Reality Check: Why You Should Say No More in Business and How to Get Started

Reality Check: Why You Should Say No More in Business and How to Get Started

There is an inherent negativity associated with saying no to people. This dichotomy extends far into the average person’s everyday life, but there’s enough related to saying no just in business, that it could fill up a series of advice columns. Why are we so opposed to the word no and so eager to say yes to any request?

Saying no is a complicated proposition. There are many times we’d like to say no in the business world but feel like it could end up being costly to do so. There are also a number of situations when we should say no but don’t realize it.

What Saying Yes Can Take

Starting a business is tough work. Whether you’ve opened up your doors for the first time, or just got your website set up to start freelancing, now that you’ve done the setup work you’re eager to put your skills to work and get paid. That’s the point of this business isn’t it? You didn’t set out to do pro bono work. But if you’re not careful about what you say yes to your profit margin could make your work look more like you’re volunteering than anything else.

New business owners and freelancers have a tendency to undercut their talents in search of ever-elusive income and professional progress. There are times when there is no getting around taking less pay for your work in order to build a portfolio or reputation. But this practice can go only so far.

The proposition of money is great motivation, especially when that money is held up in a lump sum. Seeing that metaphorical stack of bills backing a professional request makes it hard to say no. So you say yes. You need the business after all. And they’re paying you a decent sum. And then that yes starts to add up into hours.

Do a simple calculation. Divide how much you were paid for a project by the hours it took you to complete it. Often you’ll be surprised by how little your hourly wage actually was. This is what that unilateral yes can take from you.

What Saying No Can Give You

The decision to start saying no could be a turning point in both your personal and professional lives. The idea here isn’t that you say no to everything, but that you differentiate between when you can and should say no to projects, propositions, and people.

By saying no you free yourself up to take the projects you are passionate about and the ones that pay a fair wage. In choosing those types of ventures you will have more time and energy to do a better job. More often than not the people you do a good job for will come back and spread the word. It’s hard to do the same good job if you’re overworked and underpaid. Saying no professionally can actually open doors.

There is another positive attribute to saying no in the workplace: respect. Both from others and for yourself. Saying yes can be draining but it is also bland. The office is filled with yes-men who don’t rock the boat. Offering a realistic, appropriate no can change the professional dynamic between you and your peers. If something can’t or shouldn’t be done and you know it in advance, offer the truth and whatever solutions you might have. Over time this practice of professional honesty will make a name for you and garner you respect from others and grant value to your opinion.

How to Make it all Happen

So you’ve made the decision to value your work by choosing to say no more. But what does that mean? You can’t say no to everything. And you don’t want to say yes to everything either. How should you tell each situation apart?

You’ll need a strategy. Start by overhauling your website and the pitch you deliver to both prospective clients and the people who send business your way. At each step of this overhaul keep in mind what you’re going for.

Quality over quantity. Part of the process might be in discontinuing some of the services you currently provide based on the fees you’re going to charge. People will pay for quality. Don’t undercut your value with prices that are too low for the skills you provide. This includes providing services that are below your pay grade. Focus on higher ticket items that showcase your ability.

Lastly, be professional about how you say no. Saying no isn’t about arrogance. You aren’t saying that you’re better than a client; just that you don’t provide what they want at the price they’re willing to pay. If you know somebody who does, by all means direct them the right way, but as far as your work is concerned, you accept projects that utilize the skill set you’ve worked hard for and pay the price your work is worth. Word will get around about you, in a good way.

About author

Michael Barry
Michael Barry 31 posts

Michael Barry is the Editor-In-Chief at Currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, he received his B.A. in Financial Economics from St. Anselm College and his MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine.

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