Setting Boundaries 101 - Catherine Guidry Photography

July 2, 2021

Setting Boundaries 101

Setting boundaries is one of the most difficult and challenging parts of running your own business. How do you stick to your boundaries while still providing a great client experience? This is something I’m always working on, but I have found a good balance at this stage of my life and business. By nature, I am a people-pleaser. At first, it was really difficult for me to set boundaries! So learning to stand up for myself and set those boundaries has been a really huge accomplishment for me. In the process of mentoring others, I’ve come to find that it’s also a struggle many other photographers deal with! Here are 6 things to keep in mind when setting and sticking to boundaries:

  1. Clients may pay for conveniences.

I’ve learned to adjust my hours according to my daily schedule. On weekends, my day will start anywhere between 11 am and 4 pm and will end anytime between 11 pm and 3am. During the week, meetings and other tasks usually take place after business hours as well! One thing that I’ve done to safeguard my personal time is to protect my Sundays. Now, this USED to mean that I didn’t take clients on Sundays. However, I know scheduling can be difficult for some of my clients. So I thought to myself… “What if I charged a fee to the client for that convenience: hiring child care, waking up on a weekend day, getting dressed, driving to the location, and photographing them away from family on my day off each week?” That’s how I determined my weekend price! Now, if a client is unable to take off work or just really wants to shoot on a weekend, I give them my weekend fee.

I also started to become very aware of the time I spent in my vehicle… Every moment spent driving to and from a shoot is a moment away from home and away from productivity. Plus, the more you drive the more you’re spending to maintain your vehicle, plus the expense of gas and food! SO, I started charging properly for miles traveled which helps make up for that time and those expenses. Time is valuable! 🙂 

2. Set boundaries on non-negotiables!

Prioritize the special moments and events that are important to you; you only have one life! For me, for example, the holidays are very special (Christmas and New Year’s especially.) Many years ago, I made the mistake of booking a New Year’s Day Wedding. I wanted to be my best self for that shoot! I knew if I didn’t get enough sleep beforehand, I wouldn’t be performing at my best. The outcome? I left the annual New Year’s Eve party that Brad and I made a tradition to attend (with all of our friends) early… and this day still remember that feeling!

I LOVE my job. Most days it doesn’t even feel like work. But I do work a lot and I work hard. We all do! Because of that, I think it’s ok and worth setting boundaries around those non-negotiables. It’s one of the perks of running and owning your own photography business after all!

Sometimes it’s so hard to take time away from your work for personal matters. However, the older I get, the more I realize the importance of these moments. There is no price on being able to spend Christmas with my family! So, this is one boundary setting piece of advice I like to share with others. Some things have a price, but some things just don’t… and you have to learn to say no!

3. Communicate your boundaries!

As photographers, we often find ourselves in situations where we’re asked to shoot outside of our comfort zone. Maybe that’s a specific pose that doesn’t sit right with you or an editing style you just don’t feel accustomed to. Maybe someone requests a location that doesn’t have the right lighting or aesthetic to satisfy what the client wants. Although it may seem uncomfortable, it’s okay (and better in the end) to be up front! Just be open with your client and explain why another location may be a better option! For example, recently I had a client that asked for some photos on a beautiful staircase in front of the venue; it was a lovely setting for a photograph, but the sun was shining directly onto the stairs. I stood on the staircase for the clients to show them that the harsh lighting would have cast very dark and contrasting shadows onto their faces; they agreed!

It’s that simple. It’s always best to explain your thoughts so they can be on board with you!

4. Consider Referring Work or Business

Don’t be afraid to be assertive when it comes to your preferences and boundaries. If work isn’t a good fit for you it could be for someone else! For example, I used to do boudoir photography. Many years ago, I decided it just really wasn’t something I enjoyed very much. It simply wasn’t for me. Shortly after, I had a very nice client inquire about doing a boudoir session. Of course I didn’t want to say no, because making my clients happy is very important to me! BUT, I knew I had to stand my ground. I just explained to her that boudoir was not really my area of expertise, and then I recommended some other photographers for her to check out. She was COMPLETELY understanding!!

One really helpful thing you can do, is to have a script prepared for when you have to tell somebody that something is out of your comfort zone. This way, you feel more confident in asserting yourself! Then, be prepared to offer options and referrals, that way the client understands that you do really care about giving them what they’re looking for.

5. Remain Confident in Your Methods (including communication)

I know that texting has become a widely accepted and frequently used mode of business communication. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s accessible. However, I personally prefer to keep all business matters and client conversations in my inbox! It helps me feel more organized. Not only is it easier to have everything in the same place, but by communicating through email I’m able to quickly sort through messages.

In addition, outside of those business hours, you shouldn’t feel obligated to respond unless it’s an emergency. It can be really hard to take yourself away from your work outside of business hours, especially when you have so many things to do. Just be sure that the client is away of your hours and how is best to communicate with you so that everyone is on the same page. 

6. TRUST YOUR GUT!

When it comes to setting boundaries, trust your gut and know that the process does take time. I was not always so great at balancing work and life but over the years I’ve gotten better at understanding myself as well as others. I hope this article was helpful to all of you who struggle with the same!

What are some of your boundaries? How do you say no? Feel free to reach out to me at catherine@catherineguidry.com! I’d love to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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