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Know When to Say No
Sophie Zollmann
August 20, 2021

Knowing when to say no is REALLY hard for business owners.

We are programmed to say, “yes!” We’re trying to build our business, bring in new clients, take on more projects, and we feel like we have to say yes to EVERYTHING to make that happen.

But as your company grows, there will come a point when that is no longer a sustainable way to do business. You won’t be able to say yes to everything that comes your way without sacrificing your personal time and well-being.

We’re going to talk about when you can and should say no, and how to do it without sacrificing your business. If you’ve struggled with saying no in the past – this one’s for you!

Let’s start by talking about some situations where you should absolutely say no to new projects or even new clients:

  • If you are already overcommitted, exhausted and approaching burnout, you NEED to say no. If you take on more work, how are you going to get it done?
  • Say no to projects that conflict with your values. I’ve told you that more and more customers are demanding that their favorite brands take a stance on major social issues. If you’ve done that, you need to follow up by only working with clients that are aligned with your values.

If you’re still on the fence, here are some things to consider:

  • Will this project help you reach your goals for your business?
  • Is it interesting, engaging, or exciting?
  • Does it fit in among your current responsibilities?
  • Is the scale and scope of the project feasible?

If the answer to all those questions is yes, then go for it! But if you’re hitting some roadblocks, it might be time to say no…

Which brings us to one of the biggest challenges business owners face – how to say no without hurting your business. Listen, I get it – it’s scary to say no. What if you turn down a client and miss a huge opportunity that could have changed your business forever???

Don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to say no while keeping the door open to future possibilities.

  • When you have to pass on a project, explain why. Don’t grovel, or be overly apologetic, just explain the situation. All you have to say is, “Thank you so much for considering us. Unfortunately, we are booked out for the next several months and wouldn’t be able to give your project the attention it deserves, but we’d love to talk to you again in the future.”
  • If you’ve got a colleague you could recommend who might be able to help them out, go ahead and give that referral. The client will appreciate both your honesty and your assistance, and your colleague will appreciate the lead and likely return the favor down the road.
  • You can also offer help on a smaller scale. If I had a client that wanted a weekly blog, but I knew my copywriter couldn’t take it on, I could offer to sit down for a topic brainstorming session or offer editing services instead.

At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you, your team, and your business – and sometimes the best thing you can do is say no. Your time and resources are limited. It doesn’t make sense to waste them on projects that don’t bring the biggest returns. You know what you want to achieve, and you know where your current priorities stand – and your priorities matter!!

If you’d like to learn more about the art of saying “no,” check out this week’s episode of Building Your Empire with SophieZo.

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