Knowing When to Say No Can Transform Your Business (and Life!)

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Lately, my ten-year-old has been constantly singing the new Meghan Trainor song No on repeat. If you haven't heard it, it goes a little something like: My name is, no. My sign is, no. My number is, no. It drives me nuts. Which is funny, because when it comes to business no is the most empowering word we can use!

We encourage all of our clients to use it freely and today I'm hoping to convince you to exercise your right to say no more often. Not only will it save you stress, it will save you time, energy, and money. Want to know when to say no and how to do it with grace? I've got you covered!

Nightmare Clients

This is a big one! For many business owners, saying no to someone who wants to work with them feels wrong. If someone is willing to pay, you should be excited about that, right? WRONG!

Nothing is worse than being stuck in a working relationship with someone who is not a good fit for your business. At one point in my business, I wasn't screening potential clients well enough and I ended up working with someone who I quickly realized was not only someone I did not feel had a business that could be successful for several reasons, but whose morals and personality I was often appalled by. It was ROUGH. No amount of money was worth having to work with that particular client and looking back I know that there were some signs I'd ignored that hinted to the very issues I ended up having with her.

Do everything in your power to screen new clients before you enter into agreements with them and don't ever fall into the trap of feeling like you can't say no to making money by turning someone away.

Trust your gut and be kind, but firm in your choices.

Not sure how to screen potential clients? Try some of these tactics:

  • Create a survey with strategic, specific questions designed to alert you to possible issues

  • Require potential clients to go through an application process

  • Have an in-depth conversation prior to making any decisions and listen carefully! If the person spends a lot of time complaining about how they've been wronged and sounds like they're unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions (or lack thereof) that's a big one! Keep in mind how well they stay on topic, how distracted they get, and what their reasons and expectations are when it comes to working with you!

  • Consider how much time/effort they take before becoming a client. If you have to spend hours fielding what feels like a ridiculous amount of constant questions before someone decides to commit to you, that might be a sign that they'll be super high maintenance should you two work together. In those cases, sometimes it's better to walk away from the opportunity than to spend the next three months being emailed every five seconds! Maybe they need a more in-depth product/service that you offer or maybe someone else would be a better fit for their needs.

  • Check out their social media. This one seems silly, but it can be SO helpful! You can tell a lot about someone by what they post on social media. Are they constantly complaining about things? Do they treat people in a way you feel icky about? Do they seem like they're somewhere in the realm of your ideal client?

  • Look at their resume or portfolio. If you don't 100% feel good about whatever it is that they're doing, it might be difficult for you to submerge yourself in their product/service. If you're an accountant and someone runs a shady business, would you feel comfortable with it? If you're a web designer and they want a website for their S&M line and you're a strict Mormon, would you really be able to do their business justice? For me, working with clients whose work I respect and believe in has become my number one determining factor because it feels icky to submerge myself in a business I'm not excited about (plus if the quality isn't there, it would be difficult to help that business owner before they address their quality issues!).

Courses, Retreats, Books, and Other Investments

Yes, that whole "you have to spend money to make money" thing is true. When you stop learning, you stop growing, so taking e-courses and signing up for webinars can feel like something you have to do in order to be successful. Especially when it's something that everyone in your industry is raving about.

Truth is, sometimes investing not only money but time, into learning opportunities is totally counterproductive! Even if you're only spending $30, that's $30 you could perhaps spend more soundly elsewhere.

Heck, even free webinars and courses are costing you something precious: time.

If everyone is talking about a new book that is totally life changing but you're whatever the opposite of a bookworm is, don't buy the book! It's not going to do you any good collecting dust on a shelf.

Before you sign up for that next webinar everyone is talking about, really take the time to consider what you hope to gain from it. Does it truly apply to your unique business? Because everyone's business is different, what will be covered might not even pertain to you even though it's geared towards your industry!

There's something to be said for finding a few higher cost learning opportunities that REALLY jive with your needs instead of piddling away $20 here and $20 there on things that are not necessarily best for your business (or that you'll never actually use/look at!).

Remember: just because something was perfect for someone else, doesn't mean it will be for you. Become an expert in knowing the difference.

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People "Picking Your Brain"

This is a tough one for me because it preys upon my desire to help people. If you're a hopeless people-pleaser, you likely have secretly felt taken advantage of when someone asks for advice about what you do or expects you to help them for free on the regular.

When I was a photographer, when an acquaintance bought a new DSLR camera, they'd ask me a million questions about how to use it. It was always uncomfortable for me because that was my JOB. I didn't necessarily want to stand around after school drop-off for an hour telling someone how to use their new camera. That time took away from my time to work on my business or do whatever else I wanted to accomplish!

If you don't place value on your time, you can't expect other people to value it! Here are a few ways to get out of those sticky situations:

  • Run away! Not literally, but make an exit quickly. If you get stuck at the grocery store, or at your child's school by someone wanting to pick your brain simply say: I'd love to chat, but I really have a lot on my plate today so I've got to run! Easy peasy.

  • Put together a list of resources. If you do something that people often ask about, either for work or as a hobby, put together a PDF with links to helpful websites and offer to email it to people who want to sit around and ask a zillion questions.

  • Be real. If you're at lunch with a friend and she spends half of your time innocently asking for free advice, tell her that while you'd love to help her, you talk about X all day for work, and would really love to hear more about something personal with her (a vacation she took, her kids, whatever).

  • If you're willing, setup a time to get together to intentionally chat about X. If you're dropping your dog off at the groomer and run into someone who wants to ask you about your gardening skills for three hours, nip it in the bud and offer to go to coffee sometime to chat about it. Schedule a time that feels good for you and set a time limit! One hour, two, whatever feels good for you.

Anything Else You Just Plain Don't Want to Do

Saying "no" shouldn't stop at your business! Learning to decline opportunities and invitations in your personal life is just as important.

Have you ever had one of those August weekends where you have 3 BBQ's, a birthday party, a baseball game, a dinner party, and a hair appointment to cram into two days? They're the WORST! Take seven things you'd normally love to do and put them that close together and you end up spending most of the weekend in the car driving around never really enjoying your destinations because you're so worried about where you have to be next.

This little tidbit was perhaps the greatest revelation I've ever had: you don't have to do things you don't want to do and you don't owe anyone an explanation. Period.

If you don't want to go to your cousin's daughters third birthday party, don't go! When a coworker asks you to grab a drink after work but you're tired, say no thanks!

Far too often, especially for women, saying no is hard because we think we'll look mean or hurt someone's feelings. Truth is, if someone else is placing expectations on your time, that's their issue, not yours.

In any of these instances, saying no is best done with grace and speed. The more details you give the harder it will be, the more you'll fumble over your words, and the more likely it will be that the person on the receiving end will manipulate you into saying yes!

At the end of the day, you know what is best for you and your business. Always keep that in the forefront! While you can't go through life only doing things you want to do (wouldn't that be nice?!), exercising your right to say no more often can bring so much joy.

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to saying no? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments!

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