Digital marketing boundaries for social media marketers.
I can hear y’all larfing from here. Boundaries? In an industry that never sleeps? I know, I know. But hang in there with me, yea? Because I was a freelance marketer once upon a time, and holy sheet … did I learn a thing or two about how dangerous it was to be a freelance marketer with a penchant for people-pleasin’ [and a subservient personality, by nature. And personality type]. And so I feel this profound need to come in here today [or tonight, whenever you happen to be reading this] and talk to you about boundaries … so that you’re not out there freelance marketin’ like I was [without boundaries. Like, at all] all o’ those years ago.
So let’s do it, yea? Like if I could get you to just practice boundary #1 by sitting down > carving out 5 minutes for yourself with this less-than-5-minute-read, and doing something for you that’ll undoubtedly serve you well in your brand new [or relatively new] freelance marketing career.
[for freelance marketing professionals].
We’ve all worked with that client as a freelancer, haven’t we?
Starts out business-as-ushe, and then you finish onboarding them and wake up to 21 WhatsApp messages sent from 10.59pm onwards … and you’re just like: Pivot. Pivot. PIVOTTTTTTTTT.
… ‘cept it’s too late, because you didn’t set that comms boundary in the first [or subsequent] meetings, nor anywhere within your onboarding process [and that doesn’t mean you can’t set it now. In fact, please do … it’s just that it’s so much bluddy harder after having onboarded them, and neglecting to pop that comms boundary in place from the get-go].
Freelance marketing me quickly figured out the what / when / how fast rule, which is my really easy comms boundary formula that goes a little sumpin’ like this:
- What’s my favourite comms platform [spoiler alert? It’s WhatsApp].
- When am I available [business hours, unless it’s an emergency].
- How fast do I respond to client comms
If these aren’t respected? … I may as well go back and work for “the man”, i.e when I was pumped with internal comms, as opposed to freelance market’y comms, ha!
Am I right, or am I right?
Feedback and revision boundaries
Anyone who works at TDP knows how big I am on feedback culture.
I want it. It helps us to be better versions of ourselves. It helps us to flex that courage-muscle [both by giving constructive feedback, and being able to receive it]. And if you come to me b*tching and venting about another colleague? … expect me to ask you to be able to give that feedback to them directly, else I will [otherwise it’s toxic, and back-channel’y, and low-grade human’y].
In the early days of freelance marketing [and especially in a brand new onboard] … expect that you’re going to get feedback from your brand new’bie client [and for there to be subsequent revisions].
Towards the end of my freelance marketing career I got better and better at onboarding and asking the right questions in the onboarding process to really understand my client / their needs / their vision etc. [and the same will happen for you, I promise] … but until you get that locked in? There’s gon’ be feedback, and revisions that need to be made.
Of course I’m flexible’ish [particularly in the early days], but I’m also really clear about how many revisions I’ll allow [I’ve read horror stories in freelance groups on FB about clients being so micromanage’y that they want three different creative + copy options per feckin’ post].
Aw hell no, Karen.
For my freelance clients? I requested the following when it came to feedback and revisions;
- I have a time limit for revisions [i.e don’t make them in time, and I’ll assume content is approved].
- Reason for the above is I used to get feedback 11 seconds before something was due to go live, and then I’d be cursing my way through a Friday night trying to get everything up in time [#neveragain. Once bitten, twice shy and all that jazz].
- And then I had strict revision guidelines [i.e up to xyz amount of revisions, and if over? They pay for additional revisions at xyz rate]
I know it sounds firm [especially if you’re a people pleaser], but believe me … it’s fair. To everyone. Not just you, but your clients too. They’re not mind readers, and they often don’t understand that them taking their sweet time giving feedback equals you pumping everything out at last minute on a Friday night.
The feedback and revision boundary is a boundary every freelance marketer can’t live without.
Client meetings and reporting boundaries
Alrighty, this one’s important, too [and is quite often mistaken for client comms].
We all wanna check in at multiple times, but the thing is this: you’ve allocated xyz amount of hours for strategic development and implementation each month, and if it’s all chewed up with client comms / mid-campaign meetings / lengthy monthly reporting catchups … you’re using all of your time on client comms, instead of strategy.
Again, you’ll want to make this one clear in your onboarding process and if you need some wording advice? I’d say it’s as simple as saying something along the lines of;
“I’m an excellent communicator. I wouldn’t be in this industry if I wasn’t, but I’m also geared towards spending as much time on your strategy as I can. We can speak all month and I’d love that, but comms won’t move the needle on your business as much as utilising your retainer to be geared towards executing the strategies that I map out for you. For this reason, I find it’s best that we have a mid-month / mid-campaign 30 minute catch up on the 15th of each month and an end of month catch-up to go through your report / discuss strategies for the next month”.
Worded better than that, of course … I’m just giving you a rough outline of how I like to make it really clear that if they burn through their retainer on client comms / multiple meetings? They’ll run out of time for actual strategic execution of, well, anything really [ha!] … so it’s in their best interest to consider client comms boundaries as well.
This one is really up to you, but I’m sharing this because I’ve had some really unhealthy periods where I made that big ol’ mistake of blurring the lines of our professional relationship, i.e clients whose marriages were ending due to infidelity, and my becoming marriage counsellor on top of digital strategist, ya know? #empathylyf
So really think about what your own personal boundaries are [I can’t answer this one for you], but examples of mine are;
- The super personal client info sharing stuff? I’m referring them to psychologists when it gets too mental health’y [i.e I am not – and don’t have any aspirations to be – a psychologist.
- I don’t accept Facebook friend requests from clients [my FB friends list is super small and tight, and I share lots of images of my children for my family … who are all either interstate and overseas].
- I explain to my clients that I’m phone down from xyz time.
- I prefer to use comms platforms that don’t have time stamps [it makes me nervous that they can see when I’ve “read” the message when I might be smack bang in the middle of a speech therapy session with my daughter, and circling back to that message later].
My list is longer than this, but it’s just some ideas to [hopefully] get you started on thinking about what personal boundaries look like to you. Again, it’s not something I can answer. We all have different personal boundaries [and values].
And the staying-mentally-healthy in an industry geared towards a mentally-unhealthy-lifestyle boundary
Finally [and this is a big one], it’s really important for you to have boundaries that help you to stay healthy in an industry that – by its very design – is geared towards leaving us fairly mentally unhealthy with its always on set-up.
Look, I could give you my own tips on this … or I could just hook you up with this powerhouse article, which changed the game for me. I mean, with a title like “How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You” is it any wonder it didn’t go and change the lives of thousands? Millions, even [at last count].
The important thing to think about here though is that this industry is in its infancy, and we’re still learning so much about it [right down to just how addictive that constant blue light is on our phones] … so get thinking about that, and get thinking about how you’re going to stay healthy working within it.
[especially if you’re freelancing].
Enjoyed this article, and feel like you’d like to join our next 12 week freelance marketing mentoring program via our Social Media Manager School? Sign awn up to the waitlist here.
This program not only sets you up with the systems and processes you’ll need to run your business profitably, but we tackle the side-issues like boundary setting etc. too.
It’s one of the most programs we run that receive the most insanely good feedback, and we’d love to welcome you to our program [and then our alumni].