3 Ways “Boundary Interference” is Derailing Your Business

It changes your voice, dilutes your marketing, and compromises your values

Jessica Barnaby
Mar 22 · 6 min read
Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, London. Image: Visit London

Anyone can go to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park to talk (or shout) about anything they want. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about boundary interference because the speakers there are so protective of theirs.

I last visited Speaker’s Corner in the ’90s. It was well before the days of social media, but the seeds must already have been sown because all these outrageous ranters were vying with intelligent provocative speakers to build and maintain big crowds around them.

One thing that stood out was the distance the speakers were keeping between themselves. Speaker’s Corner attracts people with strong and opposing views and tempers can run high, so the distance serves a few purposes:

  • It limits punch-ups (although fights can still happen)
  • It protects a speaker’s voice from being drowned out by neighbours
  • It limits distractions and helps a speaker stay on-point

You might already be recognising how there’s a correlation between this and your own business…

What is Boundary Interference in Business?

You’ve already heard of boundary interference between your work life and personal life — it’s things like taking work home with you, foregoing family occasions, and making bad food choices.

A type of boundary interference less talked about concerns your relationship with your business and occurs when other business voices start encroaching on your values and methodology.

I most frequently come across boundary interference with solopreneurs and freelancers offering skills-based services where there’s no physical product that targets a clear consumer. Examples are life coaches, writers, creatives, and even solo accountants and advisers who have left a corporate umbrella and aren’t sure how to position themselves for their new market.

Boundary interference is a kind of silent assassin that washes the uniqueness out of your brand, dilutes the character of your business, and morphs your brand into a botoxed, over-plucked template copy of everyone else.

If you’ve noticed you’re struggling with positioning your business or attracting the right type of client, read on for three ways you might have fallen victim to boundary interference.

1) Boundary Interference is Changing Your Voice

Everyone says your business needs a social media presence so the first thing you do is land-grab your username across all the social media platforms you can think of. Then you pick one or two favourites and start networking. Soon your feed is full of competitors and peers all looking to support each other with follows and likes.

Support is a good thing and there’s nothing wrong with this per se. The problem occurs when you haven’t got a good handle on your business positioning and the sheer volume of confident voices in your feed throws you off your game.

You start talking like them. Using words they use, talking about things they talk about whether you believe in them or not.

Many clients say it gets to a point where they can’t tell if their posts are their own or if the words have come from something they read earlier.

You can’t hear yourself think for all the noise coming at you thick and fast from other coaches, experts, and professionals in your field.

It’s time for some distance so you can tune into your own thoughts again.

Read: When Unfollowing a Business on Social Media is Good Business

2) Boundary Interference is Diluting Your Marketing

Marketing comprises of channels and content.

In other words, 1) where you show up and 2) the way you show up.

If you don’t protect your boundaries, you’ll end up in the wrong places saying things your customers don’t care about.

For example, sure, there’s value in gratitude journals and early morning starts, but is this what your target market wants to learn from your business?

But I’m showing I’m a real live person, you say.

Well, as with everything online, it all comes down to the way you say it. You wouldn’t take a simple everyday concept and phrase it as some kind of profound revelation to your neighbour, would you? Yet this is exactly what happens on LinkedIn every day. LinkedIn is full of people being overly-intense about nothing. It’s boring. It’s the Emporer’s new clothes.

LinkedIn is also full of people having everyday conversations that are interesting and fun and generate lots of engagement. These normal conversations show their human side while remaining congruent with their business goals.

Be in tune with your target market’s mindset and you can swing gratitude journals and early mornings into the conversation in a way they appreciate.

If you’re on social media using a business account, you’re always in marketing mode. Boundary interference makes you forget this.

Read: If You’re a Solopreneur, Don’t Market Like a Freelancer

3) Boundary Interference is Compromising Your Values

Sometimes the way everyone does it is the only way it should be done. Other times, it’s absolutely not.

Your unique combination of values, education, ability, and ambition is what separates you from everyone else. You can’t be you if you follow the crowd. You can’t invent new things if you do your business their way.

Over lockdown, I started spending more time on art. I enjoy doing pet and people portraits the most so thought it would be a good idea to do more of it.

Now, here’s the thing. So many artists post progress photos of their commissions on their socials that it feels like an industry-standard practice. While I love seeing progress shots showing a portrait come to life, I can’t stomach the thought of doing this to my own clients.

You see, privacy is one of my top values. I’m happy to post artwork of my own creation because it’s already gone through the filter of what I’m comfortable with, but I’d never post a portrait of private moments commissioned by people who want it for their homes.

I thought long and hard about this:

  • What if I get no clients because they don’t see what I’m capable of?
  • What if I’m making a big deal of it and nobody actually minds if their commissions are posted on socials?
  • What if I lose out on this amazing marketing tool of progress shots (really, they are an amazing marketing tool)
  • What if… what if… what if…

At the end of the day, I cannot stomach posting people’s private loves, joys, and memories online. I even came across an artist who uses client commissions to populate and sell her calendar. I mean, really! I don’t understand why a customer would pay for a private portrait and then allow the artist to sell that portrait to the world at large. I don’t know why an artist would feel comfortable doing that.

That’s the thing about values — they’re personal to you and if it feels wrong, trust your gut. Know that values change and as more information comes in, they need to be allowed to change.

Read: The Kung-Fu Technique to Find Loyal Customers

So because I’m beholden to this value, despite the fact everyone else is doing it, no-one’s interfering with this boundary.

Not yet anyway. I’ve only just started and the website’s not even up so we’ll see how it goes. Here’s the Instagram.

The key point about boundary interference is that it’s NOT boundary interference if you do it anyway, but as a deliberate and methodological choice.

You’re a business. Always be learning. Always be adapting. Always keep your finger on what your clients, not your peers, want from you.

About the author

I’m Jessica Barnaby, helping you with writing and marketing your business. If you like my writing, take a look at my newsletter too.

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