As business owners, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that good customer service = bending over backwards 24/7 for your clients. I learned this the hard way, but discovered that setting healthy boundaries in my business led to a more consistent experience for my clients AND a better work/life balance for me. There are three areas of my business I’ve set boundaries in: communication, pricing, and time.
Having our phones with us at all times has presented some challenges for the business owner, especially in photography, which is such a personal business. It’s easy to find ourselves being available to our clients 24/7 — which can lead to an unhealthy work/life balance. Plus, we might actually end up providing our clients with a less-than-ideal experience. It’s so much better for me to type out a thoughtful, thorough response when I sit down to work first thing in the morning rather than jotting a quick message on my phone while in line at the grocery store.
One example of how I try to keep work and personal life separate is to avoid texting my photography clients. For one thing, I just don’t love getting work texts when I’m not working! But I also like to corral as much of my client communication as possible to email. The benefit of this is having every interaction recorded, dated, and easily searchable for future reference.
These boundaries can be stated upfront if you want, but clients usually will base their behavior off of your own. If they send you a text and you prefer email, I might suggest the following response: “Hey [client]! So good to hear from you. I’m so excited about our session too. I’ll send you an email first thing tomorrow morning with a few details and instructions!” This redirects the communication where you’d like it and most people follow along with your example. If I continued to receive texts from a client, I’d be a bit more upfront and say something like, “I’d be happy to talk more about that with you! I tend to prefer email for business matters so I can keep organized and make sure you get a thorough response. If you don’t mind, I’ll send you my response that way! Look for it first thing tomorrow morning.”
One year, not long after I’d started shooting weddings, I was desperate to book as many as I could. Because of this, I found myself negotiating a wedding package far below my comfort zone to appease a picky client. There were many red flags throughout that process, but I ignored them in order to get the booking. After working with this client and shooting the wedding, I realized I didn’t ever want to feel so taken advantage of again. I also realized later how unfair it was to all my other wedding clients that year who paid my regular prices without complaint.
I set a boundary for myself then and there: I wouldn’t book a session or wedding below my “feel-good” price — whatever that was for me at the time. I might offer discounts or gifts, but I wouldn’t be persuaded to charge less than I was comfortable with.
Last but not least, I discovered how essential it was for me to have boundaries on when and how long I worked. Once I made the mistake of checking my work email during a really fun family dinner. I found that I’d gotten a message from a potential client I’d really hoped to book telling me they’d gone with another photographer for their wedding. I was so disappointed and it completely ruined my fun evening. I wished I’d just let that email sit until the next morning.
These days, I try to not only just check email when I’m working, but also to set actual work hours — and only do work during that time. Work time is for work, the rest of the time is for anything but work!
By setting a few simple guidelines for myself in these three areas, I’ve felt a huge improvement in my satisfaction as a business owner, while also providing an overall better experience for my clients. What boundaries would be beneficial for you to have in place in your own business?
For more tips on running a business efficiently, effectively, and intentionally, check out my course, The Thriving Business! It’s now open for registration and starts October 27th!
She began offering studio management services, workshops, and consulting in early 2013 and loves teaching and talking about business. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and cat and loves reading, writing, and the ocean. She believes in living simply, making meaningful connections, and baking lots of cookies.
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