Boundaries for the Queer Business Owner

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Quick Disclaimer: “Boundaries” and “self care” are hugely overused buzzwords as of late, so I hope you’ll forgive me for indulging in a bit of bandwagon-jumping, and maybe even get something useful from this post. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about the notion of authenticity, and how it fits in with the work we are all doing as queer entrepreneurs and as people. I think authenticity requires having strong boundaries, things you will and will not do in service of a particular outcome. To disregard these boundaries is to be, in a way, inauthentic to who you are. And we’re not about that here, so here are a few ways to think about implementing boundaries in your business! 

Compartmentalize That Shit

For all business owners, running a small business can feel all-consuming.  Especially if you serve a historically excluded group,  you can feel like you have an obligation to always be working, striving, and succeeding. While success, whatever that looks like for you, is of course the goal, it’s important to make sure that you are creating boundaries between your professional and personal life, no matter how “out” you are.

Try these ways to set boundaries with YOURSELF so that your business doesn’t completely take over your life: 

  • Automate as much as you can: Schedule time to create social media posts, update your website, and work on projects. Use project management tools and scheduling automations like Canva’s Content Planner to make things happen in your sleep (or whenever the best time to post for your audience is!)
  • Unplug at a designated time: Even if you work entirely out of your home, set “hours” for your business when you will be accountable to answering messages, working on projects, and doing admin tasks.
  • Plan non-work activities in the same deliberate way as you plan your work tasks (okay, fair, that’s an assumption) so that you have things in your planner to look forward to that are not related to your business. 

Boundaries 101: Know Your Worth

Many LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are artists, which means they deal with folks who undervalue their work, want something for free, or don’t understand the time, effort and cost that goes into creating their product. 

It’s important for these folks to know the worth of their work and firmly ask for it. If someone is not willing to pay what you are worth, they are not your ideal client. 

When handling someone who undervalues your artistic (or other) work, you might be tempted to explain to them how long you went to school for your art, how long it took you to learn, and how much your materials cost…

They don’t care. Simply remind these folks that they get what they pay for, and lay out unapologetically what your product costs, a reasonable turnaround time (that respects your boundaries around work vs. personal time), and any expectations from the person commissioning the work for it to move forward. If there is resistance, you may consider telling this client that you are not the professional they are looking for. 

To Be Out, or Not to Be? 

Queer business owners may feel the need to be “out” and make a statement or take a stand about current events, particularly those that affect queer people. You may feel pressure from both sides: fear of alienating certain people causing tension with a feeling of obligation to “your people,” whoever they are. 

How you choose to showcase (or not) your queerness or other political identities and stances in your business presence is entirely your choice. It’s absolutely okay to plaster everything in rainbows and be as out and opinionated as possible if that serves your business and your heart. 

It’s also okay to just run your business according to your values, and to practice self care when current events become overwhelming. 

Awkward…

Some business owners may not even be “out” about their sexuality. Especially if your service isn’t queer-specific, it might feel awkward to make a point of being “out” as a business owner.  It’s okay to be loudly “out,” and equally okay to just do what you do really well, queerness notwithstanding.

As an “out” business owner, you may encounter questions from customers or clients, vendors or contractors, employees or business partners, about your queerness,  or why you choose to be whatever level of “out” you are. Creating a stock answer for these questions helps move the conversation along and enforce boundaries.

I’m fortunate to not yet have encountered any questions about my level of “out”- ness, but that’s because I only serve queer and allied businesses! Slide into my Instagram DMs and share your favorite responses to invasive questions from straight people, the snarkier the better. 

But…What if I’m a Lawyer? 

Or a doctor? Or a therapist? Or an MBA? Or a professional service provider? 

Queer professionals might feel stifled or not taken seriously in straight institutions and industries. They may feel pressure from homophobic industries to present themselves in a certain way that feels less than authentic. This comes back to the choice: to be “out” or to exist powerfully, quietly, and to succeed regardless of your stated identities. 

It is this lesbian’s most humble opinion that we need more queer people in every industry, so do whatever feels in service to your truest self, and don’t be afraid to call HR in if needed. 

Takeaway: Do You, The Rest Will Follow

Trendy or not, establishing boundaries as a queer business owner is crucial. Whether you’re dodging uncomfortable questions, taking a stand, or discipling yourself to make sure you eat and sleep and don’t let your business take over, it’s important to know when to say, “no” and when to say, “yes.”

 

 

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