How Having Boundaries is the Secret to Being a Sought After Professional

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.



  1. The temptation to take any writing work, any contract is strong. It takes a lot of chutzpah to define your limits. Great advice for professionals working in any business. Thanks for posting.

  2. This is great advice, and really important right now!
    I had to make some decisions about boundaries lately, and this validated what I was moved to establish in my work!
    Thanks for your great ideas and info!
    Ray Dawn

  3. I recently had a meeting with a company who’s brand are very well known, yet our values were very different. After considering all viewpoints I turned down the job.
    We need to be so careful of our rep guys, it’s what defines us as creatives and will earn us future clients with like-minded brand values.

    Many thanks Alex, good tip.

  4. I’m just starting out, and trying to sift through all the advice that exists everywhere. Brand is so important and is a little intimidating at the start. I will have to blend my values with my short and long-term goals.

  5. This sentiment or message, has been making the rounds lately. But I haven’t read it quite as nicely put until now. Well done… advice I always need to (re)hear.

  6. Totally this! I have found it very hard in the past to say no, even when I know the job is going to take too much time and isn’t well paid. I’m considering full time freelance and really have to be aware of boundaries. Thanks for writing this. All the positive writing I’m coming across at the moment is great!

  7. This is a lesson I’ve learnt recently. I’ve had a couple of small business owners try to rip me off lately and not pay the deposit, or final payment. It is driving me more towards the bigger corporate clients who are more professional. I’m going to write a company policy document including my mission statement, values and processes etc to make sure I keep on track and remain professional.

    • Great thought Janet, though there are still smaller entities that are professional! And not all larger corps are necessarily professional. Key thing is to have boundaries in place so that you can assess or screen prospects before getting too far into a project.

      • Yes I guess that’s true as I’m professional! I will keep my wits about me and listen to my gut instinct if a client seems a bit dodgy as my gut instinct is usual spot on and I get into a pickle when I ignore it :/

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