Admittedly, setting boundaries isn’t my forte. I say yes to everything: Yes to assignments, yes to work events, yes to FaceTime catchups…must I go on? I say yes because I want to do it all and build positive, productive relationships in my community. Yet, something about getting a call from someone I didn’t know struck a chord in me. It made me realize what I’ve been trying to put off for a long time: I need to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries as your own boss feels messy. I firmly believe that saying yes to new opportunities is the key to creating a successful, lucrative business. So, where do you draw the line? That’s exactly why I’m so excited to introduce you to Lane Clark. As the founder and COO of her eponymous consulting firm, Lane spends her days working with both CEOs and emerging companies. So, she knows a thing or two about how to set boundaries without losing business. Here, Lane’s sharing her tips to do just that:
One of biggest challenges of setting boundaries as your own boss is that you have no set hours. You can work wherever, whenever, which makes it difficult to draw the line between “work hours” and “personal hours.”
“Hustle culture, the idea that you get to your goals by constantly working, is a huge culprit,” Lane explains. “The truth is that patience is a lot more important than pace. Creating boundaries slows you [down] to build something that sustains you, not drains you.”
For the longest time, I would be up until the wee hours of the morning to finish stories, draft pitches, or schedule emails to be sent out during conventional work hours. Did I get the work done? Of course. But, did I spend the following day exhausted to the point where I was unproductive? Totally. I’m learning to prioritize myself and my wellbeing. If I’m feeling exhausted, I go to bed, knowing that I’ll be ready and raring to go tomorrow.
Be a Leader
Despite your industry, there’s a good chance the bulk of your workday is spent fulfilling your clients’ needs: You’re hitting deadlines, participating in Zoom calls, and, of course, answering emails. But, while your clients should be your top priority, remember that you’re the boss.
“Many of us see ourselves as providing support or a service to our clients, which we are, but forget that there is leadership in support,” Lane says. “Embodying your boundaries is also a gift to your clients or customers, because it protects you as the asset.”
Yes, your client can always find another person to do your job, but it’s important to remember that you’re the expert of your services. If your clients are asking for a project with an unrealistic deadline, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension. (After all, you’re the only one who can determine how much time, energy, and resources you need to get the job done — and do it well.)
“When you have boundaries, you are better able to deliver the product or service that you were providing,” she says.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Okay, but how do you set boundaries for people you work with, but aren’t necessarily your clients? That’s the question I grappled with after my impromptu morning call. According to Lane, it’s important to enlist an accountability buddy.
“You can define your boundaries on your own, but run them by someone else,” she says. “It’s great to have an outside perspective, and someone to remind you when the boundaries you defined are slipping.”
I feel so fortunate to have a handful of self-starter friends who I text whenever I have a work dilemma (i.e. setting boundaries). Not only does my sounding board hold me accountable, but they also ensure I’m being kind, professional, and productive when setting my boundaries.
Don’t Make Exceptions
Imagine: After a few particularly grueling weeks, you finally have the chance to breathe and start setting some boundaries. All of a sudden, you get approached with an amazing opportunity, complete with a tight deadline. “Just this once,” you tell yourself. Sound familiar? I know we’ve all been there before.
While it’s so easy to make an exception to the rule, Lane encourages you to stand firm in your boundaries.
“If you are deciding on your boundaries with a clear mind, there is rarely a reason to bend those boundaries,” she says. “Clients or contractors can think their issue is an emergency or is more important than others, but you don’t have to reinforce that by caving into the expectations of others.”
Hustler of the Week: Emily Boschetto
From sourcing local flowers, to running a business, to hosting DIY workshops, you wear a lot of different hats! How do you juggle it all?
The truth is [that] the flower industry works through the night. On weekdays, my working day starts at 3 a.m. — and that’s actually pretty late. Our warehouse starts at 10 p.m. and works through the night. I have long days, and I know adding two kids on top of that makes it a little more crazy. It doesn’t matter how early you start your day: There’s not enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do. I’ve learned to accept that, and not to put too much pressure on myself. Just do as much as I can. I am incredibly disciplined with where I spend my time, and try to delegate as much as possible. My personal goal is being home for my kids at 4 p.m. So whilst the mornings are long, I finish early, and get to wear the most important hat of all.
What’s your favorite thing about being your own boss? Least favorite?
I love that we make a decision and then it’s live. There’s no dancing around decision making, and I love the immediacy that comes with it.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, when there’s a big issue, it’s incredibly difficult to absorb all of that pressure; to be the one accountable for making the “right decision.” Often the hardest issues aren’t clear cut at all. So that can be pretty tough to work through, especially on your own.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned since becoming your own boss?
When we first started the company, people were so quick to tell me what I should be doing, how I should grow the business, or where I need to spend money. Learning to shut out everybody else and just focus on what I thought was by far the most important lesson. You can waste so much money on stuff that doesn’t pay back at all — and I made that mistake. I’m glad I learned to just focus on delivering a great product and experience — and that the rest will follow. It has!