I was talking with a client last week who told me that her biggest challenge in being in business has to do with visibility. “I’m a private person,” she said, and went on to describe her fears of having to put too much of herself on public view in order to succeed in her business.
As an introvert and a private person myself, I completely understand. It’s not that there’s something we feel we need to hide; it’s simply that we’re not comfortable being quite as exposed as we think we might have to be to succeed.
But this paints the picture in black and white, either/or terms, and the reality is that there are many shades of gray and both/and options.
The people I know who are most successful, truly prosperous, and really happy in their businesses are very clear about their own needs and boundaries. They know precisely what they will and will not share or do within their business (and their lives, too, for that matter).
We get anxious about setting boundaries when we confuse having boundaries with rejecting our clients, or when we think that saying “no” means our clients will go elsewhere.
The reality, though, is that clients generally want clear boundaries. They don’t want to work with someone they feel they can walk on and use as a doormat. They do want to work with someone who is clear about mutual respect, who draws reasonable lines, and communicates – with no drama – about ground rules.
Respect is important in any relationship.
Respect for yourself means understanding what you want and need in and from your business and your clients. Respect for your clients means never putting yourself into a situation where you resent their demands or feel over-exposed in what you share.
My advice for my client was to specifically define what she would and would not choose to share with the world as she becomes more successful in growing her business.
She can keep what’s private to herself – we all have that right! – and she can share what she wants the public to know about her in order for her ideal clients to trust her. But in order to do that, she needs to understand where she wants to draw those lines – and I encouraged her to write it out so that it was truly clear, instead of just roaming around in her thoughts.
Her relief was palpable as she began to feel what this means for her: freedom to be who she is, freedom to do the work she loves, without fear of over-exposure.
Visible doesn’t mean exposed. It just means showing up as who we are, and sharing what we want to share.