Danielle LaPorte wrote a great post yesterday about how excessive boundaries can create resentment. How too much of where you will and will not go too soon is a major turn off.
Like Danielle, I am all for healthy boundaries and their absolute necessity in creative business. This much I talked about in my first post on boundaries last April. And like Danielle, I do believe too much too soon is as much of a problem as too little. However, my take today is endemic to creative businesses alone.
Boundaries in business are often protection from pain points. For non-creative businesses, it is almost a prerequisite. Our hours are 9-6, you only have thirty days to return the product (unopened). Caveat emptor. Payment terms, no fly zones, etc. Without laying out the fine print, buyers will look to take advantage, mostly with the threat that they will go somewhere else.
Yes, creative businesses sometimes have to go there too. For instance, do not discuss payment terms at your own peril. The inclination then is to take it all the way. Set up boundaries to protect yourself. So long as your boundaries are respected you will be safe and secure from clients who want more than you have to give. You can certainly protect yourself from all things, BUT BUT BUT what a missed opportunity.
Creative business sell happy. I cannot think of any instance where an experience with a creative business is meant to be unpleasant or, worse, painful. Compare to a lawyer, dentist, doctor, accountant. I would not call a root canal being in the fun zone no matter how necessary it may be.
Given the positive place all creative businesses live, boundaries are meant to be the path to joy far more than they are protection from pain. Your work is to make your boundaries iconic to you, your art and your creative business. Explain why you need what you need in order to get where you want to go. If you keep vampire hours and your clients love that you are out discovering the latest and greatest hot spot, why not have your office hours be from 8pm to 3am? The whole point is to honor your kind of weird, to use boundaries to both your and your client’s advantage, not your win, their loss.
If your view of boundaries is getting what you need to deliver happy, you can find boundary setting an enjoyable get-to-know you process rather than “a no chance you will get me” conversation. Which is why I deeply resent is using past instances of pain to define your future. “Well, that will never happen again.” So you put it in your contract, talk about it from the start and, sure enough, the painful episode is prevented. Do it enough and you will have a whole host of boundaries (and a very intense contract) designed to insulate you from big, bad clients, who, shocker, will be the only type of clients that show up at your door. Welcome to the bubble. Sad irony, bad boundaries (even overbearing ones) actually shift the evaluation to your business and away from your art and artistry.
What you will have missed is your ability to learn from where YOU lost the joy, where your client lost faith in your ability to deliver them their happiness. You are paid to have your art and your intention to create that art be vulnerable, raw, open to evaluation by your clients. It is how they know you “get” them and learn to trust you and your vision. Your boundaries are there to make that evaluation more, not less intense. If you can live there, welcome to the fun zone.