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Episode 7: The Power of Saying No

Tune in: Apple | Spotify

When was the last time you said no to something in business without feeling guilty about it? 

I recently had a conversation with a client of mine, and this actually happens almost every single time I kick of my projects. My clients tell me something along the lines of “I really just want this to work so that I can charge more, work with less clients, and also feel a little less guilty about saying no”

Because the thing is, as entrepreneurs, time off often looks like we are saying no to money, and when we have time off in our calendars it looks like open space, so it almost feels weird to say we are booked out or not available. 

I’m not here to build a four hour work week, and I don’t think theres necessarily anything bad about working, but I think we cross over into the danger zone when we let our work control us. 

What I mean here is that the whole hustle culture, I’m very much against that. Because if you’re just hustling that can quickly get out of control. But if you are intentionally building the kind of business that serves the life you want to live, there are going to be seasons where you need to put in a little more work or make some difficult sacrifices. But there will also be seasons where that hard work and sacrifices pays off and you can finally enjoy your life that you’re building. 

To me, bringing hygge into life and business sometimes looks like working in and on my business. I’m gonna be honest, I love it. I mean, why else would we put up with all the stress, rollercoasters of emotions and putting ourselves out there time and time again. 

A lot of us have these tendencies to be workaholics or to see new opportunities and want to do it all, and then feel guilty if we turn something down because it wasn’t the right time or doesn’t fit into what we have imagined for our lives. 

And with that said, I also think there’s a lot of power in us recognizing the ways that we’re working and understanding that it’s ok for us to say no. 

So I want to ask you again, when was the last time you said no to something in business without feeling guilty about it? 

And that’s what we’re  gonna chat all about today!

The first time I heard of the concept of saying no in business and turning away work was at Creative at Heart. Right before Abby Grace stepped on stage, I heard whispers all around the room “oh I can’t wait to hear this one again”, so I knew it was gonna be good. But much like those business owners, who’d heard her talk before and not quite understood what she was talking about the first time around, I didn’t quite appreciate what she had to say as much as I should’ve. 

Because I couldn’t. 

I was at the stage in business where I needed money, and I needed clients. And the concept of turning work down seemed completely foreign. Like why on earth would you do that?!

Because as service providers, saying no to a project or client often also means saying no to a potential pay check. And as much as we try to tell ourselves that the money doesn’t matter if we get to do what we love, I at least have bills to pay.. And maybe you do too?

The hustle culture and scarcity mindset often lead us to biting off more than we can chew and in today’s episode I want to share all the things I’ve learned about saying no in business. 

One of the best ways we can bring more hygge into our lives and businesses is being protective of our Yessss. 

We all have the same amount of hours in a week. 168 to be exact. And how we spend them is all about priorities. And the harsh truth here is that we are building our habits one by one, and every single time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. 

That no could be quality time with your family, or the perfect ideal client, watching your kid play their favorite sport, or taking time to build your business to scale. Whatever it is, we have to make sure that it’s worth it. 

Because yes, we have to make sacrifices to be entrepreneurs. But we just need to make sure that we’re intentional about it, and being true to ourselves along the way. 

In today’s episode, we’re gonna chat all about the power of no and how to set boundaries in a graceful way. 

Get clear on your ideal client and what lights your soul on fire 

We are not meant to be the one for everybody. And when we understand that, it’s a lot easier for us to say no because we know that their perfect person is out there somewhere and if we take them on we are robbing them of the opportunity to work with the perfect person for them. 

I’ve seen this time and time again in my business, I’ve had business owners come to me and as they’re describing their vision for their brand I know that I technically could do it, but I also realize that it might not be what I’m the best at. Maybe it’s a certain style or colors, or something else completely. But as they’re talking, there is a different designer that comes to mind rather than myself. So instead of me taking that client on just because I can, I typically will send them on their way with referrals for designers who will be a better fit. 

This frees me up to work with my ideal clients. I would be devastated if my next inquiry was from an ideal client but I was booked with someone else I took on just because I could. 

I want to mention that it’s totally ok to adjust your ideal client as your business grows and changes. But we need to have a starting point. So in this season of my business, who am I trying to serve and why. 

Once you understand that it becomes a lot easier to turn down projects because you know they don’t fit into that ideal client profile. 

Knowing who we are trying to serve makes the decision easier as it takes out the emotions. 

At the end of the day, what we do is a job. Even with the most perfect ideal clients there can be situations that arise where we might not see things the same way, or maybe  we need to educate our clients more, or even simple miscommunications that happen over email. It happens. But I’ve found that I have a lot more patience and grace with my clients when they are ideal clients rather than those I took on more for the money. 

At worst, these type of situations are what could truly lead to this resentment towards your client or even your business. Which is a slippery slope to burnout and doubting ourselves as creatives. 

Freeing when you realize that by saying no to something, you’re not just turning down that opportunity, but inviting in space for better opportunities. 

The first time I did this, I felt nuts. My palms were sweating as I sent the email letting the potential client I wasn’t going to be the best fit for the project. And I think part of that is being around entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily believe in turning down work. 

Since saying no that first time, I’ve done it several times, and it has paid off every single time. 

Understanding fear and scarcity mindset

I heard this a lot of after COVID, which obviously is quite the unique circumstance, that photographers or other wedding industry pros were taking on more projects than they normally would out of fear and assumption that some of those clients would cancel. But then, no one cancelled, and they found themselves in a situation where they were now working way more than they ever would during normal circumstances. 

Sometimes we do act out of fear thinking that if I say no to this thing, nothing else is going to come. 

We need to learn to trust in ourselves here and know that the work we’ve put in will pay off. 

Have a different type of backup plan ready for how you can improve your business during the times that you’re not actively working with clients that will help drive your business long term so that the time doesn’t feel wasted, removing a little bit of that fear. 

Get clear on your non negotiables, and stick to them

These are things like I mentioned earlier, every single time we say yes to something in business, we are saying no to something else. A lot of time that no is our family. I’ve seen that with my friends, with my own life, where we are taking on this project because it sounds really exciting, but there’s something that isn’t ideal (maybe it’s working on your off weekend, maybe it’s the quick turnaround, etc) and we break our rules for ourselves. 

When we do this we are telling ourselves that our time, or our families, are worth less to us than this client. 

We need to be sure that we’re taking care of ourselves first, and then our clients. 

In my own business I actually take off one entire week after two back-to-back client projects. I noticed as my business was picking up that this was my creative max. I started analyzing how many projects can I work on before I need a little break to be sure I’m showing up in the best way and giving everyone what they deserve. 

I found that I need one week off every two projects. This week isn’t vacation, but it’s a week where I’ll work way less, record podcasts, catch up on blogging, Pinterest marketing, getting ahead, and also making sure that my brain and creativity gets to rest. 

It works really well for me and the way I work and serve people in my life. For you, this might look completely different. 

Like I mentioned earlier, some people in the wedding industry will have rules like they only take on two weddings a month, they will not shoot double headers (so not work Saturday and Sunday), they might not work Sundays. We have to figure out what what kind of white space we need in our own life and start putting that first. 

This is actually what I was talking with my client about. She was telling me she’s taking time off in her business, and it looks weird to have an entire month off. So when and inquiry comes in, the calendar looks open, but this is part of that non-negotiable, and you are busy, even if it doesn’t feel like it. 

I truly believe that white space is good. We need white space as entrepreneurs to take a step back and dream big. 

If I can’t take time off from my business, why am I even doing it?

Get really crystal clear on what your non negotiables are, and don’t forget to plan your life first and then make the business fit around it. If not, the business will always expand. 

Parkinson’s law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” The more time we have for our work, the more time it will take. We will always be able to find new tasks that need to be done, so we need to take charge and decide how much time we will allow for it. 

You are the CEO of your business, so you have the power to set these boundaries in place. 

Trust your gut

I wanted to mention this one because a lot of time we feel like we have to have a reason to say no to something, and we don’t. 

I’ve done it before where I’ve told my friends that I don’t know what it is but I feel like I should say not. And they’ll just tell me “ok. What are you asking? Just say no”

I want to encourage you to say no to something when your gut tells you to, and celebrate that. 

This can be the scariest thing. 

If you want to say no to something based on your gut feeling I want to encourage you to write some things down. Maybe in a journal or similar. 

We want to make sure that we’re distinguishing between our intuition and fear. 

I’ve almost done that before where I felt the imposter syndrome creeping in, thinking I should turn something down, but it was actually my brain telling me “you’re not good enough for this” or “you can’t perform this well”

Once I slept on it and wrote out some stuff in my journal I was able to distinguish between fear and gut feeling. 

We only have 168 hours in a week. How we spend them is largely up to us. And we need to be intentional with the things we are saying yes to, and the things we are saying no to. 

Links mentioned:

Abby Grace Photography

Creative at Heart

Parkinson’s Law

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