#148: Setting Smart Business Boundaries

Health coaches always talk about setting boundaries with clients…but aren’t always practicing what they preach! In this episode, Michelle shares about when and how to draw boundaries that will help you work smarter and protect your energy as a health coach.

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Hello there health coaches. You know, I wanted to tell you a story today. I was thinking back to quite a few years ago, when I was, let's say I was about four years into my business and it was the weekend, and I noticed that I had a notification on Facebook. So I looked at it and there were some nasty comments on something I had posted about making chickpea patties. I mean, it was the most benign post in the world you guys., It was something about making little patties. I had pan fried made out of chickpeas, whatever. And I couldn't even tell you right now what the nasty comments were, but there was one, and then there was two, and then there are more. And at first I was replying to them and then I was just shocked that so many people could be angry about chickpea patties and saying so many mean things to me. And I freaked out.

Again, it was the weekend I was taking my son to the park. We lived near this really cool playground down in the Washington DC area at the time. And while we were there on this beautiful, beautiful day, I was spending the whole time on my phone like this. Oh no. Oh no. What did they say now? Freaking out about this blow up. That was happening over on my Facebook page. First of all, has this ever happened to you? Anything in this realm, it felt like a nightmare. It felt like why is this happening to me? And also, why am I all wrapped up in this drama when I'm supposed to be with my family right now, I'm supposed to be with my child. He was so small and cute at the time. I remember he was trying to climb around at the playground and he needed help.

But it was like the worst day in the world because I did not know how to handle what was going down on Facebook. Crazy, right? This is not what we signed up for when we said, you know what? I think I want to be a health coach. None of us were like, that's how I want to spend my weekend. No. So when I look back, I realize that that's just one of like many stories I could tell you that exemplify how I did not have prep, proper boundaries with myself or in my business at the time. So that means that fairly often, things like this would creep into my personal life would disrupt my mental and emotional health. And we can't be had in that. That's not what it means to be a health coach. Right. So, think about the last time that something like this happened to you, and if you're here live, I would love to hear about it in the comments to think about a time that you felt uncomfortable for one reason or another in your business, or you felt overwhelmed or you felt unhappy ask yourself, could this problem be solved by drawing a smart boundary.

So I'm going to give you some examples. I also just want to take a second to make sure that I can see comments that you guys may be making. Okay, here we go. So far, Andrew's just going, Oh my gosh. It's so funny. You know, I love being health coach. I love running my own business, but there are these things that come up and through the years, you know, I've been doing this now for 12 years. I've learned that it all boils down to having boundaries in place where you need them. So, my goal for today is to help you put the boundaries into place before things become a problem. But like I said, sometimes when you have a problem that will be a red flag for you. Like here's where I need a boundary.

So, examples, having an issue with a client who was always canceling on you last minute, that is a boundary problem. Working too many hours, burning out boundary problem. Not earning enough money. That's a boundary problem too. And I'm going to explain, let's see what you guys have to say. From our Facebook group earlier, Dulce had written, I find myself receiving texts and calls at all times of the day and even night from clients. In an effort to be helpful. I answer them just to find that the questions never end. So, that is definitely a boundaries problem. And what I want to say about that one for your Dulce is number one, that's when you start working with the client, it's important to set expectations. So in this case, if you are going to be offering text messaging support, you need to let them know which hours they can expect to hear from you. And I would let them know that they can expect a 24 or 48 hour turnaround time.

So if they text you on Monday, they may not hear from you until Wednesday. Now you might get back to them sooner than that, but you're under no obligation to the other thing that may happen is they may text you Friday at 8:00 PM and that's past your working hours and you're not going to be back till work until Monday. So they're not going to hear from you until Monday. So it's important that you set those expectations up front and then you stick to them. Because if you do answer over the weekend, they're going to expect that you're always going to answer on the weekend. So you have to be clear up front. And if for whatever reason you didn't do that, because you didn't think about it, didn't realize it was going to become an issue. You can always hit pause and set the expectations. Now, Hey, I noticed that we've been doing a lot of text messaging.

I just want to let you know that I need to draw some boundaries around that so that it works best for both of us. And it really does because if you're texting someone while you're at the park with your son, like I was, for example, they're not getting your full attention. They're not getting the best possible service from you. So, you can phrase it like that. I want to provide excellent service. And the way I can do that is by making sure that I'm available to you during these times and not these other times. You can also have this written into your client agreement along with other policies. So, for example, I mentioned having an issue with the client canceling last minute, that would be something you would also want to set expectations around from the get-go and have written into your client agreement, something along the lines of without 24 hours, notice your session will be forfeited.

That's what I do with my clients. And if they tell me they're going to cancel, or they need to reschedule 20 hours before their time, oh well, that's a forfeit because I can't plan my week and my life around a constantly changing schedule. So, if they're going to flake or something comes up for them, life happens. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but it would be, this becomes a very uncomfortable situation if you have not had the conversation up front. So these are boundaries again that you want to draw right in the beginning, within, you know, before you even have your first meeting together, have it inside your client agreement and then refer back to it anytime that it starts to come up. You know, as I let you know, I need 24 hours, you know, cancellation, I'm sorry that this meeting's going to be forfeited, but I'll see you on and give them the date of their next meeting.

So, there's an example for you. Here's one from Dana. Dana said, boundaries are difficult to navigate when you're coaching someone who is also your friend or acquaintance. Yeah, it is. And she said any proven methods would be appreciated. So I know when we start out, all of us are going to start by coaching people that we have access to because that only makes sense. And it very often will be a friend, a family member and acquaintance. And let you know that as you move along, I encourage you to make it your policy to not work with family, friends, or close acquaintances for this exact reason, it's always a little awkward. But what I can tell you is you should treat them like any other client. So, if you allow clients to text you great, but if you don't allow clients to text you and this person is texting, you treat them like you would anybody else.

If you had people coming to you who aren't even your clients, but asking you questions, expecting you to help coach them when they have not paid. You don't say, I'd love to talk about this with you. Here's a time that you can book a call for a consultation as I do with all my clients, right? So it's up to you to teach people how to work with you, even in life, right? They say, you teach people how to treat you. And the more from you can be loving, but firm, you can be the easier this will be. And like I said, Dana, most health coaches who've been in the industry for a little while, will agree. Don't work with friends and family if at all possible. Okay. Let's see what other things you guys are saying here. Um, Andrea saying that using practice better helps her a ton for pricing, scheduling, communication and everything technical, but money is still an issue.

Do you mean asking for money, Andrea? I'm not sure what you mean by that. Leave another comment. If you can, to clarify, Julie says, turn off read notifications on email and text so you can read a text and the person doesn't know when you read it and you can reply later. Keep those boundaries, but she hasn't figured out how to do this on Facebook messenger though. Here's a tip. I will not use Facebook messenger for business. Very, very occasionally I have to, but otherwise I completely ignore Facebook messenger. Whether I see it or I don't see it. You have to be able to draw a boundary and Facebook's hard like that. So the only solution I have found is to straight up ignore messages that come in there, they will learn on the other side because it's very intrusive and Facebook is also an area... I want to talk about text messages too, where your personal life and your business life intermingle, which is difficult. That's also what I find to be difficult, difficult about text messaging.

If I have messages from, you know, my mom and my aunt and my boyfriend and oh, and then a client. First of all, oh my gosh, did you ever send the wrong message to somebody accidentally? You know, I don't like having them all mixed up together inside my texts. And I find this difficult to read a message and remember to get back to it because at least on my phone, I can't Mark a message as unread. So then it's no longer highlighted. And I often would forget to go back to it. So, I use something called Voxer. It's an app and it allows for text messaging and voice messaging. And I use that for my business. So with my team, with my clients, if there's any kind of messaging that's going on, it's happening on Voxer. So it's a completely separate app on my phone. And if I see a little notification, but it's Sunday, I'm going to probably ignore it. I find that to work so much better to have that, that split right there.

What else do we have here? Samantha said something about booty calls having booty calls. Wow. Okay. Boundaries around that. I'm thinking that's probably like an Instagram direct message kind of thing. Yes. Let's talk about social media for a second. So, I was telling you that story about being trolled on Facebook. Here's what I want to say about your social media pages about your website. If you have a blog that allows for comments, anything like that, these are your properties. Just like where you live is your property, your home, your house, your lawn, your driveway. So if someone were to walk up to your house and start saying terrible things to your face, are you just going to stand there and like, let them do that and entertain. And then if they invited all their friends who were going to come verbally abuse, you would you just stand there quietly and listen or fight back?

I mean, I think you would probably say, please leave. And you can do this when we were talking about your online properties as well. In fact, you don't even have to ask, please leave. You can just delete and block, delete and block, write it down because it's your house, right? And if you don't want this person at your party, delete, gone. There are people inside of our Health Coach Power Community Facebook group that have rubbed me the wrong way. Gone. Why? Because I have to protect my energy above all else. So maybe you're going to ask somebody to leave your house, or you're going to delete and block. And they met no harm. Maybe you're going to make a mistake, but 9 times out of 10, your intuition knows. Like if you're getting inappropriate messages on Instagram, which happens all the time, you know, you don't have to give anybody the benefit of the doubt.

This is your house. And when we put ourselves online, that is a vulnerability. So I think it's very important to protect yourself, protect your space and your energy. Hannah said, I took a blogging course and the instructor recommended turning off blog comments. I did that recently. I also turned off blog comments at a certain point years ago, having the blog comments there was useful these days, there are several reasons why I think having them turned off is a better way to go. But I like that advice very, very much because even beyond a social media page, your blog, your website, that really is your house. So if you do have comments on monitor them carefully and don't be afraid to delete and block there either it's not about not being willing to have a conversation or anything like that. It's just about protecting your sanity, which you must do as a business owner.

Okay. What are some other things? This one is pretty obvious working too many hours. I mentioned that that's a boundary issue seems obvious. Not so obvious when you're running your own business. Oh, my, I have worked all sorts of crazy hours since starting my business. And what I know works best for me is to define my work hours and stick to them. Even if the work hours are on the weekend or maybe they are at night or maybe during a certain period of the year, like when I go through a big launch and I have a lot of extra stuff that has to get done, maybe I extend work hours, but even through my most recent launch, 11:00 PM, I'm in bed done. Like if it didn't happen, it's not going to happen. So, I highly recommend that you not only think about your work hours, but write them down, pretend that you have a door like a, like a drug store or something would in town.

And it says hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you know, there's those little squares where you would write the hours in, write down the hours for yourself. So you can be really, really clear about them. I don't start working in the morning until fairly late, because it's a priority for me to get up, get my kids off to school and exercise and shower and eat like those are non-negotiables for me. So my work hours never start before 10 o'clock in the morning. And that works for me and for my lifestyle. And yours may be totally different. Maybe you're working at five in the morning, but write it down and have those hours protected for yourself. If you have little kids who are not going to school, you need childcare. You can't be a full-time caretaker and working on your business at the same time. Trust me, I have tried doesn't work very well.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Jill says she has another question. I do not have my personal page linked to my business page and Facebook. And I consider that as part of my boundaries and see it as different entities. Would you agree? I'm not exactly sure what you mean there because, um, I think I know what you mean. So anyway, uh, yeah, some people like to have even like two different Instagram accounts or like separate your professional and your personal life on social media and that way, if that works for you, great. Sometimes it means you have something extra to deal with. Like on Instagram, I have one account that's both personal and professional versus having my own personal account and then another separate account for business, because then I would have to manage two accounts. So, you have to balance these things, but either way, someone can always find your personal account or someone from your personal life can always find your business account.

I always kind of worry that a guy that I dated and it didn't go well, might leave a really bad review on iTunes for my podcast. I'm sure they would never do that, but that would be awful. That would be a huge breach of boundaries. So, I like the idea of trying to keep things separate, but know that people can always find you either way. So we have to be vigilant about our boundaries and all areas. Yikes! Okay, what's another one? Oh, how about this angry emails coming to your inbox from clients, from people who listened to your podcast from someone who's in your Facebook group? What if someone emails you and I have had this happen? Angry, abusive language, you know, screaming at you in all caps kind of things. And sometimes you're like, I don't even know what they're talking about.

So, I will remind you again, protect your energy. Sometimes you just have to hit delete. Now, if there's an actual issue that needs to be handled, that's another story. But please think it through. Sometimes people are going to vent in the wrong direction. You know, we've all done it from time to time. Maybe not quite that extreme, but where you misdirect your anger. So I have had people send me nasty emails through the years. I remember one time a woman actually then emailed me the next day to apologize and say it actually had nothing to do with me at all. And she was just in a bad mood. In the meantime, I had been internalizing all that anger, wondering what the heck I had done to her. So if it seems outlandish, it probably is. And you probably can't ignore it, run that through a filter to make sure it makes sense for you in that moment, but do try not to internalize people's anger.

Sometimes they are reaching out for all sorts of reasons. Here's another one people sometimes will want a refund and they will pile on the reasons and the guilt and try to make you feel very, very bad about whatever the situation is and even get angry at you and even curse. Oh my gosh, it gets crazy. You guys, if you have a no refund policy or if you have whatever your refund policy is spelled out somewhere and they have agreed to it, that is all one email that you can send back. Here's the refund policy that you agreed to. Thank you very much, send. And after that, you're under no obligation to consider, continue communicating with that person. That being said, this goes back to the expectations. Do you have a refund policy? Is it clearly spelled out? Are people agreeing to it before you begin working with helpful?

All right. How about something like this? How about missed payments? You have somebody on a payment plan and they have paid you the first payment. Maybe they paid you the second payment, third payment, not there. What have you already provided the services? Maybe it's the last payment of their payment plan and you've already done all their sessions or they've already gone through your whole course or whatever it is, but they still owe you this remaining sum of money. This is very difficult to navigate because even if it's a lot of money, it's rarely going to be in anyone's best interest to take legal action because of the cost involved there. So I'm going to set all the legalities aside and just let you know that energetically it does you no good to fight over missed payments. And so, I encourage you to like say burn some sage, like cleanse yourself of any bad feelings, go along with it.

And one thing that has worked very well for me in my business is have someone on my team who handles all of that because she is dispassionate. You know, she is able to be professional work with the person, set up an alternate payment plan. Do you know, handle the correspondence. And I don't have to see it. Why? Because I got to be here with you. I have to be creating my programs. I have to be on social media doing my live events. I can't be bogged down with that kind of stuff. Not only time-wise, but energetically. So you can have boundaries around things in your work that are just dragging you down. Can't deal with, don't like to do bum you out, make you feel like you just want to curl up and take a nap, outsource, outsource. These are also boundaries. So, I definitely do it with the missed payments thing.

And also for lots of other aspects of my business. You know, as my business has grown where I can identify. For example, bookkeeping, Oh my goodness. That's something I always hated doing and did a very bad job at outsourced whatever leaf it's like, the weight comes off your shoulders. You're better able to stay in your, what they call your zone of genius. And if someone else handled the things that were dragging you down, this is another form of smart boundaries. Cool. All right. And then let's talk about this one. As I mentioned earlier, that maybe because you don't have appropriate boundaries, you're not making as much money as you could be. And this is less about you setting boundaries with other people, although that might be part of it and making sure that you are sticking to refund policies, collecting miss payments, all that kind of stuff.

But I'll paint you a picture. Let's say you sit down to work today and you spend an hour making updates to your website, and then you spend an hour creating social media posts. Then you spend two hours writing a blog post, you know, taking a picture for the blog posts, getting that all published up on your blog. That's four hours. And none of it was income generating. And I could go on, right? Cause I think you could easily spend an entire eight hours even a 10 hour workday and not have actually done any income generating activity. Something that directly leads to you, making money here would be an example. Maybe instead with those four hours, you were planning an event or running an event where you're making an offer for your services, your paid services, all my fast trackers right now, inside of the fast track semester, know what I'm talking about because they are in the beginning stages of planning a five day challenge at the end of which there'll be making an offer. That is income generating activity. And there should be some of that built into if not every day that you work, definitely every week.

This is a big problem. It has to do with setting boundaries about how you spend your time. Sometimes we like to do the, the safe work. You know, we can update our website all day long. It's very safer behind the computer screen. Nobody's bothering us. We don't have to ask anyone for money, right? It's like a safe place to be. This is going to keep you from your earning potential. Another form of income generating activity would be reaching out one-to-one to anybody that you think might make a great client. You don't have to wait for any particular day or time to do this. You notice somebody who could use your help.

Maybe they're inside your Facebook group. Maybe it's a, you know, someone in your circle of friends. Although we did talk about not working with friends and anyone who you think could use your services though, you can absolutely reach out individually to them and tell them, Hey, I heard you talking about this. I have a solution. Do you want to talk about it? That is income generating activity. What if you have an online course, totally different building, your online course, planning your online course, putting together a sales page for that online course that's income generating activity. And so it's setting yourself up as an affiliate for the brands that you're always recommending. Like before you send an email to your clients saying, uh, here's the water filter that I would recommend and give a link, Oh, get signed up as an affiliate first. Then you can send your affiliate link to your client and earn a percentage of the sale.

If they are to buy that water filter, just as an example, you could do it with anything you can do with skincare products. You can do it with food. You can do it with so many different things. Anyway, that would be a form of income generating activity. So in terms of boundaries, look at how you're spending your time. How much of it is tangential perhaps to earning money, but not directly leading to it. And I would encourage you to flip that ratio and make sure that much more of your time is going towards income generating activity first and foremost, because that truly is the important stuff for not earning money. We can't stay in business. If we don't stay in business, we don't make an impact on anyone.

All right, that's all for today you guys. Thank you for everybody who contributed, because I know from being in this business a long time and having a lot of friends who were also in the business boundary issues, come up again and again and again. So the next time you find yourself in a quandary, don't freak out. Don't like I did spend a whole weekend on the verge of tears because somebody said something nasty on your Facebook, just think to yourself, Oh, this is a red flag to me that I need some boundaries and then put them into place and you will feel so empowered and confident by having those boundaries. It's only going to propel you forward. It's been great. Seeing all of you guys today, I'll be back next week. See you then take care.