When I first started my business, I said yes to everything. You need a press release? Sure! You want help with a sales strategy? Of course! Oh, you need me to design the information architecture for your new website? Why not?
I didn’t always know exactly how to do some of the things I said yes to. But I kept saying yes.
And I learned. I researched and figured it out, and the clients had no idea it was the first time. Confidence comes in handy!
Remember, being an expert doesn’t mean you know everything, being an expert means knowing that you DON’T know something are not afraid to go find the answer. Being an expert is knowing how to find those answers.
I said yes to everything because I was at the very beginning of building my business. I didn’t have any long-term clients yet, and I was doing what I could to make money but was not completely sure what direction my business would eventually take.
I thought I needed to say yes to everything so that I could make money.
In fact, looking back now, there is no way I could have predicted where I would be now, almost three years later. My business has evolved, I have cultivated relationships and have clients I adore, and my focus has shifted significantly from where I started.
And saying yes to everything helped with that! At least, at first. I was able to try new things and discover I was good at them and enjoyed doing them. I was able to come to the realization that some things were not what I wanted to spend my time on and focus on. I even wrote about what I learned in that first year freelancing, and it has been amazing to see the growth.
I’ve spoken before about how what happens when you’re working on things you don’t want to do, and how to break up with clients. This was something I had to learn.
There was one time when I was telling my husband about how one of my clients paid well but was really pushing me into working entirely on sales and marketing projects. Things I didn’t want to spend so much time on. But the money was good and I felt like I couldn’t turn away guaranteed income.
He looked me in the eye and said, “Isn’t the biggest perk of being an entrepreneur getting to do the work you want?”
It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. Of course, it is. That is why I became an entrepreneur in the first place!
The next day, I spoke with that client and broke up with them. It was the best decision for me and opened me up to other new possibilities.
As I continue to re-frame and evolve my business and discover new things I love to do, I am finally saying no to work. I still often say yes to interesting new things that I want to learn, but I have given myself permission to turn down paying work that I don’t want to do.
I am making good money now, and am in a position where I am able to be aligning everything with what I WANT to be doing. I don’t need to take low-paying projects to make ends meet anymore, and I don’t want to.
When a prospective client says to me, “Well, that is too much money for this.” Instead of negotiating as I did at the beginning, I simply say, “Ok, what is your budget?” And if there is no compromise to be made (less work to fit within their budget) then I walk away.
You are allowed to say no to doing things that do not fit within your business model.
You are allowed to say no to someone who wants to pay you far less than what you are worth.
You are allowed to say to people you don’t want to work with — for any reason. You are allowed to choose who you do and DO NOT want to work with. If someone treats you badly, yells at you, or does not appreciate you, guess what? You have the power and authority to hop on the Nope Train and not work with them. Chug right along to the next one.
And I know that this can be easier said than done. Trust me, I get it. When you’re not making the money you want, you feel like you need to say yes to just make more money. But the truth is that by saying yes to things you DON’T want, you’re stealing that time from focusing on marketing and finding the right clients, the right projects, the ones you are best at and want to do.
As my business continues to evolve, I am able to continuously find new and interesting ways to stretch my talent and grow as a person and as a business owner.
Most importantly, I continue to find things I love to do, say no to things I don’t want to do, and work with amazing people.
This allows me to also be able to work on passion projects outside of my client work, such as writing and publishing my first book in 2017 and then my second book in 2018, creating a book writing mastermind last year, and now working on my third nonfiction book.
Giving myself more space in my business to do the work I want and the projects I love has been great for me and allows me to be creative while still continuing to grow my business.
How did you learn to say no to work? Has this been beneficial to you and your business? If you have never said no to working with someone or on something — why not?