Set Your Boundaries Early

When you are first starting up, you will feel that you need to do anything you can to accommodate your students’ needs. If you are not careful, you will end up with one student on Monday morning, another on Friday night, and another on Sunday afternoon. After just a few weeks, you will hate your business, complain about how it is controlling your life, and fret about how you are not making any money.

After 6 years in business, I can count on one hand the number of students I have lost due to scheduling conflicts. The point is that it simply doesn’t happen that often. Your students see you once a week. They can usually adjust their schedule to match yours, but they can’t do this if you don’t set your boundaries and stick to them. My advice is to set these three boundaries now: Time, Money, and Location.

First is time. Get a calendar or a daily planner. I use Google Calendar – more on that in a future post. Cross off any days you don’t want to work. For us, it was Saturday and Sunday. If you think you really don’t mind working every day, you are kidding yourself. Cross off a day anyway. Next, mark your morning and evening boundaries.  What is the latest time you will meet clients? The earliest? Take a big black marker and cross off all of the times before your earliest and after your latest available time. Finally, find a block of four hours when you really want to work. Highlight it with a yellow highlighter.  Make it your goal to fill these four hours first.

Occasionally business reality will set in. All of our clients are business professionals. They want to meet us after work. We were reluctant at first, but eventually took evening clients. We accommodated by refusing requests for morning lessons. I’ll work mornings or evenings, but not both.

Next, decide your self-worth. What is the absolute minimum hourly wage you are willing to work for? Write it down, but don’t show it to anyone. It may be different from the hourly price you advertise to your students. Whenever you accept new business, make sure you never accept work that pays you less than this number. If you offer a discount, never discount to a price lower than this number. As your business matures, I recommend adjusting this number up.

Finally, set your location boundary. What is the maximum distance you are willing to travel? Will you teach at your students’ homes? At your home? At a coffee shop? We only meet students at offices–our office or theirs. Period. That’s our location boundary.

Good fences mean good finances and a happier you. If you don’t contain your business early on, it will consume you.

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