When you’re just starting out in business, “no” is a difficult word to use. I don’t remember using it often (if at all) in the first years of my business. As the only income in my household, I generally stuck to, “Heck yes!” Even when it wasn’t a project that really lit me up.
But eventually, I learned that “no” can be one of the best words for growing my business. Sure, it means that I’m turning down a project (and the subsequent income), but it also means I’m sticking to the mission and vision in my business. To me, it means growth. Here’s why:
My priorities are in order.
My number one priority is to take care of myself so I can support my daughter. When I take on every project or collaboration that comes my way, my plate overflows and my own self-care takes a backseat. When I’m able to say no to things that don’t completely light me up, I’m more in control of my well-being (and I can take care of the priorities in my life).
I’m secure enough financially to turn away work.
When I started saying “no” to potential clients, I was really nervous. What if I don’t get another new project for a month? What if this was THE project that would propel my business forward? What if…what if…what if… Many people “what if” their entire lives. But really, there will be other clients and other projects. If you’re out there marketing yourself and connecting with others, the right projects will come. Trust in that.
I’ve honed my skillset and know who my ideal client is.
I think we’ve already established that when I was new to business, I said yes to every project that came my way. And some of these projects weren’t ideal. I struggled through them, sometimes to the detriment of the client. Case in point: I once wrote copy for a Catholic church and school. I’m not Catholic. And I don’t attend church. Needless to say, it was a challenge that I never should have taken on.
Now that I’m comfortable saying no to projects, I do so—and freely. If something comes my way that isn’t a good fit for my skillset, I let the prospective client know and I offer a referral to them instead. The client is better off working with someone else, and I’m happy to help out a fellow writer.
I can save myself some grief.
Yep, I went there. I start all business relationships with a phone call, at a minimum. I prefer a Skype or Zoom call. Having a conversation with a prospective client allows us both to feel one another out to see if our personalities are a good match. There are a few things that set off my radar, telling me that a business relationship isn’t going to work out. When the other party won’t get on a call with me and when they ask for a discount. These are times when I politely decline working together.
But saying “no” is hard to do, right? You want to turn down a project but still maintain professionalism and decorum. Yes, finding the right words is tough. That’s why I’ve created a worksheet to help you say no—in 7 different instances.