As an entrepreneur, setting boundaries and definitions around the work you do, and around your schedule and time are two of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your growing business. So whether you are looking at opening an auto repair shop or starting an online business, you need to set your boundaries and priorities. When you’re in charge of your own business and dependent on the income from that business, it becomes easy to get caught up in wanting to help “everyone,” and working all the time. I want to assure you that when you make it a point to define a niche of who you work with, and set some structure around when you work, you’ll find that it’s better for you, for your clients, and for your business. So, let’s talk about setting kind boundaries around your niche and your time as an entrepreneur.
Setting Kind Boundaries Around Your Niche and Your Time as an Entrepreneur
This week’s show is all about setting up the mindful steps to design a business you love, and the kind of business you dreamed about when you started out on your entrepreneurial journey. In Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, she shares her thoughts about creating clarity as a leader.
“Over our years of researching and working together, we’ve learned something about clarity that has changed everything from the way we talk to each other to the way we negotiate with external partners. It’s simple but transformative: Clear is kind. Unclear is Unkind. I first heard this saying two decades ago in a 12-step meeting, but I was on slogan overload at the time and didn’t even think about it again until I saw the data about how most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re being kind, when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair. Feeding people half-truths or bullshit to make them feel better (which is almost always about making ourselves feel more comfortable) is unkind. Not getting clear with colleagues about your expectations because it feels too hard, yet holding them accountable or blaming them for not delivering is unkind. Talking about about people instead of to them is unkind. This lesson has so wildly transformed my life that we live by it at home.”
What Dr. Brown says here about being a leader at work is one that you can layer onto your work as an entrepreneur, and it’s the departure point for this week’s show (which you can listen to above).
I’m asking the questions of:
How can you create clarity for your work, when you are your own boss?
How can you be kind to yourself?
How can you set up guidelines that are ultimately kind to you, and to your clients?
How to Define and Set Boundaries Around What You Do
The temptation (especially when you are starting out as a business owner and needing to make ends meet) is to be fairly open ended with what kind of work you do. Part of this is out of necessity; when you’re just starting you may not have a good idea of the exact kind of work you want to do. The thing I’ve seen in clients, however, is that many don’t want to “niche” down because they are afraid that by being clear and specific about what they do, they’ll alienate some of their potential client base.
What I’ve found is the opposite is actually true. By naming what you do, it creates definition for yourself, and for potential clients. You know what you do, and you can communicate it to others. Anyone who is looking for someone to help them (with say, a podcast), knows where to look and who can help them.
Here are a few other thoughts on why you want to “niche down” when you’re an entrepreneur, taken from the lens of “clear is kind.”
-Don’t be afraid to clearly state what kind of work you do, and for whom
-Naming your niche creates an easy way for people to know how to work with you
-When people know what you do, it’s easy for them to refer others to you
Being a Multipassionate and Creating a Niche for Yourself
The other big benefit in niche-ing down is that it helps quiet your own internal chatter about “doing all the things” if you are a multipassionate (someone who is having a hard time picking the one thing they want to do when they grow up). Naming your area of speciality is kind to yourself because it lets you focus and put your precious energy towards the work that matters most to you, and is in your zone of genius, instead of feeling as if you need to begin to work on each new idea that comes to your creative mind.
Creating Structure Around Your Time is Kind
When you are your own boss, it’s also very easy to fall into the trap of working many, many hours each day. The first time that I went out on my own as a solopreneur two years ago, the fear of making ends meet took over and I nearly drove myself crazy with the amount of hours I worked.
What I’ve come to learn since then is that fear is a bully: it will tell you that unless you’re working all the time to bring in the clients, you’re not doing enough. And if you are an overachiever or have people pleaser tendencies, you’ll listen to your own inner critic chattering away with a fear fueled story, and you’ll work all the damn time until you’re burnt out.
The kinder way to approach this is to set structure for yourself, and take a leadership stance. Fear will quiet down when it sees that you have a plan in place, and, it will let you focus on what is most important, too. Here are some of the ways you can set up structure:
-Define your working hours as far was when you stop and start work each day, especially around client work.
-Build in days off – on weekends, for vacations, for time with family or friends, and put them on your calendar
-Accept and work with the flexibility that working for yourself brings. You don’t have to work traditional hours, so if you want to schedule in a couple of hours each week to be in your child’s classroom, do it.
-Schedule in time for yourself, or as Julia Cameron talks about in “The Artist’s Way,” set up creative dates with yourself. You could use software from Deputy to achieve this if you have a few other people under your employee you work with, or put it on your personal planner.
A couple more thoughts around creating structure around your time that is kind to you, and your clients:
-Use a time tracker to track how long it takes you do things so you can be more efficient with estimates of how long each thing takes each week. Humans are notorious for under-estimating how long they spend doing things. I like At Work for iPhone or Android for this.
-Track the time you spend doing client tasks with an app, even if you are on a retainer (but especially if you are hourly). Don’t under-charge, it’s not kind to yourself, and it sets a bad precedent later, when you bring on another client.
-If there is a task that you don’t like doing, or, that takes you a super long time to complete, see if you can delegate it to a VA or another person. If this feels weird: consider this: if you were your own boss (and you are), would you ask an employee to spend hours doing work they don’t enjoy or that someone else would do better, and more quickly? You would not. So, do a bit of research and see if you can find someone to help you with it. I like Fiverr for these kinds of tasks.
-For your marketing, let go of the things you think you should be doing, just because you see other entrepreneurs doing them. Take a good hard look at what is working for you, and what you enjoy doing. What is actually getting you results, right now? Right size your efforts to focus on that. Some other entrepreneurs to take inspiration from:
–Lace and Grace , who were on Shark Tank, do a large percentage of their business on Instagram, and started doing that before sales were a “thing” there. They have a site, but continue to do a majority of their sales through social media.
-When she was starting out, Helen McLaughlin , did most of her “marketing” through her weekly newsletter which was super fun, and felt like a letter she’d send a best friend. She had a site, but most of her work was focused on her newsletter.
-Author Alexandra Franzen is very public about not being on social media. She has a site, and a newsletter, but has left the other platforms.
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown on Amazon
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron on Amazon
Time Tracking App: At Work for iPhone or Android
Fiverr for editing and other small entrepreneur support tasks
Episode 74: Helen McLaughlin on Curiosity as a Foundation for Living
Episode 112: Alexandra Franzen on Rejection, Defeat, and Terrible Bosses