“No” is a word toddlers learn at a very early age and continue to use as they grow during the teen years but somewhere along the way we turn into adults and all of a sudden we’re people pleasers who lose track of our personal boundaries and can’t say no for fear of disappointing someone or being reprimanded.
In a corporate world, it’s harder to say no because your paycheck depends on you performing certain tasks. But when you have your own business, you’ll discover that not every client is a good fit and not every project is one you’ll love. Give yourself permission to say NO to those clients and projects that don’t light you up.
Developing a good instinct for knowing who will be a good client and who won’t takes some time and experience. Smart clients will want to interview you to hear about your experience and to get a feel for your style. During this time, you should also ask questions to understand what they need, what their personality is like, and if these are tasks or goals you can actually help them accomplish.
Be careful about accepting clients because you need to get started or you need the money or you just lost another client. There are a myriad reasons to accept new clients but learn to listen to your gut instinct for guidance. If you get off the phone and are excited at the prospect of working with this person, that’s a good sign that you should take them on. But if you get off the phone feeling gloomy or wondering if this is the right fit, follow that instinct and say no to them. As the old saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.” The same is true with clients. When you lose a client or when someone doesn’t hire you, more room is open for someone else to come along who is a better fit.
The same is true for taking on new projects outside of your core business—these could be speaking engagements, writing a book, or a joint venture partnership. These are common areas of revenue for solopreneurs but just because others are doing it doesn’t mean you have to. When approached with an offer, think about the end result you hope to achieve if you accept the project and how much time you can afford to spend on the preparation.
Also remember that stepping outside of your comfort zone is a good thing and that may cause a little hesitation or make you feel anxious but those are different feelings than your gut telling you to walk away. Trying something new and stepping out of that comfort zone should also feel invigorating or exciting and may lead to new opportunities, expanded reach, and possibly more clients. Learn to differentiate between the discomfort of feeling obliged and the discomfort of personal expansion.
“No” is a powerful world in our personal lives as well. How many times have we volunteered for something only to dread it? Even with family members we have a tendency to not want to disappoint so we agree to do things, rearrange our schedules, and then complain when it’s not as exciting or fun as we expected.
You are allowed to say no and you don’t have to give an explanation.
Enforce those boundaries in your business and personal life and people will learn to respect them.
Exercise: Review past frustrations and create a plan of action to delete them from your life.