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EPISODE 20: Upholding Boundaries as a Content Creator

by Feb 9, 2021Podcast, Writers

In this episode we will cover:

  • Why setting boundaries is important

  • Types of boundaries content creators can set

  • How to establish and reinforce boundaries

  • Compromise and boundaries

Content creators often worry laying down a bunch of ground rules upfront will scare off potential clients. No one wants to be seen as too difficult to work with, right?

But setting boundaries is SO important — for you and for your clients. In this episode, you’ll learn what kind of boundaries to set as a content creator, how to establish those boundaries, and why you need them in the first place.

 

Why Boundaries Are Important

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is not a bad thing. Establishing basic rules regarding your work capacity, the timeline to deliver different kinds of projects, and more actually benefits both you and your clients.

Good boundaries protect your energy and your profit margins, and most importantly, they protect you from getting in over your head. They allow you to provide the best quality work, which means they allow your clients to achieve the best possible results.

Boundaries in their best form benefit everyone involved. If you don’t set them {and stick to them}, both you and your work will suffer for it.

 

Key Boundaries for Content Creators

The specific boundaries you want to set are entirely up to you. But here are some we think are especially important for content creators to consider.

  • Capacity: How much work are you REALLY able to take on? {Remember to consider both the physical time it takes to complete a project and the mental/creative energy it will require from you.}
  • Timelines and deadlines: How long do you need to complete a project?
  • Contact with clients: How can clients reach you? How soon can they expect a response?
  • Payment: How are you getting paid? What will you do if someone doesn’t pay you on time?
  • Scope of work: How many revisions will you allow? What’s your policy on emergency/last minute requests?
  • Values: What kind of clients or projects will you NOT take on because they go against your values?

 

How to Establish and Reinforce Boundaries

When it comes to establishing boundaries, it’s best to be upfront and discuss them with your clients at the beginning of your relationship. {It’s also a good idea to get them in writing. Make sure your boundaries are clear in your contract.}

But even when you have a set of rules drawn up, it’s not always easy to enforce them. You want to keep your clients happy, after all. So when they ask you for something that stretches past your limits, it can be hard to push back. But sometimes in our desire to help, we do more harm than good. Remember, you established those boundaries for a reason.

 

A Note on Compromise

That said, we don’t consider boundaries to be absolutely ironclad rules. In the right situation, you can bend those rules to compromise with a client. What’s important is that you’re being flexible for the right reasons. Ask yourself WHY you’re compromising in this situation. If you’re only stretching the limit of your boundaries because you’re afraid the client won’t book you again or that they won’t like you anymore, you’re compromising for the wrong reasons.

 

This episode is the third in a series dedicated to writers and content creators. Look out for even more in this series coming soon! And head to northstarmessaging.com/writers for even more tips and tricks.

Additional notes: This episode references Destination Legal, a resource for developing contracts.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time.
We're so glad you're here, and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right. Welcome back for the next episode in our series where we are talking specifically to content creators about different ways to think about building your business and really serving your clients while also continuing to serve yourself and your own growth. And, same caveat we've been giving at the beginning of each of these episodes.
If you are not a content creator, if that is not the focus of your business, there's still a lot to be gained here. And I think, especially on today's conversation, because this is something that business owners across the board will come up against and have to face and navigate. And so today's topic is going to be around boundaries and how to uphold boundaries, especially as a content creator. And this is a tricky conversation-

Marie:
not least of which, because it's something we're also still working on and constantly improving. I don't know if you, dear listener, ever use words of the year, but my word of 2020 was boundaries because it's something I have struggled with a lot. So you know, we're in the, we're in the thick with you here.

Jessi:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's something that, uh, I think also the way in which this challenge of boundaries shows up changes from year to year as your business changes, and as you change and you know, new problems rear their heads. And it becomes a exercise in how you're able to- and we'll talk about this later in the episode- but how you're able to maintain your boundaries while also remaining some amount of flexibility and not being so rigid that you end up boxing yourself in.
So with that in mind, let's dive right in and start by talking about what we mean when we say boundaries and why they're so important. And Marie, since this was your word of the year for 2020, we'll let you take that. What are boundaries and why are they so important?

Marie:
Is this like my test, my like graduation test from this word of the year, because I definitely remember yesterday. You were like, boundaries is your word for the year again next year right?

Jessi:
Yah, which is actually this year, because this episode I believe is releasing in February of 2021. So I think that, that just goes to that point though of boundaries are something that is always going to come up and we're always going to be continuing to work on it.

Marie:
Yeah. So why are they important? Okay. Well obviously they're important for the boundary holder. That's what we think of a lot of the time. Protecting us, protecting our energy, our profit margins, are protecting- boundaries, protect our boundaries. That's what was about to come out of my mouth.
They protect us from getting in over our head on things where we start to build even more imposter syndrome, resentment, like the emotions that come out of having broken boundaries are not pleasant ones. And that also means that when we uphold boundaries, we're actually upholding boundaries in a way that supports the people were on the other side of the boundary, right? The client in this case, or maybe a team member, a parent, like it doesn't matter who it is in your life. We're not life coaches here. So I mean this obviously yeah, like a broader topic, but you know, when you're talking specifically in terms of a business owner or a content creator to their client, it really serves everyone to have the boundary. Because if you continually allow your boundary to be soft and you do start developing resentment or anger, or you start hating that project, your output is not going to be great anymore.
You've checked out mentally from the project and all of a sudden, now that means things are suffering for your client as well. They're not getting the type of quality that they may have gotten when things were fresh and new and exciting. And they probably could be better served with somebody who's not feeling that way. So boundaries are what makes the world go round. It's what makes your business have longevity. It's what allows you to continue having energy. And it's what allows your client to get great results.

Jessi:
Yeah. So in its simplest form, what we're talking about, when we say boundaries are the things that you put in place to protect your energy, to protect your time, to protect your business. If you have a team to protect them, and to protect yourself. And to protect the other business owners or the clients that you're working with because boundaries in their best form really help everyone involved, not just you. And it goes, you know, it's worth mentioning too, that the people you work with your clients, they probably have boundaries as well. And so it's also about respecting other people's boundaries and finding compromise when that needs to happen.

Marie:
Right. All we can do is set a boundary ourselves. And it's up to somebody else to respect it. And vice versa. If a client sets a boundary with us, it's up to us to respect it or not. And that may mean ending the relationship and that's okay. You know, if they're like, I only want to post super racist, evil things. Will you please write the content that reflects that then, you know, you could just say no. You could say no. And we encourage you to say no.

Jessi:
Please say no.

Marie:
Okay. So, storytime, huh? So share a few times when things have gone wrong in terms of boundary land for us.

Jessi:
Yeah. And so to preface these stories, I kind of want to set this idea out there of boundaries can go wrong in multiple ways. It's not just we set a rule or failed to set a rule around how our time and energy is managed and then it was broken. It can also be around a lack of a values fit and a discrepancy around the role that, especially as a content creator, you're playing with your clients.
And so, the first example we're going to give is really around where the boundaries were founded on and helped to nurture what became a toxic relationship. And in this particular situation, we were still at a point in our business- this was pretty early on in our business- where we were still very much in this almost freelancer mentality of, you know, we're going to take what we can get because we're just building our business. Like we will write what needs to be written for these clients. We weren't doing a lot of pre-vetting of those clients. And so what we ended up with was a relationship with a client who came into it with the expectation that being a content creator and being a writer was not a very valuable job title. It was the sort of thing that you really pay pennies for, ask for things, and then they'll magically appear. And then keep asking. And a lot of the toxicity that came out of this was on us for not upfront saying no, these are our beliefs around being a content creator. This is how we believe that writers should be paid. This is how we believe communication should happen. How many revisions should happen. And we'll talk more about each of these in detail later, but in this specific example, we didn't set those expectations up front and they had a completely different idea of what a content creator was from what we did and that communication didn't happen.

Marie:
Yeah, I would say, and this may sound familiar to you if you're listening to this, especially if you're kind of a creative type, like a content creator. There was a fundamental lack of respect for what we did on the behalf of the client, and that was a problem. But also- and we contributed by not educating them right? Now obviously we can't change somebody's mind. We can't alter their entire life history and story around what something like content creation means. But certainly we can position ourselves as experts in our area. We can talk with authority and that's not something we were doing. I remember walking, having a walking meeting over the phone with this client one time and just feeling very small, feeling like a small person and, yeah. It was ultimately a toxic relationship.

Jessi:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think one of the things that can happen if we had gone about establishing this relationship, both us and this particular person or company, in a more mutually beneficial way, we would have had those conversations up front about what we saw our roles as being and why they were valuable. And I think a piece of this that comes up with content creators specifically a lot is much of the work that we do is behind the scenes. And so there can be a misunderstanding of how much work actually goes into it. There can be a misunderstanding of, Oh, you're just whipping up a piece of copy and not actually thinking about the amount of time that goes into thinking about it, learning how to do it in a way that actually benefits the client, the longterm ROI of it. And so it leads to this difference of expectation as far as what the boundaries should be. And so that's why it's so important to have those conversations right upfront at the beginning so that if you know that you are not on the same page or in this case, we were not even in the same book. We can, you can have that conversation and walk away feeling- with all parties, feeling like, okay, this wasn't a good match, we're going to find something else. Feel good about that decision, as opposed to building a relationship that ends up turning into resentment.

Marie:
Yeah. The other thing I would add as like a lesson learned from this experience is, if you start sensing that there's like a weird power dynamic difference going on, just because somebody pays you money does not mean that you are owned by them, right. It doesn't mean that they're in charge of her life. It doesn't mean that you have to hop to every single request that they have. And certainly not immediately. So if you start sensing that there's a power dynamic problem, this is where you need to step in and put those boundaries in place, put them up. And then it's their opportunity to either say, well, okay, cool. I will adhere to those boundaries or they will continue stepping over them. And that's when you can cut them loose or they may cut you loose. In this case, they just stopped paying us.

Jessi:
Yeah, so we just stopped doing it.

Marie:
Stopped working.

Jessi:
Yeah. It was not a graceful end to the relationship. And the reason for that is because I think on both besides the... lack of respect for each other. And the lack of respect for the boundaries became clearer and clearer until there just was such a breakdown that, you know, we would reach out to them and get no response. We would try to continue the relationship, trying to do our best and get no response.
And, you know, obviously a lot of that is on us for not having those conversations sooner. And it was definitely a lesson learned. And I think a lot of it too was on that preconceived notion that what we were doing was not valuable enough to even have the conversation on their part.

Marie:
If they are churning through content creators, like I sometimes turn through Blue Bell ice cream, then maybe there's a little red flag for you, by the way. Yeah. Um, do we want to share this other story that we were thinking about too?

Jessi:
Yeah, I think it's important because you know, we've been talking a lot about this toxic relationship thing, but often, you know, toxic relationships can form from people who are respecting your boundaries. So I want to kind of shift the conversation a little bit to when you have people who... they may not be toxic relationships on the surface. They may be people who you love and adore working for, and they love and adore having you as a part of their team. And there is, in some ways that sort of a situation is even more ripe for boundary overstepping yeah. From experience here. And we both are in different ways.

Marie:
Yeah. Woo man, we're really trying to preserve the anonymity of this stuff, but let's just say like the one that I'm thinking of right now, I really love and appreciate these folks for what they do, truly from the bottom of my heart.
And that means that I was finding myself in a place where I wanted to do more and more and more to serve them. And that is how I ended up standing outside of my RV, screaming literally into a state park. Very bad words that mom, if you're listening to this podcast... Um, sorry, because I was, I had over- allowed myself to be so overloaded by work by urgent work, by things that were outside of my zone of genius, by last minute changes and requests that not only did I fail myself, but I failed my client so catastrophicly that it's one of the most embarrassing upsetting things I've ever encountered in my working life professionally to this day. Not just because I was screaming into the wilderness, but like, because of the outcome, it was. So bad.

Jessi:
It's worth noting here that Marie is, eternally hard on herself too. I mean, life went on the world kept turning in. It did not end. Like it didn't even end our relationship with them.

Marie:
We're still friendly. It's fine.

Jessi:
I think though, you know, you brought up a really good point, Marie, in that sometimes in our desire to help, we actually ended up doing more harm than good and a lot of the time, a lot of times when that happens, that desire to help shows up as stepping over a boundary as saying, yes, I can do this when either I can't, or I shouldn't, for some reason or another, and it comes from a good place. It comes from a place of wanting to help because you do care about these people. But you also maybe are better served by saying and would be in better service to them and to you to say, I would love to help you. I'm not the best person for the job. I might know someone and I can refer you to them, but I, I should not be the person doing this.

Marie:
Yeah. So this whole series that we're now in number three of podcast episodes, where we're talking specifically about things we've done to make our content creation business more successful and profitable. We're just going to go through for this types of boundaries that you can, and we have learned to set with our clients and with our team. That our team also is empowered to set with our clients. And, you know, so that we can be in optimal service to them. And sometimes the very best kindest thing you can do is say no. So, let's roll down this list that we've, we've put together here, Jessi.

Jessi:
Yeah. And this isn't a comprehensive list. You and your business and yourself, you are all unique and you may have things that we do not talk about that are really important boundaries for you to have. So I want to also invite you to do a little self-reflection.
These are the things that come up most frequently for us, especially came up in those early days, where as soon as we started putting boundaries around these items, it changed the entire way in which we worked. Because suddenly we had more space, we had more brain space, we had more time. We have the ability to serve our clients even better than we were.
And so the first thing on that list is capacity and timelines. So being really clear as a content creator, how much work can you take, and how quickly can you turn it around? And this doesn't mean you have to know the exact numbers. You don't need to be able to say, well, this is going to take me exactly three days to do or exactly two weeks to do, but being able to give people a range and give them the larger side of the range so you have some buffer time is really valuable, especially because it's common for people who hire content creators to want things quickly, to want things last minute, to want things turned around. Going back to not necessarily knowing what's going on behind the scenes, not being the content creator means they don't see the content creation process. There's not a sense of I asked you to create this thing, and I didn't realize that it was going to take two weeks to create, I thought you could do it in 24 hours. So setting those boundaries upfront around your timeline and your capacity is really, really valuable.

Marie:
Yup. And remember too, I mean, one of the concerns that we as content creators have that our clients may not even be aware of is every different client you have means you have to, like, adopt a new voice, learn a new brand. Like, you know, you're like a chameleon and you're shifting from voice to voice brand, to brand strategy, to strategy day in and day out. And there's like, literally only so much of that you can take before your brain explodes. Maybe not literally. Figuratively. Thank goodness. But- so that's, that's a part of your capacity too. It's not just how many hours do I have to sit down because the more context switching you have, the less capacity you actually have too.

Jessi:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so- and then the time that you do set aside for that, for the content creation, actually preserving it for what, for the, for what needs to happen. So this means making sure that your clients know how do they contact you. They don't necessarily need to have your cell phone number so that they can text you with an emergency, because it's probably not an emergency and having your own space to do your own creative ideation is really important.
So if you want all clients to email you? Making that clear. If you want all clients to connect with you on voxer? Making that clear. The method isn't as important as just knowing what the method is and making it really clear to the clients.

Marie:
Yup. Same thing with payment. So, how do they pay you? When do they pay you? I was just listening to someone recently say, you know, I really actually prefer it when people pay me on payment plans, because then I know that I have revenue coming in, dripped out over time and I don't just like, see a bunch of money come in and spend it. There are ways around that by the way, Profit First is a great book, gunna plug that, but whatever it is, you get to decide. You know, you can say I don't take credit card payments cause I don't want to pay visa their percent so I only take checks. Or I only take credit card payments because I want to get paid immediately. I don't want to have to wait for you to mail a check to me, whatever it is you get to decide and you let them know. And you also let them know whatever your rule is around them not paying you, right. If they don't pay you, maybe they get three days of grace periods and reminders before, all work ceases or like, whatever it is, just let them know. Because they deserve to know. And, if there's no clarity around it, then they're just going to make assumptions and fill in the blanks for you.

Jessi:
Yeah. Um, and quick plugin, and we're going to mention this later in the episode, but to reinforce that, please have a contract.

Marie:
Oh yeah. We're going to tell you exactly where to get one.

Jessi:
Yes, please, please have a contract that talks about all of this stuff.

Marie:
Cause, we did not for super long time.

Jessi:
It was bad. Bad ideas. I want to mention one more quick thing on the pain, how people pay you a note, and we're going to do a whole episode on this later on, but, when you are working out your fees with clients, keep in mind that content creation and I'm speaking to writing specifically cause that's what I do, and that's what we do but I'm positive that this is true of other creative areas as well. It is not limited to butt-in-chair time. It is your- as a writer, I am not just writing-

Marie:
She said, butt-in-chair time first, I thought she said button chair time, so you'll have to excuse-

Jessi:
Sorry.

Marie:
If you also heard what I heard. Go- carry on.

Jessi:
Butt-in-chair time. And what I mean by that is you are not only working on your client's work when you are sitting down and typing actual real words you are working on their work, when you're thinking about it in the shower. You're working on it when you're staring at the blank page, running through different ideas in your head, but not actually writing them down. You're working on it during the revision process,

Marie:
You're working on it when you literally have a nightmare about it, because you're like, Oh my goodness, I didn't get that done. True story that has happened to me.

Jessi:
And the work that you do doesn't end when you pass it onto the client and they approve it because it goes out to the world and has a longterm ROI. It will continue to potentially bring revenue in or traffic in or whatever the goal of that content is in for your client.
So when you are deciding how much to charge and how to charge your clients, what those boundaries are, keep all of that in mind. I'm not going to tell you how to do it right now. We will have an episode on that, but keep in mind that it is not just while you are sitting down actively writing words.

Marie:
Perfect. So next then would be the scope of work. So obviously this includes things like number of deliverables, what types of deliverables, you know, whether they have access to you and what that looks like. If there's certain meetings, whatever, all of that is probably hopefully communicated to them in writing in some format, like through an email, for instance, a formal proposal doesn't really matter.
Definitely plugging the contract also again. But also make sure that you include things like turnaround time. Like what is a reasonable turnaround time? What constitutes an emergency last minute request, or some kind of add on and how is that handled? How many revisions do they get? Is it infinite? Is it one? Is it something in between? What constitutes a revision versus like a copy edit? So all of that kind of stuff can be clearly laid out in terms of your boundaries, but your boundaries are basically worthless unless you also communicate them when the time arises. And the time I would argue when arises very early on, when you're having initial conversations with a client.

Jessi:
Also, on the note of revisions, please, please, please do not allow for infinite revisions.

Marie:
Yeah, we've been there too. I remember, gosh, I remember the two of us, like we were on a vacation one time and we had an infinite revision policy because we wanted the client to be happy, right? And I mean, obviously we still want the client to be happy. We also improved our process so that we don't need infinite revisions for that to happen. I remember like we were on vacation and we were like, Sitting in a hotel room, like on the bed hunched over this laptop, trying to come up with catchy sub-headers and I'm just like, shoot me.

Jessi:
Yeah. Well, and I think it also, you know, this is a whole other conversation, so I'll speak very briefly to it, but the infinite revision policy. It doesn't just speak to wanting to make the client happy. It also speaks to not necessarily having the confidence in what you're producing, being best practices as a copywriter or content creator. And, I don't want to say that to like, shame anyone who has an infinite revision policy, but I do want to remind you that you are the expert. You are the expert content creator, and you sometimes will make decisions that a client may not understand right away. And so they come back and they're asking for revisions on something that is actually copywriting best practices or content best practices, that's not necessarily an invitation for you to say. Okay. Yes. I'm going to do whatever you ask. Instead, it's an invitation for you to explain the logic behind it because it may actually serve them better sometimes to say no.

Marie:
Yes. There's a really brilliant woman and colleague and friend of ours, Brandy Lawson, who runs fiery FX, please check her out- she has a new podcast herself. But she, one of the things she told me one time is you will never hear me say, you know, are you happy with this? Because. They don't actually know, like her clients don't necessarily know better than she does, what is a best practice and like what the data is pointing to is going to serve them the best. And so obviously, yeah, we want them to be happy, but like, it's actually more important that what we create is effective and aligned for them. And so, thought I'd pass on Brandy's words of wisdom.

Jessi:
Great. And so true. And that doesn't mean that we don't, uh, allow for revisions. We do allow for revisions, we allow for two rounds of revisions and we state that very clearly in our contract and in the calls that happen prior to someone working with us.

Marie:
Yes. Okay. Another set of boundaries that you may not be thinking about, but whew, when they are broached, it is painfully obvious, which is values-based boundaries. So, some of it is like how you communicate, right? Like, okay. You're not allowed to call me these words. Not that you have to have a list of words, but like be respectful, be respectful of me. That's a boundary I have. Right. You may not agree with me, but like. We can be respectful of each other as a client service provider relationship, business owner or business owner or whatever it is, right. Also what you believe. As content creators, we are taking on the voice of our clients. And that means that what they believe is something we have to produce, and like replicate. And so again, going back to my maybe slightly hyperbolic example earlier of like, if everything they say is just like white power all the time or something like that, like... That's not a good boundary fit for you, which I hope it's not a good values fit for you then, like, that's a boundary you can uphold, right? And just to say like, actually, um, I'm not comfortable with this and I have a problem with this and I can't create this for you. And it's better to know that like early, than to get into something. Right. And so this is actually why for- we have a form that prospective clients can fill out.
And one of the questions and it is like, Hey, this is our policy on things like discrimination and, you know, messaging and like, Our anti-racist policy, our policy about, you know, discriminatory language in general. And I really need to make sure that you can agree with this because we can only create content that fits within our values, because otherwise we're out of alignment with ourselves, even if we're in alignment with you.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. And it really is something that is the earlier that you put that out there, the better. And hopefully as a content creator, your values are evident within all of your own content. Anything that you're putting out there- but not everyone who finds you is going to read everything that you create to see if- they're not going to necessarily do the due diligence. They may just want a quick fix, quick amount of content. They're looking for someone to do the thing that they need done. So it is on you to say, this is what I believe. And if you are not in alignment with it, we are not going to work together and it's not a good fit.

Marie:
Yeah. And we're not judging them necessarily. It doesn't have to be a stark. As the example I gave, like, it could just be like we had this conversation- it was much gentler with somebody recently where we were like, look, this is like, this is who we are. And so like, what you do, I think is really helpful and probably makes a huge difference. But I just know that, like, there's not going to be anybody on our team, who's going to get excited about it. And so, you know, I just don't know if we're a great fit. So it wasn't that, like, I think they're evil and horrible and saying mean things. It's just like, it wasn't a good fit.

Jessi:
Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. And being able again, to say- to recognize and say that it's not a good fit, it's really powerful because you're opening up space for people who are a good fit to come in.
Okay, so next boundary, we kind of touched on this already, but how you operate. So just making sure that it's really clear, clearly stated everything from communication to turn around. And then if you are working with someone who has their own team, they already have maybe a marketing team. They maybe have other content creators, or maybe they don't have any other content creators, but they do have other team members who are doing other things for the company. Just making sure that you're really clear on how you work with them. What the lines of communication are, who you're directly speaking to, how you get access to the people you need access to and how they get access to either you, or if you have a team members of your team that they need access to.

Marie:
Absolutely. And then the last piece of this is what are your offers? So, you don't have any obligation to create a custom package or offer or anything like that for anybody. Just because somebody wants a certain thing doesn't mean you have to create it. You may choose to do that. But if you decide to say, you know what? No, like this is the way I prefer to work. That's okay. You can uphold that boundary. So now that we've talked through a bazillion of them, how do we actually establish them and how do we reinforce them? My favorite way to do this is to set the boundaries and expectations in the very first conversations. And even before. So I mentioned before we have an application to work with us on our website. We actually start setting boundaries there. We, like I said, you know, we have this thing about like, here's our beliefs and values. Is this aligned for you? We also ask questions that help us understand if they may be somebody who's going to step over boundaries.
Like we ask, you know, Hey, do you have a budget? If somebody says, yeah, my budget's 4 cents, you know, like, okay, well maybe that's not a great fit. Right. And like, if somebody is like, my budget is, you know, a thousand dollars, like, okay, I know, kind of like, what are the types of things we could support them with? And what are the things that are going to be probably outside of that. And that's fine. And then initially on the sales call, you know, a lot of times people want to know what's your process, what's it like to work with you? So you can just weave those boundaries in. And when you say things like, yeah, you know, you're allowed to run rounds of revisions and, you know, we, by the way, like, you know, when you- next step would be letting us know, we'll send you a contract and then from there you'll get an invoice. And then once that's paid, we will begin work. So like, again, that helps them understand the boundaries right from the get-go.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think it's really comforting to them too. Often I think that there's this pool to be accommodating and to hop on a sales call. And when someone asks what's your process or how would we work together, there's this, this desire sometimes to just say, you know, however you work, I'll fit into your process. I will make it work. But what you're doing then is setting yourself up for working in a thousand different ways. And trying to fit into a thousand different processes. And I think that the clients or potential clients that you're talking to really appreciate knowing that you have a process that you have those boundaries in place. And so you start those conversations early and then they get reinforced when you send that contract. And again, like we said earlier, please have a contract, a lot of content creators, a lot of creatives start off without having a contract. It's a sort of gentleman's agreement. I kind of hate that phrase, but-

Marie:
it's a handshake agreement, right?

Jessi:
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. It's an informal handshake agreement of, you know, this is what we're doing and this is how we're paying you. And it allows for situations like the one we talked about at the beginning of the episode, where all of a sudden someone stopped paying us and there was, we had no recourse. There was nothing we could do about that.

Marie:
Right. I mean, sure. You can take things to small claims court, but they're counting on you deciding it's not worth your time and often it isn't so contracts. If you do not have a contract in place, this is for every one. Everyone please run. Do not walk to destination legal.
Sarah Waldbuesser is our friend. And we have worked with her. We've purchased contract templates from her before. She is an attorney. I'm making a big plug for Sarah here. Cause she's great. Yeah. So we've purchased contract templates from her before. We've hired her for some support and if we needed some kind of specialty contracts, we've even hired her for trademarking. Can't say enough wonderful things about Sarah, Destination Legal. We will put a link in the show notes so that you can go straight there and get everything you need.

Jessi:
Yeah. Yeah. And the good news is you really don't need to have like a completely different contract for every single client. You have a base framework of a contract and you swap in whatever the service is. And you know, Sarah will take you through all of the actual, you know, nuts and bolts of it. But, it's a simple thing. That's not hard to implement. And once it is there, it feels so much better because you are protected. Your client feels better because it feels like more of an official relationship, feels less like a freelancer relationship.
That's based on that sort of a handshake agreement. And anytime that those boundaries are overstepped, you can begin that conversation in a really not- it's a non-confrontational way to say, Hey, just a reminder, this is what you agreed to in the contract to just reinforce those boundaries. And it doesn't have to turn into an argument or anything like that.
There's no risk of them being able to say, Oh, well you never said that. And you say, well, yes I did. And then it just becomes the back and forth because you can say you signed this contract. This is what's in the contract.

Marie:
Yep. Exactly. So if you take literally nothing away else, otherwise from this episode than that, that's great. I mean, I'm very happy that you're going to protect yourself in the contract. I do want to make a quick note just on rigidity and compromise and the graceful process of evaluating when it makes sense. To be on the rigidity side of things and the compromise side of things. And that is, you know, we've been talking about boundaries and some people, ah myself type A type person, I'm like, I hear some rules and I'm like, okay, those are the rules. And that's the way it is. And like that doesn't always serve us. When we have a boundary, we may decide to be flexible with it, but we need to just make sure we're doing so for the right reasons. We're not doing it because we're afraid that we're never going to get another client or, you know, we're afraid that I don't know, they're not going to like us anymore.
If we're going to be stepping outside of our boundaries, maybe it's just because, Oh, there's another great way to do it. And I'm fine with that way of doing it. And I think that this is going to be a respectful relationship, all signs, point to that. And so I'm comfortable with this one. Or to whatever it is, shifts from the usual. So use your best judgment, but like really ask yourself why you are compromising on your boundary as it's happening. And hopefully before you actually like, hit send on that email or open your mouth, just be like, yeah, we can do that.

Jessi:
Yeah. And also, if you do decide to bend a boundary, which is everyone's prerogative and happens sometimes I think- is it in integrity- to happen a lot of the time and a lot of the times, some of the time. But it's also important, I think, to communicate it. And so there have been times where we have bent a boundary for our client. And when we do that, we'll send them a message and say, Hey, just as a reminder, this is our usual policy. We're going to do this instead this time. And here's why, but just keep this policy in mind because you know, we are going to enforce it moving forward. And just, again, your clients don't always know what's happening behind the scenes. And a lack of communication is what can lead to that resentment and lead to a breakdown in the relationship. And so just making sure that when you make a decision around your boundaries, if it impacts your clients, they're aware of it, and they're aware of why that decision is being made. And that way there's much lower risk of there being any sort of breakdown.

Marie:
Yep. Really good point. Okay. So your homework then is to identify one area with loose boundaries in your business, and then to take an action to strengthen that boundary. But that's not all- make sure you communicate it. Like Jessi said, just let the involved parties know that it's happening because otherwise, if it's a boundary that you don't actually tell anyone about, then that probably means you're not enforcing it.

Jessi:
Yep. Absolutely. And I would add to that one quick thing. If you have a boundary that you feel good about, but you haven't done the communication piece, instead of tightening or creating a boundary that you need to create, maybe go back to that existing boundary and figure out a way to communicate it so that people know it exists. And aren't surprised by it when it comes up.

Marie:
Exactly. All right. Well, congrats on your new boundaries and I hope this is a helpful episode for you.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, spotify and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content, creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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