Learning To Say “No” Is The Best Thing I’ve Done For My Business

Always Saying “Yes.”

I’ve always considered myself to be a people pleaser in my job — and sometimes in my personal life too. However, when it came to my work, what I once considered a strength was starting to become a significant source of stress and exhaustion.

What I once considered a strength was starting to become a significant source of stress and exhaustion.

I used to believe that always saying “yes” was an advantage because it kept work coming in and it made customers happy. I quickly became the “go-to girl” for clients, and it was great for a while, but eventually it started taking its toll on me.

Soon after I realized this path wasn’t working anymore, came the struggle with learning to say “no” — a tiny yet intimidating word. As a solopreneur, clients don’t have to go through assistants or project managers to be able to reach me. That means that all requests are brought directly to me, and I have to be the one who personally accepts or declines the tasks. The problem was that in mind, excellent customer service was based on always saying “yes” no matter how big or small the request. At first, with only a few clients, being consistently accommodating was doable. However, as my business grew it became too demanding and time-consuming. I finished most days stressed, burned out and feeling overwhelmed.

When I finally allowed myself to start saying “no,” everything gradually changed for the better.

Lessons Learned

The first thing I learned was that accepting projects I didn’t want to take on was not helping me, or the client.

Anytime I said “yes” to a project from a client that I felt was not a good fit, it turned into a long tedious and stressful process… for both of us. Whether it is artistic differences, personality clash, unaligned expectations, rocky communication, etc., you know when a client is not right for you.

When I said “yes” to a project I didn’t have time for, it would result in long days, late nights and working weekends. I would end up feeling overworked, drained and on the verge of a panic attack fearing I would not complete the project on schedule. I would be anxious about not delivering the level of quality I knew I could if I had had more time.

And last, if I said “yes” to a project where I felt I lacked expertise, the work took longer to accomplish, and I never felt confident about the end product. To be clear, I’m always honest with clients about my abilities, but some of them tend to push me into projects I may not be suited for to avoid having to start over with someone new. So, I found myself pouring hours of my time in learning whatever I needed to grasp to be better equipped for a project. While I am all for learning new skills, most of the time it required me to dive into areas of work that I simply didn’t enjoy and couldn’t possibly master that quickly.

The second thing I learned is that saying “no” doesn’t have to cause an overwhelming sense of guilt or self-doubt.

I used to feel like either I was letting down my clients, or I was missing out on a paycheck. Perhaps those feelings were there the first or second time I declined a project, but I soon realized that more often than not, I would experience a great deal of relief instead. Yes! It feels great not to take on work that you don’t feel strongly about.

It feels great not to take on work that you don’t feel strongly about.

The last thing I learned is that clients take note!

My clients started understanding what type of work I like to focus on, what services I am good at, what timelines I work with, and eventually they stopped requesting projects that were outside of those limits. As a secondary effect, the referrals I started getting from them were much more in line with the work I wanted.

Ever since I started being more selective on the projects I take on, I’m happier, more creative and more productive. Best of all, my business continues to grow every year!

I hope this article helps other business owners or solopreneurs with their battles between “yes” and “no.” At the very least, it might provide you with the comfort of knowing that there is no shame in making mistakes with your business as long as you learn from them and empower yourself to get better at what you do!

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