How to write clear, loving policies for your business & life.
You teach people how to treat you.
You teach people how to communicate with you.
You can’t expect people to “guess” your policies, expectations, hopes and dreams.
You have to share them. Clearly.
You also have to enforce them. Consistently.
Otherwise, people won’t know what you want. They won’t know how to play with you. They will (probably) disappoint or frustrate you, and it won’t really be their “fault”.
This is a lesson that I have learned slowly… and with great difficulty. (I owe a great debt to Dr. Suzanne Gelb, a psychologist who has dramatically changed the way that I think about “enforcing boundaries and policies”. Her guidebooks, by the way, are true gems.)
Here are my current business policies on re-publishing my content, giving advice, and so forth. If you like how I’ve laid out my policies, feel free to borrow / tweak / expand my wording to suit your own business — like Maria did.
Or, start from scratch.
Here’s some advice:
HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN POLICIES
1. Start with this question: “What is making me feel resentful?”
Resentment is a sensation that signals: “Something has got to change.”
Are clients constantly cancelling at the last moment? Are students flaking out on your workshops? Are people pestering you with an unnecessary amount of emails? Or sending messages that are long-winded and confusing?
Identify the moments in your day, week or month that trigger feelings of resentment. Those are the places where you’ll want to write some new policies.
2. Your next question is: “What are the questions that I get asked repeatedly?”
Are people constantly emailing you, seeking free advice? Or asking for discounted rates? Or donations? Or asking you to do things that you don’t want to do?
If you’re feeling tired of answering the same questions, over and over, then you have an opportunity to clarify and tighten up your policies — or perhaps, create a set of Frequently Asked Questions — so that people understand how to play with you.
3. After that, ask yourself, “What are the questions that I WISH I was getting asked repeatedly?”
Do you want more media bookings? Or more opportunities to speak onstage? Wish people were “quoting” you in their books and blog posts? Want people to hire you for a new kind of service?
People might not know that you want those kinds of things. You need to teach them.
So, write instructions and policies for things that you want — even if you’re not getting them yet. (“If you’d like to book me to appear on your radio show, you can…”)
Your words will act like magnets, drawing those kinds of opportunities to you.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO WRITE POLICIES AROUND…
Cell phone usage.
Re-publishing / re-using your work.
Working for free.
… for starters.
WHATEVER YOU DO…
Resist the urge to “explain” or “justify” your policies.
Just state the facts.
There’s no need to describe the ten years of misery and personal growth that went into establishing those facts.
“In 2015, my rate is $250 an hour.”
Is much more clear & powerful than saying:
“After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided to raise my rates — slightly — in order to provide better service while honoring my commitment to self-care. This is why my rate will be going from $200 to $250 an hour. If you have any questions about this change, please let me know. In some instances, I will be willing to honor my old rate for long-time clients, as well as new clients with financial difficulties. I also offer packages of time, which leads to a lower hourly rate when you purchase in advance. [etc…]”
Don’t explain. Don’t waffle. Don’t apologize. Don’t create “exceptions” and “loopholes.” Don’t invite “questions” and “commentary.”
Just say what is true. Clearly. Simply. No additional fluff.
Teach people what to expect from you.
Teach people how to treat you.