Setting Healthy Boundaries as a Creative Entrepreneur

Jun 1 2016

by Kate Spears

The Southern Coterie blog: "Setting Healthy Boundaries" by Kate Spears (photo: Kelli Boyd Photography for The Southern C)
photo: Kelli Boyd Photography

I don’t want what you’re selling. Why does this sound so harsh?

For me, it brings to mind the image of a 1950s housewife standing at her door while a pushy salesman waits on the porch with a briefcase filled with samples.

I’ll never forget the time the Kirby vacuum salesman came to our house and my mom said she was definitely not going to buy the vacuum cleaner. She was only going to let him do the promotional free carpet cleaning, and then she would say no to his sales pitch.

$1,200 and 10 easy payments later we had a brand new, fully automated, self-propelled Kirby vacuum cleaner. It was actually pretty awesome and lasted many years, but that’s another story.

The thing that got me thinking was the idea that we don’t feel comfortable to say “I don’t want what you’re selling.”

Surely I’m not the only one who feels equal amounts of annoyance and guilt when I make a special effort to avoid eye contact with the salespeople in the mall kiosks? I know it’s probably not their life’s dream to demonstrate straightening irons, rub cream on the back of wrinkly strangers’ hands or fit my cell phone with a new indestructible case.

I’m not interested, but somehow I feel bad about it. Why does it feel like not wanting what they are selling somehow makes me wrong?

Have you ever found yourself working with or for people you just didn’t mesh with? It’s not that you didn’t like them, or that they weren’t perfectly nice. But something about the way they approached the world was completely and utterly different from your own approach. It’s like they were selling something that you didn’t want to buy. Something you had no interest in, no need for, no desire to partake.

As a creative entrepreneur, this can be challenging. Especially when you are trying to build a business, and pay your bills! Sometimes gigs or clients come along that seem too good to be true, because of the money or the experience they will provide. In my business of offering content marketing and other services to clients, I have definitely encountered this.

I’ve taken clients that didn’t seem quite right for me. And I’ve neglected to follow my gut and paid for it later. Every client is not a right fit for your business. And every company isn’t a right fit for you to work with.

The secret is finding out what does fit for you. And that starts with figuring out what your brand is all about. Before you can attract the kinds of clients or gigs that work for you, you must first be absolutely certain who you want to be.

What are your personal values and how do they translate in your business? What types of brands and companies do you feel comfortable working with? Are there any industries that you absolutely want to avoid? Who is your ideal client?

The beauty of being your own boss is you don’t have to buy anything you don’t want. If someone’s selling something that doesn’t work for you, don’t buy it. If you’ve already bought something (i.e. taken a client or a project) that ends up not working, give yourself permission to say it isn’t working anymore.

I recently attended a seminar on business negotiations, and learned that one of the most powerful phrases you can use in negotiating is “That doesn’t work for me.” Memorize this phrase and keep it in your back pocket whenever your client pushes you in a direction that doesn’t align with your brand.

Do you ever struggle with feeling like you aren’t allowed to say no? There are a million reasons that cause this.

I can’t say no because I need the money. I can’t say no because it makes me look like a jerk. I can’t say no because they’ll hate me. I’ll seem rude. I’ll seem selfish. Nobody will like me. I’ll be embarrassed. I’ll look foolish. If I say no, and I’m the only one who says no, I’ll be an outsider. I’ll seem like a nerd. Like a snob. Like a fussy pants. Like a needy person. If I say no, I won’t get asked to go along ever again. If I say no, I might have to sit at home and be sad. 

You don’t have to go along. You’re allowed to say “I don’t want what you’re selling,” whether it’s a product or service, or a belief system or a way of life.

We don’t have to buy into beliefs we don’t embrace. And we don’t have to buy into the idea that we have to become a different person to make others like us, or think we’re worthy of their time.

As entrepreneurs, life presents certain circumstances that we have to ‘put up with.’ Sometimes they last for a short time, or a longer season. But forcing ourselves to buy into things we don’t believe for the long-haul is slowing killing us.

When we do this, we tell ourselves that what our heart wants most doesn’t matter at all. And this is a form of self-abuse. What your heart wants most does matter. It matters to the world, and it matters to this community.

As creative entrepreneurs, we’re only given a limited amount of resources in the way of time, energy and attention. Don’t spend your precious pennies on things you don’t want. No matter what you try to convince yourself you’re getting in the bargain. It just isn’t worth it. And it never will be.


Kate Spears View More Blog Posts from this Author

Kate Spears is a self-proclaimed Southern belle who grew up in a tiny town near Nashville, but now calls Knoxville home. She graduated from the University of Tennessee (Big Orange Country!) with an undergraduate degree in art history and a master’s in public relations & advertising. In 2009, she started her blog, Southern Belle Simple, with the simple hope of giving herself a creative outlet. She continues to be amazed each time it leads to a new opportunity and cherishes the relationships that are formed along the way.

Kate is passionate about family history, time-honored traditions, and her Southern heritage. Her people hail from across the South, from the Lone Star State of Texas to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. She grew up spending summers on her great-grandparents’ Tennessee farm where she developed a deep appreciation and admiration for people who could coax beautiful and delicious things out of a mound of dirt. She comes from faithful men, devoted women, hard workers and wickedly good cooks.

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2 responses on “Setting Healthy Boundaries as a Creative Entrepreneur

  1. Sara Dwyer

    When speaking with someone to gain new or additional business, my professional delivery, posture and integrity should be truly authentic. When it is, no one should be in that position to feel bad about saying NO!
    If it doesn’t work for them, it certainly doesn’t work for me! More “NO’s” bring me closer to the “YES’s” that are truly rewarding.
    When I have done my best, both parties can be mutually agreeable with the outcome – knowing the conversation determined if is this a good fit for BOTH parties. Whether it is a prospective design client or someone interested in my skincare company, it’s a mutual decision.
    Life’s too short! Do your best. Keep swimming.
    More No’s get you to the Yes’s. Be grateful for each contact and experience.

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