So, you want to grow your business. You want more Instagram followers than Taylor Swift, more site visitors than Facebook, and more hangers onto your every word than that lady whose books are always yelling at me to wash my face or whatever. You want your clients to see you as their trusty BFF that they can turn to for anything. But in the flurry of growing a business there’s one thing many photographers forget: the importance of setting boundaries in business.
You want your business to flourish and thrive. So, you pour every piece of yourself into making that a reality. You agree to take on a 31st wedding even though you promised yourself that this year you’d stick with just 30. You edit until 3 a.m. even though you aren’t actually a night owl and hate living on no sleep. You respond to that client’s text at 11 p.m. even though it’s not urgent and they could easily wait until tomorrow.
Before long, the life you quit your day job to build couldn’t be further from the life you’re living, and you’re working double the hours you did in your office job.
Then annoyance, frustration, and resentment toward your clients set in and burnout soon follows. Suddenly, you hate your job, and before long…you quit.
All because setting boundaries in business felt like an impediment to your success.
Y’all, if I could should this from the top of that really high building Tom Cruise climbs in that one Mission Impossible movie, I would: BOUNDARIES IN BUSINESS ARE HEALTHY!
You need them. They are good. They are the best gift you can give yourself as a business owner, so let’s break down a few of the reasons why.
1. Boundaries set expectations up front
Most clients aren’t unreasonable monsters. But with our tech strapped to our hands at all times, we are used to spouting off whatever pops into our brains the moment it does, no matter how important it is or what time it is. And the first time you affirm that behavior…oh buddy, grab your floatie because here comes a flood!
Setting clear boundaries in business up front makes it unmistakably plain to your clients that you WILL be in touch…just not between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. So, write in your contract (in bold and all caps if you have to), that you’ll be available between the hours of 8 a,m. and 6 p.m. only and that you may not respond to all messages right away. Don’t want to work on Sundays? Great! Put that in there, too! Want to only respond to client emails Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Do it! You make the rules.
Remember: you left your day job so you wouldn’t have a boss. Not so that you’d have 30 mini bosses tugging you this way and that at all hours. You’re the boss. You. Make. The rules.
2. Boundaries give you time to focus
So you finally sit down to edit at 9 p.m. and get three photos in when Becky texts you a question asking if you’ll take a jumping picture of the bridal party at her wedding in six months. You sigh…but respond.
Ten seconds later, your phone dings again: “Should we do them like this *insert Pinterest photo* or this *insert Pinterest photo*. You explain that you’ll have to see the venue before you can decide for sure. DING! “Oh, well here’s what the venue looks like…so what do you think?”
You finally get back to editing.
Something that should have received your undivided attention was interrupted because there were no boundaries. Now you’ll have to rush to finish the gallery, you’re frustrated, and your husband is probably annoyed that you aren’t going to have time to watch Fast and Furious 37 with him tonight.
And not only does broken concentration lead to annoyance and a jumbled schedule, it also leads to less than your absolute best work, and that can hinder your growing business.
But that doesn’t just apply to editing. It applies to webinars and blog post writing. Client meetings and session prep. You should feel free to devote your attention to the task at hand without worrying about a barrage of texts from a client who doesn’t respect or know your boundaries.
3. Boundaries give you the freedom to really live
Living without boundaries in business just isn’t healthy. Period.
It ratchets up stress, demolishes concentration, and crumples up your free time and throws it in the trash. When you decided to become a photographer, you didn’t sign away your time to relax away from work, but without boundaries, that’s what can easily happen.
Set your boundaries in business early, reiterate them often, and enforce them constantly to open yourself up to living a life that is more than work.
I promise you that you can still grow your business and deliver a one-of-a-kind client experience filled with care and respect while maintaining your life.
I know this is wildly difficult for some photographers to grasp, and many of you may clutch at your pearls and gasp when I say this but…your clients are not your best friends.
They are your clients.
Sure, some of those client relationships blossom into friendship, but that shouldn’t be the expectation. And that doesn’t mean you have to be cold and distant with them or act like you don’t care about what gown they choose or if their dad gets ill. But it does mean that you shouldn’t feel the need to upend your life for their every need.
I would do anything for my best friends…but there are only like 5 of them. I can’t treat all 45 clients I’m in contact with at any given moment in that same way. There has to be a difference of relationship there.
And that difference is found in the boundaries