Setting, Communicating and Keeping your Personal Boundaries

This week we’ll be talking about setting your own personal boundaries, how to tell people politely but assertively what your boundaries are and how to stick to those boundaries for your personal health and ultimately the profitability of your company.

A boundary is another word for border.  So imagine a farm for a moment, surrounded by a big hedge. That is the farm’s boundary.  If you were to go over the boundaries of the farm you would be trespassing.

We can set our own personal boundaries, with our partners, clients, staff and suppliers for instance, so that we do not feel threatened, bullied or restricted.

Do you respect your own boundaries though? 


Limits only work when they are kept to,

[bctt tweet=” flexibility weakens boundaries and ignoring your own boundaries, KILLS them.” username=”@CocoInternomad”]


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So what are personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are those guidelines, rules or limits that we create for ourselves to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards us. It also shapes the way that we respond when someone goes or tries to go past those limits.

We need to know, communicate and insist upon personal boundaries for the good of our health and business success

Most entrepreneurs are in business to help their ideal client to overcome a problem and so it is in our nature to want to do just that. But we all have personal standards, unique rules about how far people can go with us and we need to be clear about those, especially if you work from home.

Everyone has their own unique values, rules, procedures and preferences. Only you can know what you need.

Perhaps as entrepreneurs, we sometimes allow our personal boundaries to be abused because we all started small and there was a time when most of us were pretty desperate to get our businesses off the ground. It’s my guess that not setting and maintaining boundaries is just a bad habit we need to say goodbye to.
Starting today.

I want to help you set, communicate and uphold those boundaries. We can’t run a business successfully if we are spending 80% of our time doing free and cheap stuff and only 20% doing the profitable activities that solve the problems of our paying customers, after all that is what keeps them happy and coming back for more.

There are three main types of boundaries that you should set for yourself.

  • Financial Boundaries.
  • Time Boundaries
  • Communication Boundaries

Financial Boundaries

Being taken advantage of financially, makes you feel undervalued and not appreciated. Don’t let people push you into a corner where you are just breaking even.

Financial boundaries include for example what you give away for free and which of your services are paid services. You’re in this to make a profit honey!

You wouldn’t even work for a charity for free, would you?

In my case, I have a free blog, a newsletter that rolls my blogs into a lesson, and plenty of advice, tips and information on social media plus a free Facebook Page. That’s where people are invited to come in and find out a bit more about who I am, how I work and if I could be the right coach for you or consultant for your organisation.

Everything else is a paid for service. Simple.

Just like you, I have people wanting to ‘just’ pick my brains, but if they do that, I have learned to stick to my guns and point people to my free offerings, (the newsletter, blog and Facebook Page). If people have a question, I get them to post it on my facebook page. That way at least my gems of wisdom can help someone else too.

Some people are really persistent, but you have to hold your ground. Just keep repeating yourself as if you are not picking up on their hint for free help or a discount at all.

What about people that ask for a discount
Just say “No!”

People pay what they think something is worth. You do it too!

Let’s talk about clothes for a minute, any excuse hey?
Think about the last thing that you bought really cheaply. Perhaps it was a t shirt or a pair of shoes. Got it?

Now think about something you really had to be careful about buying, something more expensive, perhaps a gorgeous pair of boots (yes another) but ones that you just slip your toe in and feel amazing as you zip them up.

Which do you appreciate the most? For me and for most of us, the most expensive things are those that we value most. I love a bargain from time to time, but there’s nothing quite like treating yourself is there?

The more people invest financially, the more they are likely to invest in terms of commitment and support, meaning better results for them and a better reputation for you.

Waiting Workaround for Wimps

If you are a total wimp then make them wait. Most people are too impatient to wait so they find a workaround. So tell them

“ok but it won’t be until next week/month I am afraid, I’m just too busy right now, if it can wait that long then sure.”

It sends a clear signal that you put your clients first. Perhaps they’ll even want to be one of those treasured clients. it will certainly make them appreciate your time more and the chances are that they will found a workaround or wait.

If you have real problems charging what you are worth, then I can hand on heart recommend Denise Duffield-Thomas from, here is one of her recent videos that in fact inspired me to write this post…

Time Boundaries

These can be a lot more subtle.


For instance, I used to have a client that used to wait until the very end of the session and mention an (of course very important) question.

Now if it was one off, then no big deal right? But this started happening most weeks. I was the newest freelance trainer on the block, so I was broke and inexperienced. I was also desperate to be liked and recommended and he probably knew that. (Do you remember those desperation vibes that you first used to give off, when you went solo?)

Now of course, if it was genuinely important, he would have mentioned it right at the beginning of the session, or even sent it to me in advance by email, (many of my clients do that, meaning that I can be perfectly prepared). That way we can really do their communication task justice by taking the time and focus, to tackle it professionally and thoroughly. After all,  I genuinely prefer it when my clients bring something from the day to day running of their business to work on, that ensures relevancy. But waiting until the very end of the session was disrespectful of my time and if you let clients continue like that, then you are accepting that lack of respect. If you do it for long enough, they will come to expect it and that could get really uncomfortable.

. It did. It was. But when I mentioned it, it didn’t create bad feelings, he turned out to be one of my most loyal and long standing clients. Phew.

Remember: You are the expert and you deserve to get paid for that expertise.EVEN IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO.

If they could do it themselves, you wouldn’t be there. Your talent is something they either cannot or don’t want to do.

So what do you say?

“Sorry, but there isn’t enough time left to cover that properly this time, we can certainly look at that in the next session” If they still insist (and some people are extraordinarily thick skinned) then invite them to sign up for a paid service. “Why not sign up for a power hour, I’ll send you the link”

Remember, saying yes to someone that isn’t prepared to pay, is in effect saying no to a paying customer or client or perhaps even to your children, hubby or SELF.

What about people calling out of hours? It is the same thing, set your working hours, put it on your website and then stick to them. Between you and I, you can be working, but you don’t need to be available out of hours. Be careful though, if you are engaging in social media during those times, you are abusing your own boundaries,  it makes the impression of you being ‘available/working”.

Schedule your posts strategically via Buffer or Hootsuite for instance and put those devices out of reach, so that you can unwind. We all need downtime and we owe it to our families and partners too.

Not even Obama, the former president of America, used to look at his phone until after breakfast! We all have a right to personal boundaries. Set, Tell & Protect

Communication Boundaries

We all deserve to be spoken to with respect, whether it is our children, our partner, our clients or our neighbours. You can be assertive and respectful, polite and direct.

Communication boundaries are about how people talk to you. So for example, here in Germany, you have to accept that there is a formal and informal way of speaking to people and there are rules about who you can address in which way.

Standing up for yourself, doesn’t mean that less people will like you but it does mean that more people will respect and appreciate you. Remember that when you do have time for them, what you do will be really helpful and supportive,  not a compromise.

The ranting client

If you have a slightly chaotic client who tends to lose his temper when he is running up against schedule, this could affect communication. Especially if they expect you to compensate for those organisational shortcomings. If they talk to you, or worse still, shout at you in a tone that makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious, taken for granted or reluctant to help him, STOP.

You need to tell them either immediately, if you feel that you can have an adult conversation with them at that moment in time, or wait until the dust has settled and schedule a meeting. Do it face to face if you can. Nobody has to accept being spoken to like that and this too is overstepping the mark in terms of your boundaries.

The customer is king, but you don’t have to spoken to like dirt.


Remember, you are the boss! Absolutely nobody has the right to speak to us in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable, even clients.


If you feel uncomfortable with other people swearing, say so.

If someone has slipped into the informal language that makes you feel on edge, mention it.

Why do you have to set, communicate and insist on these boundaries?

The chances are pretty high that people that push any or all of these boundaries, are the very people that zap our time, energy and patience. These are normally the clients that consume 80% of your time, then pay late or whinge about price increases. In contrast, the people that respect your professionalism will be happy to pay what you are worth. These wonderful clients are the ones that deserve your time and attention, not the trouble makers.

Those of you with children will be able to relate. Think about a situation when one child is acting up and getting all of the attention, and the other(s) are being good and yet ignored. We have all slipped into that, we’re cannot be great parents all of the time, we all have limits, but do you see? There are parallels.

Don’t let these barrier pushers dominate your time.

Let them go to the competition and abuse their personal boundaries instead. You don’t need people like that on your client list, so create your boundaries, communicate them and stick to them. You’ll feel less stressed, you’ll have more wonderful clients, you’ll love your business more and you’ll feel in control.


So in the Byte Sized English Bootcamp group on Facebook we’ll be talking about what your personal boundaries are, how to communicate them and how to keep to them when the going gets tough.

So what you need to ask yourself is not only what your boundaries should be, but why?

If someone pushes your boundaries, what are the implications for your productivity, your patience, time with family, availability to your own clients etc. So get really clear about why you need these boundaries. (Otherwise you just won’t keep to them!)

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