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Boundaries in Business: Where to Draw the Line

The word "boundaries" has been at the forefront of my mind for quite a while. There was something about entering my 40s (a time I'm loving, by the way) that caused an emotional wake-up call, altering the way I view myself and the world.

For the most part this has applied to my personal life, but as I get more and more comfortable with the notion that "that which does not serve us needs to go away," it's leaking over into my professional life as well. And as it should.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on it, to be honest. I'm learning how to stand up for myself a little more and to say no to projects that I don't feel fit with the life I'm working hard to create. But the other day I was speaking with a colleague who gave me a much-needed jolt and made me aware of something I need to stop doing.


I was talking to Willy Wilson with Life Unstill Photography about how I'm sometimes frustrated by the lack of effort people put into their marketing while still expecting the needle to move on their business. Because while many things can be outsourced - like scheduling, writing, and graphics - there are things that the business owner MUST participate in. Otherwise what's the point?

"I get so frustrated because I WANT them to succeed so badly," I said. "I take their successes and failures so personally."

And Willy responded so quietly I almost didn't hear her: "Boundaries."

Dammit. How did I miss this?

You see, I'll do anything I can to make a client's marketing a success. I'll hold their hand through branding photo shoots, give them content prompts so that making a video or writing a blog is as simple as possible, and often provide things beyond our original scope-of-work just to get things to go well.

And sometimes all this effort is met with silence from the client. Which leads to frustration for both of us.

I can lead a horse to water, but I can't make him drink. I can lead a client through the marketing process, but I can't be invested enough for the both of us.

That one conversation was an eye-opener that I desperately needed. I cannot guarantee success, especially when the client isn't willing to participate in the process. I can guide and support, but I can't be the business owner. I can give people every tool in my shed, but I can't make them use them.

No matter how hard I work or how many things I'm willing to do above and beyond, I cannot carry the success and failure of marketing a business entirely on my shoulders.

That's where I draw the line.


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