When we start out with our business it can be challenging to set boundaries with prospective clients, partners or even part-time employers.
We all have to start somewhere. We all have to have those first times. We all begin with practice, practice and more practice.
But how do you do that AND not feel like you are being taken advantage of as you go through that transitionary period between offering services for free and starting to ask for money?
By practicing one thing over and over again. Clarity.
Maybe it is a trial class at a yoga studio. You are not sure if you’ll get paid for it. You are not sure if the trial is just for the owners or if you’ll teach actual students. Time to get clear by asking precise questions.
Maybe it is an introduction call with a prospective client. Are you clear on how long you have for the call? How much time can you afford to “give away for free”? Are you clear with the client how many participants can be on the call?
As we navigate the new waters of entrepreneurship it can be very ambiguous (that comes with the territory) BUT your interactions, your offers (free or otherwise), and your agreements with new partners, prospective customers or suppliers can be made crystal clear by asking the right questions and setting the right boundaries.
So here it is, my top 4 tips on how to bring clarity to all your business agreements, big or small:
1. Speak on the phone, confirm via email
There is nothing quite like human-to-human interaction. For many arrangements it is always best to talk it out on the phone. Ambiguity on email is a real thing and people get A LOT of emails. So instead, drop the email for a moment and speak to an actual human being.
Once you’ve had your call, having decided who is doing what and by when, who is paying what and to who, it is time to go back to an email for follow-up.
Always, always send an email to confirm what was agreed. This is important for a couple of reasons:
- Any misunderstanding from the phone call (yes, we are human, this happens) can be quickly picked-up via the email confirmation
- You and your partner/client have a place to refer back to during busy times to remember what was agreed and what needs to get done
- Should anything get complicated in a later misunderstanding, you have the safety net of an email confirmation to feel empowered in any challenging situation
2. Be clear with yourself
It is very difficult for anyone else to understand your boundaries and expectations if you are not clear on them yourself.
Through advanced preparation (it may only be 10 minutes before a call or a meeting) get clear on what you are prepared to do and what your aim is for the interaction. Whether meeting a new yoga studio owner for the first time to discuss teaching, or maybe meeting a fellow entrepreneur to see if you can partner together on a cool project, get clear with yourself from the beginning.
We all have to start somewhere and as we begin on our business journey we tend to start out by saying yes to almost every opportunity that comes along. And generally there is nothing wrong with this – you meet people, you learn what is for you and what isn’t, but sometimes without clarity on your intentions or boundaries you may start saying yes to things which don’t truly align with what you are trying to achieve, or worse, don’t even align with your deep-root values.
That pre-work and preparation before any interaction with a customer, supplier, or business partner could be the difference between you leaving the interaction feeling empowered or the complete opposite...
3. You are worthy
Believing in your worth is a huge part of cultivating a backbone for your business. You have something to offer. You might be new to this, and yes you have lots to learn (we all do), but you are also unique and offering something valuable.
Saying yes, yes and more yes at the beginning to the lesser-paid opportunities to help you learn, or to get exposure and experience is definitely OK. But stay close to yourself. When does something start to feel like you are being taken advantage of? When is something draining you more than it is feeding you?
You are still a kind and compassionate human being if you have boundaries.
You are still a wonderful person if you decide to step away from something which drains your energy.
You are still worthy of all abundance and adventure in your business if you say no to that one opportunity that didn’t feel like it respected your value.
4. Practice clarity from day one
And finally, I highly recommend practicing this all from day one of your entrepreneurial journey. As your business evolves it will get busier and faster and when that comes, having these practices as second nature will save you time, cultivate control over your business transactions and open you up to be ready for bigger and bigger things…
And one final thing I’ve learnt during my whole business and working life. People always respect and appreciate working with clear and straightforward people, which means, they will definitely want to work with you again and will definitely recommend other people to work with you too.
Win, win, i'd say.
At the beginning doing this all alone can be scary. Not wanting to miss good opportunities. Scared you are not making the right decision. I completely get that, i've been there. Which is why having someone to support you, encourage you, coach you and mentor you is a real asset. No one was ever meant to do this all alone. We ALL need a support network!