How to Set Healthy Boundaries to Strengthen Client Relationships
Welcome to this episode of The Determined Mom Show, and I have the lovely Julie Moe with me, and we are gonna talk today about how to set healthy boundaries to strengthen client relationships.
I’m very excited for you to be here, and I’m excited to talk about this topic, but of course, we all are dying to know more about you, so tell us about you and how you got started, and what you’re doing.
My name is Julie Moe. I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I have a few different businesses. My first is a web design business called Zu V Media, where I am building Squarespace websites specifically for most entrepreneurs and people within the music business. I’m very fortunate to live here in Nashville, so the music business is a big part of my life.
In a lot of different ways. And then I also have a coaching program and a course called the Gutsy Mama Project, where I help moms do the same thing that I do. So I built a business-building website while my baby was napping.
I wanna help moms do the same thing and overcome that mommy guilt that Is a very real and true problem, and I think that most mothers on various levels struggle with it, whether it’s working too much, whether it’s cleaning too much, whether it’s just not having enough time to do all the things we think our children need.
I created the Gutsy Mama Project really to help moms overcome that while still being able to build a business that they love and maintain a true sense of self. While they are outside, that’s something outside of their families.
That’s awesome. It’s so needed. I wish there was something like that when I was getting started five years ago. Trying to figure out my journey and that kind of thing cuz it would’ve been very helpful to have some sort of structure and base and foundation. And also it’s so hard to guide you right.
In the community too. It’s such a big part because I was among the first of my friends to have a child.
So all of a sudden, all my single friends are single and they’re wonderful people and I still love them very much, but they don’t understand what it is to be a mom and they’re. Other coaching programs or other courses teach score space and that’s fine, but there’s nothing mom specific.
I said, Okay, this is a niche that is underserved because when you are a mom running a business, and especially when you’re just starting, you have a specific set of challenges that someone without children or even a dad does not have. Having people who understand and you can jump on a coaching colleague if you don’t even need anything and you’re just there for the juice and you might just need to complain for a minute.
Like sometimes you need that. And especially running through the pandemic because I launched my program in 2020, January 2020, right before the world shut down. It was such a blessing. For me, I hoped it was a blessing for the monster in it, but it was a real blessing for me every Wednesday having a coaching call and having people to talk to and help and it felt like my world was very much expanded, even though physically it had contracted, so it was a wonderful thing.
That is perfect timing. I know. During that same timeframe, I decided that I was gonna run a summit for moms, and business owners, and, It launched on April 6th, which I think was like our launch date.
And so it was like right after everything shut down.
So luckily, 90% of the world was at home, so it turned out to be successful. But I know exactly what you mean about that timing. It’s okay, is this gonna be good or is it? Bad and then it turned out to be good. So that was. ,
I mean it, like I said, it was a real blessing. It was interesting though, launching a course and having to pivot and learn how to pivot. Because, before that my marketing was very aspirational, and after that, you got to the point where are you selling the yacht or are you selling the life raft and going into Covid? I think a lot of people were looking for a life raft.
They’re like, Okay, I don’t just need a job. I need a job where I can work from home and homeschool and keep my kids on computers and all of these things. So, how can I do this? I was like, Oh, you can design websites. Here we go. People still need websites. Businesses are launching, billionaires were made.
It was a really interesting time to start a business and a really interesting time to run a business. And I think going into the next few months, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the American economy and the world economy and how I think a lot of marketers are trying to figure out, Okay, do I need to pivot now? How am I trying to pivot my business now? But really, the thing I love about web design is I didn’t need to leave my house either.
That’s the biggest thing. Like you can do it in your pajamas, you can do it, there’s no requirement. Other than client meetings, of course, you’re gonna have those client meetings, and you what?
I do everything on Zoom now, and I think everyone is just used to doing it on Zoom or Google Meet or however you wanna do it. And it’s just become such the norm that even a lot of my clients who are here are based in the same city. We’re still on Zoom. Because it saves everyone time, like going to meet somewhere, like going for coffee.
All these things. We’re still on Zoom and it’s still totally fine. And like I said, I can do it at 11 p.m. if I need to, or I can do it, while my daughter is sleeping or heaven forbid watching Octas or whatever it is. It’s the kind of business where I’m not stuck at being a nine-to-five, which I love.
It allows you to choose when you want to do things with your daughter versus when you have time to do things with your daughter. I think that’s a big differentiation, at least for me.
That’s a perfect segue into boundaries. And how important it is to set boundaries in your business, especially when you are a solo entrepreneur. It can be a little bit difficult cuz you wanna do everything for everyone.
And especially when you’re just starting. You wanna take on all the work and all the business and all the clients and you wanna do as much as you possibly can. And when I first started my business, I first started my business in 2015. Before I was a mother and before I was married before I was a mother.
I very much bought into the culture of the hustle. That’s what in 2015, that’s what everybody was still in the hustle, the yacht, standing in front of the big, fancy car like all of these things. Hustle hustle. Fake it till you make it. And all of that’s nonsense. Absolute Bs, right? Complete and total bs.
And so I bought into that and I did okay, but I was doing everything for everyone. You needed a website, great. You need social media management and great influencer management. I got you photo shoots. Let me take your photos. All of these things. Graphic design was a lot, but at the same time, it was single.
So I was like, No big deal. I can handle this. You need me to go and have drinks at 11 p.m. Okay. And then, 2016, in the fall of 2016, I was in Canada on a business trip with my biggest client and I took a PO, my very first positive pregnancy test and I was like, Oh, snap.
I do not have, I don’t have anything in place. To make this happen. I don’t have anything in place to set this up so that I can do this mom thing. And then at the same time, I was like, You know what? Other moms do it. I can have it all. I can do this, but. I couldn’t, and so I didn’t have those boundaries set even then with my clients.
Like I didn’t post any of my pregnancy photos. I didn’t post my maternity photos. Most people didn’t know I had a baby until my daughter was almost a year old. Because I was scared that they would think cuz I was, I was scared they would think that I wouldn’t be able to do my job. When I had a baby.
Let’s talk about how scary it is that’s actually like a real thing. That is like literally the reality that we as women have to deal with. That sucks.
100%. It’s known that I was emailing in while I was in labor. I’m like on my phone, sending emails. Luckily I had an epidural, so it wasn’t the worst, but I was emailing when I was in labor, I was back at my desk six days postpartum. With that iteration of my company as it was.
Because I hadn’t set up my systems, I hadn’t set up my boundaries. These are the times I’m available. This is what I’m unwilling to do for you. I’m not going to do everything. This is what you are paying me to do. These are, so I hadn’t set those boundaries and it wound up being a massive cluster fuck for me.
I wound up having tremendous mommy guilt. My daughter was about four months old. I guess that’s probably about when they start rolling over, sorry about that. And she had just, Rolled over and my mom had sent me a video of doing cuz I was at a client meeting with a client I did not because I wanted their money.
I hated the work. And when I got that video, the mommy guilt was so intense. Like it was the summer in Nashville, so it’s 8 million degrees and I’m sitting in a hot car, not a car, not turned on crying hysterically. Deep tears like real hurt inside tears. And I called my husband, and I said, I don’t think I can do this anymore.
At the time I had two staffers, so I. Responsible for people’s jobs and health insurance and all of these things. And I said I don’t think I can do this. I felt like I had to choose between Working and my family. And so I thought this is my only other option.
I am going to be a stay home mom. And luckily I had the means, and my husband and I figured it out so that I could stay home with my daughter for a while. So I gave my staffers a severance and said, Hey. Sorry. This is what has to happen. My kid comes first. And then I tried. I tried being a stay-at-home mother, and at first, it was amazing, right?
You’ve got this beautiful, perfect little human who’s just. You’re so in love with it, and it’s amazing. And then you realize, your days blend into one another. And then after a while after baby music classes and all these things, you start to realize that there are whole groups of people who did not know my name. I was Roxy’s mom or Jeff’s wife.
Like as an entity. In and of myself, I lost who I was. And I had gone from Julie Moe, badass CEO, hustler boss lady to And not that I’m not proud to be Roxy’s mom or Jeff’s wife, but my identity. A human as an individual had just gone. And then on top of that, you add into that point where it got to the point where none of the money in our bank account was brought in by me.
For someone who’s been working since she was 16 years old, you start to feel guilty like, Oh, I wanna go get a pedicure. Is that weird? So I went from having mommy guilt to feeling guilty because I wasn’t happy being a stay-at-home mother when there were so many moms who would love that. And then also adding in that mommy money guilt. Which is just absurd because it was not like I wasn’t working.
Also, you just added another layer of guilt that you didn’t even mention is the guilt of other moms wanting to be a stay-at-home mom and you having the opportunity and not being, and not wanting to, and not being fulfilled. In being a stay-at-home mother.
So you just had three guilty players? That could be a guilt trifecta there. And the guilt that I didn’t even know was a thing. And cuz my mom always used to say, My mom worked when I was young and I never blamed her for it. She was wonderful at her job, but she still to this day feels mommy guilt. I’m in my forties and her youngest, so my mom has money.
My mom has mommy guilt that’s been living with her for decades. So how, what did I need to do to break that generational cycle of mommy guilt? That is my job. What sets boundaries, right? And partially that is setting boundaries.
I lucked into building a square space website when a friend of a friend called me and he’s Hey Julia, you know I’m the south. I’m gonna use an accent. Matt tells me you’re building some websites and we like to look at these Squarespace websites. Can you build me a couple of them for some clients of mine?
I was like, sure. Never built a website before. But I wanted the money and I needed the challenge cuz my brain was atrophying and full of nothing but Moana and so I needed that. So I jumped in, and I said. I’m smart. I can figure this out. And I haven’t looked back like one phone call changed my life.
In there, and in the year subsequent, I have had to learn to set those boundaries because I have things in my life that are more important. So the first thing that I had to do to set those boundaries was to get crystal clear on what those boundaries were going to be like. The things that are going to be important for me if you want to make sure that you are home for dinner every day, set that boundary.
Me, I have to be available to pick up my kid from school. She’s five, just starting kindergarten, but I have to be available at three o’clock. My husband travels for. Pretty significantly. So he’s not available. There is nobody else but me. So in my calendar and my proposal from the very beginning, I say my office hours are between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM and
I get the occasional client who will call or text after that. And I say I’m at the park with my daughter. And I let them know is this was an emergency and that I need to jump on the phone right. While I park with my daughter?
Yes, exactly. And, I think one thing. At least I’ve learned that they’re still going to work with you. They just have to work with you on your terms instead of whenever they want to. And that was a really hard thing for me as a business owner to learn, is that they’re still going to hire you. They’re just going to have to work around certain parameters.
I think as I said, I love websites. One of the reasons it’s, cuz it’s that it’s not a daily turnaround project. Very rarely. I need a website tomorrow. In which case, I’m happy to turn on a website tomorrow, like my fee is doubled because I have to work 20 hours straight or something. But like it gives you that time like, Hey, I need a website in the next two weeks.
I’m like, cool. It gives me the time to be creative and build it and send it and then have that time, whether it’s it, whether I can’t sleep and I’m doing it at two in the morning cuz I have insomnia or whether it’s, I’m at nine in the morning and I’m feeling creative, whatever it is.
And I find, I had a client call once and they could, they were on the West Coast and I’m here in Central and the only time we could make it work was after my daughter was home from school. It’s fine, this needs to get done. But I said, but Roxy was on my lap for the whole call and he said to me, there was a time when you’d be fired for that.
I was like there was a time when I would never take on a client who would do exactly that. My boundary, I’m very honest with the fact that I am a mother. That is important to me. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t think being a mother is important, I do not wanna work with you. Yes, that’s so true. I’m okay.
I will find other work. I will find another business. But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t understand that being a mother and raising a good human isn’t important, then no thank you.
I agree. I love that. It’s also freeing that ability to say no, to those types of people or those people that push your boundaries or just flat-out disrespect them.
Ignore them. There are clients of mine who don’t even have my phone number, and it’s not because I’m actively hiding it from them, but it’s more so that there are ways to get in touch with me that are just as fast as the phone. Here is my calendar link booking at your leisure. Here is how you know, I put it in my proposals. This is the way we are going to communicate.
Here is the link to book calls with me. You get this many calls with this project. Additional calls will be this much. We get this many rounds of revision. Additional rounds are this much and I’m very clear and I’m very honest and I had to learn that the hard way.
About, I was too scared to be clear. About what they were getting, what the scope of work was, and how long it was gonna take. I was scared that they were going to not accept it. And then I got in trouble when I sent the final invoice and of wtf.
I’m like, oh. So now I’m just crystal clear. Right up front. It’s in writing and that’s the best way to be. I find that most people appreciate it. And if someone can’t afford it, that’s okay. That’s somebody else’s client. So that’s not my dreamy client. I have used data and reverse-engineered my dream clients. And my dream clients can afford me. They pay quickly.
And they respect boundaries and they book in when they need to talk to me and things like that. They appreciate it when I say no, I’ll have one of my clients who’ll be like, Hey Julie, I need to create a quiz for my website. Can you help me with that? I’m just like, probably, but no, I don’t.
Yes, some people can do it cheaper though, cuz I’m gonna charge you for the two days of research that I need to do to make it amazing. So there are probably people who can do that better and faster for you. And I don’t need you, I don’t think you wanna pay for my learning curve.
Exactly. So I think it’s a great boundary as well as knowing what you’re able to offer and what you’re not.
And what brings me joy? Like I can do graphic design, and I can use Adobe, but I find no joy in graphic design, and some people do it far better than I do. And I will happily be direct for you, but I will not design. Your logo. I don’t wanna design your canvas templates. I don’t wanna design any of those things.
Because there are better people and I find no joy in it. And setting that boundary of you know what? N I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s for me. Or if they have a larger project, they need a complete rebrand, I’m like, Great. I would love to help you with the web design portion of your rebrand.
I will happily help you with the copywriting portion of your rebrand, but this is not for me. And that’s hard. And I have this conversation regularly with the moms that I coach, because they wanna do everything, They want all the money. They want their clients to be happy. They wanna do everything.
I’m like, Listen, it’s okay for you to say no to them. And oftentimes, if it’s something that you don’t know how to do, they’ll ask me like, Hey, do you have any experience with this? And be like, I’m sorry I don’t, here’s what I know that could work for that. But this isn’t a course for how to build.
Forms and air table. Or any of those things, and I say, Listen if they are going to pay you a decent amount of money and you are comfortable with that, great. If you think that’s an important skill for you to have moving forward, great. Otherwise, it is perfectly all right for you to say.
I’m a great web designer and I will help you with that. If you need me to look into sourcing something else, I can happily do that too. But this is not My forte. The chances are you’re not advertising, Hey, I’m building out fantastic forms and air tables. No. So it’s okay to say no to those things. It’s okay to say no to pieces of projects.
So my question for you is, what are maybe the top three to five boundaries? That we need to set with a client to have that great relationship with them.
I think time, your time boundaries, and being honest with them. Like I said, I put it in writing, I have time. My calendar is blacked out between three and eight 30 and I don’t, no one works after that. So like my calendar is blocked out between three and eight 30 is Roxy time. That’s my daughter. That’s it.
I think you’re, that, I think it, you’re, for me, my, my time boundary is my biggest, my other one is like getting, like I said, really clear on what you’re doing for them. Because it’s easy for scope creep to happen, especially like on a web design project. Oh, they need one more page or we need a little This. Oh, can you make this happen for me? Oh. Can you source all of my images? Can you write this copy? Oh, can you do this for me? I’m happy to do that.
My rate is $95 an hour to build a half hour. Oh great. Sorry. Oh, we’ll do that ourselves. Okay, great. No problem. Cut that scope. Creep off. Be like, Oh yes. This is out. I have never had a client who I’ve gotten to say and say, You know what? We’re getting into some scope creep on this project.
I agreed to X, Y, and Z in our contract, and this is what’s happening. And that’s the other boundary. Put it all in writing. Have a rock-solid contract. I don’t want any, like part of what I do in the Getsy, my project, you get a rock solid contract in there that I paid thousands of dollars to have written because I was working with big companies.
So I was going to a lawyer because they had big lawyers and I had a, So I needed to have a lawyer too. Making sure that I wasn’t being screwed over, but Rock solid. That other boundary is having that rock solid contract and putting all this stuff in writing and being explicitly clear to the point where it’s almost overkill of clear.
How many pages is your website gonna be, how is it’s gonna look, when is it’s gonna launch, what your dates are, and when they are expected to give you feedback by being Super rock solid on those dates? With people. So if they’re late, if the web website project is late being delivered, you can say, here we go.
This is why. That’s why. And like I’ve had a project that’s just launched today that’s been dragging for months, and it’s not my fault, it’s just, it’s a big project and there’s a lot of people involved in making decisions, but they understood from the beginning because I said, This is how long it will take me to do these things.
If I have all of the information that I need, right? Like I’m just, I’ll wait weeks for feedback cuz the CEO’s busy and I understand that. But at the same time, when they come back to me with feedback and be like, Okay, I’ve moved on to another project for now. I will have time for this at the top of next week and I will make those revisions.
You’ll have them tuned by the end of next week and be honest and be like, Hey, this is when I can get to this because you guys are dragging and I’ve never had. Once you speak about it intelligently and your boundaries with enthusiasm, people are okay with it. And I think more and more there are more old school people who expect you to work 24/7.
We’re coming into a world where we just can’t. It just doesn’t work anymore. It’s the thing that everyone’s talking about. The quiet quitting. I’ve heard a lot about that later. So there’s been a lot of that in the last few months. I noticed that even when I had my last corporate job, I had a CEO who would email me on Friday night.
We used to call it drive-by emails, and I was the head of marketing, so there was nothing I can do on a Friday night. What am I gonna do? Send a press release. So I would often draft the email response and send it first thing Monday morning, cuz that was my way of saying, these are my boundaries.
Not going to reply during, I’m not going to reply to this until Monday morning, and I do that now with clients as well. Cuz there are no web design emergencies. No. I’ll add it to my task list for Monday morning, or maybe if I’m feeling risky Sunday night, so I can get a jump on the week.
I might draft the email, but I will still send it Monday morning. And just setting those time boundaries for yourself as well, because you need to set those in your own heart too, and accept that this is okay, and get comfortable with those boundaries and say, I’m quitting at three.
Because you will finish the job by three. Then if you don’t give yourself your time boundary, you’ll let that job Yep. It will take, It will expand to take the amount of time that you give it.
Yes. That’s so true. I can get all my work done in two days, like for all of my clients, and have three days off, but I never do it. Okay. Because I have five days. I’m like, Me too. Why not? I have five days to do it. No. Drives me nuts.
That’s part of the reason I send emails too, that I will have this to you by the end of next week. It sets that boundary for me too, cuz if it can drag if nobody’s in a real hurry okay. So it’s frustrating.
That’s awesome. These are amazing tips that you’ve shared with us, and if you’re listening and you are newly setting up your business, or you want to newly set up your business, or whatever the case might be please listen to what Julie is telling you. It will change your life.
It will make your life so much easier. Yes, and you’ll be so much happier as a business owner, not just if you’re a mom, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether or not you have children or not. Setting those boundaries early in your business will set you up for success. And happiness in your business much more.
Exactly. And your clients will respect you. And you will avoid burnout, exactly. I love it. Thank you so much, Julie. Where is the best place for people to get in touch with you online?
If you are a mom and you are interested in setting up your own business, you can find out more information about The Gutsy Mama firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can find me on Instagram at Gutsy Mama Project, I would love to connect with anyone interested.
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here, Julie, and sharing all of your amazing wisdom and boundary-setting. Oh, thank you so much for having me. I loved it. Thank you.
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