the business of being creative with Sean Low: boundaries

Boundaries are everything. If you imagine yourself to be subservient to your clients, vendors, employees and colleagues, you will be treated in kind. You might get a payoff from the notion that you will do whatever is asked, whenever it is asked, but your creative business will pay the price. At the end of the day, people wipe their feet on doormats no matter how cute or nice they appear. To be blunt, nobody has the right to run your creative business but you. The journey is yours to lead, never ever the other way around. You can convince yourself that calling/texting/emailing at 3:00 in the morning is all in the name of great service.  Unless you are getting paid specifically and in large quantity for the effort, you would be wrong. The same client that expects you to talk to them at 3:00 in the morning is inevitably the one that thinks you are expensive. So healthy, communicated boundaries are essential if you are to protect the integrity of your art and how your creative business goes about producing that art. However, if you stop there (i.e., in a defensive stance) as you draw your boundaries, you miss the larger point and certainly the bigger opportunity. Boundaries are moments you get to define why you do things the way you do. A quick example, a wedding planner who is a total foodie might start with catering first before anything else. Her weddings are defined by food so it makes the most sense to her to start that way. Not so much for a design-centric planner.  She would start with all things decor first. By taking the time to explain to clients how important it is to finalize food and beverage in the case of the first planner and decor in the second, each planner can drive home the intrinsic value they offer. Clients that would challenge your iconic process need to be educated on the importance of the process to you (those would be your boundaries). Clients, vendors, employees, colleagues, etc. that continue to refuse to accept your process need to be shown the door (those would be your boundaries too). Great boundaries let people who most respect you, your art and your creative business, relish in their identification. You can then use that identification to explore other opportunities. Without boundaries, those opportunities will never arise because no one will really know who you are. Your creative business is not a buffet. Having something for every one, means you talk to no one. You cannot give lip service to integrity in all that you are and what your creative business does. You either stand for what you believe in or you do not. When the wind is at your back, you can, of course, say you would never do so and so. But what happens when it is not? When business slows? The wrong client creeps in? Employees go sideways (i.e., become victims/martyrs)? Where are your boundaries then? And will you use them only to protect yourself or will you see them as an opportunity to let the world know who you are? We can all be embarrassed when things go FUBAR. No one likes to get upset or be responsible for when things go kaflooey. However, whether you are humiliated or validated depends on your conviction in the whys of what you do. Well drawn boundaries offer the opportunity to own the mistake, work to fix it without self-flagellation and reinforce the very fabric of what your creative business is all about. Great instincts are born from that integrity. You cannot pay for instincts but you will not be paid without them.



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