Today we are continuing the discussion on the three different types of boundaries that come up for businesswomen.
If you have ever had the experience of feeling as though your week was completely thrown off because of demands people place on your time and your energy, you need to set boundaries. As my prior post indicated, this is the unsaid part of running a business.
The next area of boundaries I think is important to talk about is communication boundaries.
So many of us struggle with the constant communication we receive. We are available everywhere and all the time, right? This can become challenging because, if you set the precedent of being available 24/7, then people begin to expect that you are available 24/7. You must decide what your communication boundaries are to be.
The first thing to consider is what channels you are available for. This is key because we have email, social media, apps such as Voxer. Do you give your clients and customers your personal telephone number? Do you have multiple email addresses? It is really important to get clear on what your preferred channel of communication for your business is, along with who has access to any other channels.
If we were to actually create a tier of channels that we have, my preferred channel for pretty much everyone is going to be email. Do I have an assistant managing my In-box? Absolutely. I would miss stuff all the time otherwise. Do I have one primary email for the business? Yes, it’s email@example.com. If you reach out to us, Paula is the first responder. The second email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email me there, Paula is also going to scan that Inbox because she manages my email.
I have Paula manage both email addresses because I often would become overwhelmed or frustrated because I’d see an email come in and wouldn’t have time to deal with it in the moment. Then, suddenly it was buried somewhere. So I have someone who is really good at keeping me organized in the In-box. She is good at making sure we are following up with the right people and responding to all the emails, and we have a system in place. So email is my primary channel. If you really have questions for me, if you want to know something about a program, if you are a client and you need additional support, it is best to send us an email.
Our SOPs for our emails is:
Paula checks through our Inbox at least twice a day—in the morning and in the afternoon.
Her goal is to respond to all the questions she can respond to. She can answer pretty much everything.
She adds into my project management system any tasks I need to tackle.
She passes along to me any things that really require my response.
We have developed an entire document full of responses to frequently asked questions.
We also communicate that to people. They know that if you email us, you are not going to get a 10-minute response time. This is not a Chat. This is not a direct message. This is an email. People usually hear from us within 24 business hours.
I realized that I became overwhelmed and would often drop balls if too many people had access to me in too many different ways. If I am receiving an email, and a text message, and a DM, I will forget things. This is why I decided that my default response for social media, is to ask people to email me. When people are asking me questions, want to have a call with me, or they want to learn more about a program, they must email me. This is necessary because it is rare that I am near my computer when I receive a DM on Instagram; consequently, I am unable to grab that link right then.
I don’t mind having DM conversations on social media. They are a way to get to know people and just connect. But when they have more specific questions, more than I can type with thumbs, then I just say, “Hey, can you shoot me an email?”
I try to get people into the inbox as quickly as possible. I highly recommend you do the same if you are overwhelmed by social media or you feel like you are dropping balls. Come up with an automatic response that you write because it alleviates so many problems if it is a response that is more than a one liner.
Another channel is the telephone. I do not give out my personal phone number to everyone. The telephone number on my different business pages go to a voicemail that Paula will then check twice a day. I really avoid any one having my personal phone number. I learned this the very hard and painful way when I had a client who completely abused having access to my personal phone number. There were nights where she was text messaging me nonstop, like total stream of consciousness when it really should have just been put into an email.
You probably need a telephone for your business because people still like to call us. But consider a Google Voice number where people can call and it can either redirect straight to your phone or be sent to voicemail.
If people need your personal telephone number, decide very carefully who gets that. A handful of one-one-one clients get mine, they are appreciative and they all know to respect it.
The final communication topic I want to mention about boundaries around communication is questions coming in via email. You will start to get this as your business starts to grow and more people start to see you as an authority on your topic. People begin emailing you questions that they really should be paying for the answers to. These are the people who want to pick your brain. They just want to run a quick question by you. They just want to obtain quick feedback or insight. In the beginning, it’s easy to think that just responding to that will turn them into a client. But, more often than not, it doesn’t. So we have to have clear boundaries in place for how we’re going to handle these things.
I highly recommend having a template ready to go where you’re informing, “Hey, this is such a great question. I would love to explore this with you. The best way to do that is to…” and you tell them what the next step is:
Is it to schedule a consultation?
Is it to work with you in a specific program?
Is it to send them to content you’ve already created?
I find that having a template like that quite helpful. I often just tell people, “This is a great question that I’d like to explore with you. It sounds as though there are many layers here that we need to dig into to get to the correct answer for you.” And then you just tell them what the next step is. Most people love that. You don’t have to answer it right away.
Personally, I don’t respond to those emailed questions because it does not make sense for me to offer coaching for free when people pay me a lot of money to do so. It is also disrespectful to my existing clients to allow people to pick my brain for free. My default response for this is, “Hey, thanks so much for this question. I actually have already talked about this in depth over at <this resource>,” and I’ll point them to a piece of content because we have hundreds of articles and posts available and I may have answered the question somewhere. This is something that Paula is amazing at handling because she already knows all of my content and can quickly point people in the right direction.
If it is a question I haven’t addressed yet, then we will say, “Hey, this is such a great question. I really prefer to answer these over on…”. I’ll direct them to a source where it will be a response more people can benefit from. If I’m just answering people one-on-one in my Inbox or in DM, it’s not very valuable. But if they are asking a great question that I think would be valuable for several people, I can create that content. So I might say, “Hey, that’s a great question. I’m going to add that to my list of ideas for the blog. Thank you for emailing that in.”
When someone has a question from a group program, they occasionally forget what our preferred communication channel is. And for them, it is our Facebook group or on Slack. If they email in an individual question and they are a member of a group program, we will say, “Hey, this is a great question. Can we post this in the group and either answer it during a Q & A call or start a discussion in the group?” Most of the time they say it is fine and that they just wanted to make sure that I saw it.
So we just continuously point people to the right communication channel. We have some templated responses to make it easier for us to crowd control and make sure everyone is getting to the right place. And anytime people are asking me questions, I’m trying to make sure that it becomes useful for all (unless it is one of my one-on-one clients.
Well, we have talked about calendar boundaries last week and communication boundaries today. Next, we will talk about some client boundaries.