In business, boundaries are guidelines that you set in place for your business so you can serve your clients well and still have time for your personal life and family. These guidelines protect your mental and physical energy and allow you to serve your clients to your fullest potential. While also preventing things like miscommunication and burnout.
“Setting boundaries is your responsibility. People will continue to do what you allow. You get to decide what is and isn’t allowed in your business.”– unknown
If you run a service based business it’s time to set boundaries… like yesterday. Can you think of any task a client has asked you to do that is technically outside of your original agreement? Say, extra editing, canceling at the last minute, or bringing grandma to hop into a photo or two. These are small asks right now, but amplify it by 15 or 20 clients. Can you see how it becomes a burden very quickly? Set your boundaries in the beginning and don’t wait for something to become a problem.
Set a work schedule. I don’t mean you have to work 9am-5pm or that you can’t work from 10pm-1am if you want to. Dedicate certain hours for working hours and have “no work” times as well. For example my “work” hours are M-F 2-4PM when my daughter naps, Tuesday & Thursday 9:30am – 1:30pm when all of my kids are at school, and 8-10PM when I have tasks I wasn’t able to finish earlier in the day. I also have specific days for shooting that change with the seasons (and sports schedules).
Say NO like you mean it. If a client asks me to do something that is outside of my boundaries I simply tell them that I don’t offer that and give them an alternate option. I rarely, if ever, get push back. Sometimes this means you won’t get hired by that client, but it’s ok. The right ones will come.
Determine your max workload and don’t overdo it. How many sessions can you realistically take on in a week/month? Decide what is truly feasible for you and stick to it. In the winter, spring, and summer months this number is considerably lower than in the fall for me. I typically will take on more sessions in the fall and will set tighter boundaries in the other months because it can take a toll on my mental well being and creativity if I am accepting a high number of sessions all year long.
Leave blank space. Don’t forget to leave blank space in your calendar for planning, scheduling, marketing, and YOUR LIFE.
You don’t have to do sessions for free. Even if a really amazing charity is asking you to donate a session or if your mom wants you to do a maternity session for Uncle Bill’s daughter’s best friend. If you are here right now, you are probably trying to build a profitable photography business. Sometimes the answer has to be no because it’s not just “pointing a camera and clicking a button.” I will not do free sessions during the fall months, however I am a bit more open to them during winter & summer when I am not as busy and usually in return I ask for something from the person who I am shooting for. Ex: letting me use a new dress for my client-closet, a different location that I want to showcase, or even something just for fun.
Set clear expectations through communication. It’s great that you have a fancy contract that states everything you expect from your client. But the truth is people either don’t read it or just forget what it says once they sign it. Communicate expectations before they book, after they book, before the session, during the session, and after the session. Repeating your expectations eliminates a lot of headaches in the future.
Set email, text, and phone boundaries. Here is where I have a hard time listening to my own advice. I will respond to anything as soon as I see it. That’s just the way I am. But I try to have downtime on my phone starting at 8PM so I am not looking at messages from my clients until the next morning.
A little perspective… This isn’t heart surgery. Yes, photographs are super important and yes we are a little biased on that part BUT truthfully no one needs to preserve memories to LIVE. Keep this in mind the next time a client is trying to bully you into doing something extra for them or to lower your prices.
One more bonus tip for you when it comes to setting clear boundaries for your business. You ready…? Get clear on what your niche is, identify your ideal client and start speaking directly to them. When you are clear on what you offer and who you offer it to the right people are going to find you and those people are going to be more likely to respect what you offer.
Don’t throw in the towel yet, mama. Right now, your business and marketing might look like the metaphorical equivalent of confetti on the ground after a birthday session: a bit of a mess.
You have a passion for photography, and as long as you have the persistence to march on, you can create a thriving business that you can be proud of – and you can do it while working less. By embracing systems and automation, as well as fine-tuning your marketing strategies and your pricing model, we can create a framework to make your dreams happen
You were made for this and I can help. Check out my 1:1 strategy sessions. Where we work out a plan for the parts of your business you are struggling with the most.