April 26, 2023
Kris: Welcome to the Design and Prosper podcast, episode 76.
Today Don and I are talking about the fine line between healthy boundaries and boundaries that block or bite. We don’t want to bite our clients. No, no, no.
Kris: Hello. Welcome back.
Don: Okay, so today we’re talking about boundaries. Now, Kris and I love boundaries. We’re a love a good boundary.
Kris: You know that, don’t you? You know that.
Don: You know that by now. Surely. Yes. They’re crucial to the smooth operation of any graphic design business.
Without them, our clients swiftly become our bosses. Before we know it, our clients are running our business to meet their needs, their systems, their procedures.
It’s their business imprinting onto our business, and we don’t want that. Mm.
Kris: Essentially, we become their employee. Yeah. An external employee. So not even a good employee. Yeah. Just like one that’s sort of not even one they really care about.
Don: Yeah, exactly. It’s one that’s out. It’s not, they’re not even in the building.
Don: We don’t we’re not even giving this employee a chair.
Kris: They don’t get a Christmas party.
Don: No, That’s right. So imagine every single client that you have, you know, is your boss. Running your business their way. The idea of having one boss is hard enough for us entrepreneurs, let alone getting our head around 10 or more of them.
Kris: Yeah, no, thank you.
Don: Now, absolutely. It’s really scary, right? So It’s this fear that can throw design business owners into a boundary bonanza and designers are throwing boundaries up and down left and right to protect their processes.
Kris: Yeah. And it’s almost like they’ve got this permanent emoji up. You know, it’s like, no, no entry. No entry. Yeah. You are not going to you are not going to defy me and my, my processes. And we kind of admire that. We admire the spirit of that.
Don: We’ve probably influenced that.
Kris: We probably have, but you don’t want to do it at the expense of client nurture and making clients feel really at ease and welcome.
Don: So here’s something that we never thought we would ever, ever say. If you are struggling to get new business, or repeat business. Have you reviewed how many boundaries you have in place? Mm-hmm. You know, we are seeing time and time again beautiful boundaries being overused. A little bit Like that emoji Kris was talking about.
Kris: Yeah. Yeah. So we don’t want you to be so boundaried that you pinch yourself off from business, new business coming in the door, pinch yourself off from new clients because they just might be put off like, oh gosh. This person. Yeah.
Don: If we make it too hard for our clients to get through to us or to be seen and heard, they’ll just move on. They’ll just leave and they’ll be like, oh, that’s all just too hard.
You’ll actually annoy them, so we don’t want to have clients who are getting annoyed or feeling unseen or feeling unheard.
Kris: It is a fine balance, so you want to be in integrity. Um, That’s actually our number one pro tip for setting boundaries is to always remain in integrity with who you are, what your voice is, what your personality is. That’s really important too.
Don: It’s really important.
Kris: I think some designers confuse boundary setting with trying to be overly professional and we are big on professionalism, but we are also big on integrity and letting your unique personality shine through and you can do the both together.
Don: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you are implementing a really powerful strategy like boundaries in your business, if it doesn’t feel like you, change it, yeah, you can do it.
You can have a really powerful boundary and sound like you, and if that’s not working. for you at the moment, if it doesn’t sound like that if your boundaries are not presenting as you change them, we implore you to change them so that they do.
Kris: Yeah. So just say you have an auntie who reaches out to you and they want you to work on some branding for their business, and you’re a little bit worried because auntie might take some liberties and you know, talk too much or just be a bit opinionated or whatever it is, and you’re like, okay, really, I’ve gotta pull this auntie into line.
Don: Got to reign her in.
Kris: And how can I do that? So if you are used to saying to auntie and you call her, Auntie Betty. Let’s call her Auntie Betty. And then you write an email to her saying, Hi, Elizabeth. Thank you for your inquiry. I’m going to, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Go over here and this is my procedure that will be out of integrity with who you are.
Don: Yeah. And you’ll have Annie Betty going, what the hell? what the what? What The what? What’s, who, where’s my niece? Where’d she go?
Kris: Sometimes you can take things too, literally, too far, too boundaried. Yeah.
So we need you to, in a way, use your common sense here and think, okay, what is in integrity with what I would normally say, but also maintain a boundary because if she, If Aunty Betty says to you at a barbecue, oh, I’m so excited about my brand, I want to talk about it and you’re like, oh, that’s so wonderful. But I’m in, I’m in, um, barbecue land at the moment I’ve had a glass of wine or you know, I’m, I’m not in the head space to talk about this and I really want to get it right for you.
So, so you can have that really lovely little conversation. It’s not like, you’re putting up this horrible boundary that Aunty Betty’s going to be like, how rude.
Don: Exactly. And if you say, oh, you know, speak to my receptionist or whatever, and pop the gatekeeper up. She might be like, what? I don’t even want to work with you now because it doesn’t feel like you anymore and I don’t want to be so distanced that it’s a whole complete different experience. That’s the integrity that we are talking about there.
So let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly in your boundaries kit. So, there’s some healthy ones, the good ones, and these are the boundaries that are generally a win-win for both you and your client and Aunty Betty.
Kris: I’m getting the giggles about Auntie Betty. You have to email us or DM us. If you actually have an Auntie Betty.
Don: Yes, please. I would love to know that. So these are the boundaries that protect you and your processes in everything from onboarding right through to the delivery of the project and beyond, like your availability. Making sure that that’s really clear. Payment, when you’re going to be paid, what your payment terms are. That’s really, that’s a beautiful boundary. Boundaries around rush jobs, how you’ll communicate through the process, making sure that you keep all communication within your project management portal, expectations on deliverables, deadlines, and so on and so on and so on.
The list could go on and on. We cover boundaries really extensively in the Design and Prosper Business Academy, and we have a healthy boundary for almost every possible scenario. So they’re the type of boundaries that. are Really healthy. The boundaries that really clearly articulate what we are doing within our business. As long as your unique voice and personality is ever present in all of those. That’s when they’re healthy.Nice and clear.
Kris: Like back to the barbecue example with how you communicate. You can absolutely set the limit that it all happens through your client portal. Yeah. And then if it happens at the barbecue, you can say, oh, I’m not going to remember that now.
You can be like totally honest and be yourself. I’m not going to, I’m not in work headspace right now, but just pop it on the Trello board and I’ll, I’ll look at that on Monday or whenever you’re back ay at work next. It doesn’t have to be weird and it doesn’t have to be rigid and also if you are communicating with somebody who you’ve got a loving relationship with, like it might be a friend or whoever it is, and you normally call them honey, it’s perfectly okay to keep calling them honey in, in the correspondence.
Don: You don’t have to disappear in in the business relationship. Don’t lose sight of who you are. Don’t lose yourself in that.
Kris: Like we have clients where we have a ridiculous quantity of emojis in the emails, and that’s because that’s the way we communicate together because we’ve become friends.
We actually didn’t use all the emojis at the beginning, but they, they came in and then it is just like an emoji fest in there. And that’s beautiful. We’re still incredibly professional and we’re still. The beautiful advice, but it’s okay to modify. It’s not even modified in your professionalism. You’re still really professional. You’re still giving advice, but you are allowing your true self to shine through.
Don: Absolutely. it’s really important. So we, we have this little section in this podcast. We were going to call them the boundaries that bite, the bad guys. Who would’ve thought a bad boundary?
Well, there’s a little caveat here. It isn’t necessarily the boundary, that’s bad, but it’s that delivery that Kris was talking about. Or it might be the frequency, or it might be the timing. Some clients just won’t cope if you throw them a super firm boundary, you might just lose them.
If you change your language, if you are too frequent with something, if the timing is off, then you might just lose them. So If you are stopping them at every little point in their journey with you, they will likely get frustrated. They’ll feel unseen and unheard. If you change your communication style, like Kris was saying, if you call me honey 90% of the time, and then when you’re working with me, you call me like Mrs. Pinter, I’ll be like, what is going on? It’s don’t change your communication style or your voice because that will just turn people off. It really will. And you know, they’ll run a mile, they’ll be like, I don’t know who you are. So it will make them question how much they can trust you because you’re different. You’re a chameleon. Where is this person that I know and love, where have they gone?
Kris: Yes. All right. So finally we want to talk about when boundaries get ugly. So this usually happens when a boundary is being driven home and the recipient feels like they’re getting hit over the head with it. Like it’s just on repeat, on repeat, on repeat, and they’re like, oh my God, I’m just constantly getting this autoresponder. For example, I want to not get the autoresponder because it makes it feel robotic.
Don: Oh, absolutely. Automated responses on emails and DM’s are the biggest offender. Yeah. Yeah.
Kris: They can be wonderful.
Don: Just don’t overuse them.
Kris: Don’t have them on full-time.
Don: Only when you need a gatekeeper for a holiday or you’re in a deep dive or something like that, but don’t have them on full time
Kris: Unless you are extremely booked out and you don’t mind annoying people. You might need a gatekeeper if you’re really booked out. And side note, if you are really booked out, you might be charging too little. That’s a different topic
Don: Yes let’s talk about that on another podcast.
Kris: Yeah. So be careful about putting up too many walls.
Don: So when setting boundaries with family and friends, like Kris said, Aunty Betty, we can go a little bit overboard because we are so focused on being treated like a professional. Yeah. Because often we don’t they don’t see us as a professional. They see us as the little girl, or they see us as the little boy, or the the little person.
Kris: Or the friend, we went and got drunk with that time.
Don: The friend that we went and got drunk with. Exactly. I like that one. You don’t think that they have that respect for you and you’re there going respect me, dammit. You know.
Kris: I’m a professional.
Don: I’m a Professional, so, you know, we throw up way too many walls or we use a voice and tone that may not be our usual style.
We ignore the history we have with that person. You know, we block them out so much that they, they have to hire you to speak with you. They’re like, I was just wanting you to know if you’re coming to mum’s house for dinner on Friday, night, and we’ve blocked them out so much that they can’t even get through to us. So just be really mindful about that.
Kris: Yeah because all this stuff, it’s just going to pull you out of integrity and you’re not going to feel right. You’re going to feel off about it and you’ll be like, oh, I want to be professional. But you’re actually. You’re going to feel wobbly.
Don: Yeah, absolutely. It just feels really icky.
Kris: Yeah, that’s the word, icky. You actually will icky.
Don: You’ll feel really icky and then the person just won’t want to work with you. Yeah. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen where designers block their clients out. We’ve actually been the recipient of those automated DM’s and those automated emails, and it’s like constantly, constantly being blocked, blocked, blocked. And it’s like well, you don’t want anybody into that world. And how are you going to expect a client to get into that world if you’re constantly on an automated response.
So be very, very careful of not overusing that. Sorry, I’m just hammering that one home because that’s one that we’re seeing quite a lot.
Kris: Yeah. And overly complicated initial forms that they might fill out on, on the website. So we, we talked about that in, a couple of episodes ago. If you don’t have a lot of business right now, make your form simple. Make the process of making that first meeting with you, super simple. Don’t have really big gatekeepers. Sure, it might waste your time, but if you haven’t got any clients on your books, go for it.Have have those meetings.
Don: Yeah, absolutely. That’s it. So some tips to make sure your boundaries always fall into the healthy category. What we’d like you to do is just make sure you read. the room, You know, read the situation, read the client. Yeah. Allow that personal element to come into play. Allow your gut and your intuition to come into play. Are they feeling rejected? Read the room, we implore you to read the room.
Kris: I love that. That whole read the room really sums it up. Who are you dealing with? Are you dealing with a really funny client who has a really great personality and cracks jokes? Are you dealing with somebody that you’ve known in the past and you’ve had like a really beautiful history with like just read the room, where are they at? Where are they emotionally at and how they’re going to connect with you through this project?
Don: Absolutely. And the other thing that we think is an absolutely valuable process is to do a boundaries audit. Have a look at the journey your clients take to be with you. What are they doing? What steps to do they take? How would you feel if you were on the other end of that boundary. yeah. Do a bit of a boundary audit.
Kris: And have a look at how many gatekeepers you’ve got. Like, have you got your whole business locked up like Fort Knox? You know, just make sure that you’ve got some of those doors open.
Don: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Are you automating too much? Is your automation annoying? Ask some people. Poll some people. See where your boundaries are landing. So I think that, with that said, are beautiful. We still claim boundaries to be beautiful. I love them. I’m a boundaried person and I absolutely love it. Yeah. But be firm and fair. Read the room, don’t lose yourself for the desire for a professional boundary, you can have a professional boundary and have personality in there as well.
Kris: Yeah. I love that. Don’t lose yourself. That’s where it goes wrong. When you’re trying to be something you’re not. All right. beautiful people. Take care. Until next time, bye.
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