This might seem like an odd suggestion, but having boundaries is a major secret to professionalism and coming across as such.
This means being someone who sticks to their own defined values, needs and policies and presents them to those they engage with (without coming across as aggressive).
Part of establishing boundaries includes defining your values, which might sound cheesy, but it’s worth clarifying what your core values are as a business entity and a brand. Values reflect your personal sense of right and wrong, and include things like:
• Being passionate
• Respecting others
• Making others feel good about themselves
• Embracing learning
• The importance of being adventurous
• Creating a fun environment
Values are important in a professional sense, because they will determine your own approach, attitude and ultimately your brand and how you consistently come across to people online and offline.
Knowing what your own values are and sticking to them will define you, garner respect from others, and enable you to develop deeper, more positive relationships with people and fans, which is vital for business success.
Being aware of your own needs as a freelancing professional, not just those of your prospects, is also important, and this will inform which clients you take on, the prices you set, the time you spend, and ultimately, the ‘policies’ you set both personally and publicly so that people know what they are dealing with when dealing with you.
One example of establishing boundaries based on your needs is in turning down projects that require too much of your time and resources for too little pay.
In setting this boundary, you now have time to focus on landing projects with better clients. This also has the bonus of focusing your product or service so that it fits in with what top clients actually want.
Saying no to crappy projects is an important part of this too, because it will allow you to focus on the top quality clients, especially if job requests are coming in thick and fast.
Another example might be to choose only to work with clients that inspire and energise you, as opposed to draining you of energy and wasting your time and talents. Having this kind of boundary means you are more inclined to ‘screen’ clients that approach you for work.
When clients almost have to prove themselves in order to pay you, you are in a real position of power, and one that will appeal to great prospects willing to work with you.