It seems like as soon as we start talking boundaries people go craaaaazy. It’s either crazy with “I know I’m horrible at this and I need to change something or my life will explode” or “people who set boundaries are mean and entitled and scary.”
It’s actually in service of your clients and your business and your art to create boundaries. The world does not need you to be everything to everyone, 24 hours a day with no vacations and no time with your favorite peeps. You might think that’s the key to running a successful business: just keep your head down and hustle, right?
That’s why it’s so tricky to talk about boundaries–there are a few principles we gotta understand that guarantee we do this whole boundary-setting thing right.
And ohhhhhmygosh how freakin’ boring does that sound.
The thing is–your clients are gonna love you for creating boundaries. We might think they want someone who will answer their texts in the middle of the night or give them a whopping discount just because they asked.
But really, what people want and need is a creative who knows the value of what she produces.
Notice that I’m not talking about time here. I rapidly grow weary of photographers who whine about the value of “their time.” Sorry, love, but your time is not worth any more than anyone else’s on this planet. You have the same amount of time as everyone else, and how you choose to spend it is your choice–don’t try to make your clients feel guilty for the time you spend on them.
So instead of placing value on “your time,” let’s focus on the real value you bring: your vision, your artistic genius, your ability to help couples remember why they fell in love, your technical mastery of your camera and light and posing and post-processing to produce consistently gorgeous imagery that clients can treasure for a lifetime. This doesn’t mean you don’t have an hourly rate. This doesn’t mean you don’t have office hours. This means you know the real reason you charge $X amount, and everything else falls into place.
Let’s talk practicality now. Here are some checkpoints to make sure you have established boundaries so your clients can get to lovin’ you.
1. Office Hours.
In what time frame will clients hear back from you? How do you want them to contact you? Do you answer texts in the middle of the night, on weekends, while you’re on vacation? Can clients call you whenever they want and expect you to answer? Your answers to these are completely up to you–it’s your business! But. You’ve gotta establish it so clients know what to expect. Otherwise, they’ll assume you’re always available. It’s not because they’re mean or inconsiderate–it’s because they’re human. It’s your job as a professional to decide what you will and won’t do in this area. So go on–put that goodness on your website, preferably in the contact form, rightthisminute before you forget.
If you’re in a service-based business, people are going to ask for discounts. Decide right here and now who gets a discount and who doesn’t. Maybe no one gets a discount–you only work for free on special projects or full price. Maybe returning clients get a discount. Maybe clients who refer others to your biz get a discount or a special prize. Whatever it is, you have to be 100% behind it. It has to make your heart 100% happy to think about applying it to every person who walks through your business door for the rest of ever. I could write a treatise on discounts (hey, maybe I will!) but here’s the thought I want to leave you with: It is not mean to run a business.
Giving discounts and giving away your services is not “being nice.” You can treat your clients incredibly well, deliver beautiful quality and give them an amazing experience. My guess is you can probably do this better without giving them a discount–when you feel well-compensated, you serve clients so much better, and that’s what they deserve. And P.S. there are ways to promote your services and give incentives without giving a straight-up discount. Think low-cost, high-value items your peeps will love.
3. What projects you will and will not take on.
If you’re starting out and still unsure of what you want to shoot, by all means, dip your feet into every pool and see how it feels. But if you know in your heart that weddings are your dream, is it really a great idea to photograph your neighbor’s dog because she asked you to? Should you really be taking her cold hard cash “just to pay the bills” when your heart isn’t in it, when you’ll deliver mediocre photos and pooey service and she’ll send all her dog-owning friends to you for more of the same?
Maybe your poor neighbor will never know the difference. Maybe she’ll be happy with her photos and her experience. But knowing you could do so much better is a yucky place to be, and it’s a sure way to burn yourself out quick. I get that you have to pay the bills. So do I. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my artistic integrity and shoot concepts that don’t light me up to make it happen. How’s that for artistic hoity-toity!
Decide now what you will stop shooting or never shoot, and never look back.
Hey, hey, here’s the part where I want to hear from you. How do you create boundaries in your business and your life? Tell me in the comments below or by dropping me a line.
If this post helped you, please share it with a sista or brotha who could use it!
Hugs and happy Tuesday 🙂