I cannot stress enough how important it is for you and your business to set clear expectations and boundaries. As a business owner, it’s your job to ensure that you, your assets, and your family are protected. It is easy to lose sight of boundaries and exhaust yourself to reach goals and meet expectations. But no career should ever be established at the expense of yourself or your loved ones.
Set Clear Expectations
Most relationships fail because of unclear expectations. The same is true in business. When you start your business, you want to be as flexible and accommodating as possible so you can meet everyone's expectations and needs. You lose track of business goals when you desire to overdeliver for your clients. I get it – I have been there. At some point, though, I realized that catering to everyone except me wasn't benefitting my business. Make sure your clients have clear expectations from you. Set boundaries to protect not only yourself but your clients as well!
Draft Professional Contracts
None of us expect our relationship to fail or our clients to screw us, infringe on our copyright, ask for a refund, request more services for free, or simply not pay us. "It's not going to happen to me; my clients are awesome!"
I'm not saying people intend to do anything, but they do happen. And when there is no clear path to conflict resolution, emotions can get involved. If you have to invest in anything in the first year of your business, let it be your contract. Hire a lawyer to draft an agreement tailored to you and your business. A friend of mine (a lawyer, BTW) once said:
"Close your eyes, imagine your perfect experience with your client, and write it down."
Clearly State Deliverables
This goes hand in hand with your contract. Both you and your client need to understand what you're getting from this relationship. We can get caught up in our day-to-day tasks and miss a part of the deliverables, or your client can misunderstand what they were supposed to receive. Conversations can be misinterpreted. Approaching your business with an "Ehh, I'll wing it" attitude will seriously damage you and your business.
Unless you ENFORCE it, it doesn't matter how well-drafted your contracts, SOPs, or internal boundaries are. If your boundaries include not responding, say after 5 p.m., your responsibility is to enforce that boundary. Be firm and avoid making exceptions because, without structure, expectations are hard to manage.
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