciding to limit phone use, be specific. Isaac and I have implemented a no phone after dinner rule, and I've decided to only check emails, social media and blog stats twice per hour. When it comes to deadlines, I try to make sure that they are something that is sustainable for me. I am trying to set it up so that I don't get overwhelmed in the first place - usually a little bit longer of time periods, or requiring notice for changes by a certain point. Communication is another boundary I am trying to sort out - how long I am comfortable with not hearing back or waiting for an answer? How do I set and enforce boundaries around that to respect my needs as well as others? It takes time, testing and a lot of both thought and intuition to figure out what boundaries work for us as individuals.
This is all so hard - my people pleasing habits are deeply ingrained. But I am doing the best I can - we all are. I can already see the positive impact this has had on my life, both personally and professionally, and I intend to continue growing, learning, and trying.