What are healthy boundaries and why do they matter?

#boundaries. “The only ones who will hate you for setting boundaries are the ones who benefited from you not having any.” We’ve all read the platitudes about boundaries online, right? But what the ruddy hell are healthy boundaries and why do we need them?!

Well my friend, as the boundaries queen (now THAT needs a hashtag, or at least capital letters), let me tell you.  

Boundaries are just behaviour

Don’t let the hashtags, the motivational quotes, the broad statements confuse you. Healthy boundaries are really just behaviour.

And we’re really talking about behaviour online here. Most of us (with a few notable exceptions) know that it’s just not acceptable to bang on somebody’s window shouting ‘WHERE DID YOU GET THAT TOP?? SEND ME A LINK WILL YOU???’ until the person answers.

But lots of people don’t quite see that this isn’t acceptable behaviour online.

Or for us self employed pals – let’s say you’re a graphic designer. Most clients wouldn’t walk past your office window and shout in ‘oh great you’re working! Are you working on my stuff?? While I’m here I’m just going to ask you to do a bunch of other work for me as part of the original quote, OK.’

But when we work online – on Slack, on Trello, on Instagram – clients often don’t see that doing this isn’t OK.

Having healthy boundaries is knowing what behaviour is OK in your space (your business, your Instagram page, your email inbox). Setting boundaries is telling and showing people that.

Even Amazon has healthy boundaries

Every business has boundaries. Every single one. But we don’t see them as boundaries, we just see them as ‘the way things work.’ That’s because those boundaries have been so clearly set and openly shared, that we see them as rules of the game.

Even Amazon has healthy boundaries. If you want to order something on Amazon Prime and get it delivered the next day you need to order it by 9pm. 

Mate, if ruddy Amazon can know what healthy boundaries are and set them, so can you.

Setting healthy boundaries will save you time, energy and resentment

OK, so why do we need ‘em? Let me paint you a few wee pictures (I live in Scotland, indulge me in the ‘wee’ OK?):

How boundaries will save you time

So you’ve got this copywriting client, right. Let’s call her Sue. You write a blog post, a newsletter and a bunch of social captions for Sue each month.

You follow each other on Instagram, have a Slack channel (is that what it’s called? A channel? I’m a Slack-idiot), obviously email each other. 

So say you share the copy in a Google doc, you’ve set it to ‘suggesting’ so Sue can do track changes and comments. 

You turn on your computer and you see you’ve got an email from her with long, slightly confused feedback. Later, you’re on Instagram, posting a few stories, scrolling cat reels and Sue responds to your story saying ‘oohh I’ve just had a thought on that blog copy, I was thinking…’ 

After lunch and maybe some light screaming into your pillow you open up Slack and see that she’s popped in some thoughts there too, sharing links to pieces to mention to in the newsletter.

MATE. This is where boundaries will save you time. 

Include in your client welcome documents, agreements, onboarding process that all feedback on copy is to be done on the Google document. Then you don’t get bombarded by Sue on 14 different channels, taking up your ENTIRE DAY, rather than the hour you set aside for revisions.

How boundaries will save you energy

Going back to Sue – the one above who messages you on every available medium except snail mail – let’s consider just how much mental energy Sue is taking up.

Say you do your work for Sue on a Tuesday and the situation above is playing out across Tuesday and into Wednesday. 

How much brain space do you think you have to work on your other five clients those days? How much are you thinking about Sue’s copy in the evening? When you’re eating your lunch? When you’re trying to spend quality time on the sofa with Bridgerton?

Sue doesn’t know what healthy boundaries are. And Sue’s lack of understanding of boundaries is sapping the bejesus out of your energy for half the week. 

Energy that you could be putting into other clients, into marketing, into planning that course, that freebie, that mentoring programme for other copywriters.

How boundaries will save you resentment

So, we all resent Sue right? I don’t need to say much more.

If you don’t have healthy boundaries that are clearly set with clients, you WILL end up resenting them. And being self employed is tough enough without coming to resent the clients we worked so hard to get.

Basically, healthy boundaries will help you work less and earn more

So pal, setting healthy boundaries will save you time, energy, brain space and resentment. 

All of which will leave you free to market yourself, find new clients, come up with new ideas; or even – shock horror – work less! Live more!

If you know you need help with this stuff, can I humbly recommend my Boundaries Bundle? 

It’s a whole set of done-for-you boundary template wording for your marketing, your client management, your emails, Instagram…everything!

And if you want some quick tips to help you set boundaries on Instagram, check out my blog post on just that.