I hope your week has been good to you and you’re moving along nicely with the goals you’ve set for yourself. This week I want to take some time to remind you that saying no is okay, and often saying no is the secret to success. Over the years, I’ve learned that saying no is in fact much easier than you may think if you follow a few tips.
Throughout my whole life, I’ve found that saying yes has come really easy for me. I simply just feel bad saying no to anyone who’s in need. If they’re reaching out to me, I want to try and help them the best I can. I’m grateful to be dominantly a yes man. It’s served me well in life, but as a business owner and even while working as an employee it hasn’t been a good characteristic at all. For some weird reason I’m able to control how often I say yes in life, but in business I struggle and have to always remind myself that no is acceptable.
I have a ton of moments in my career where saying no would have served me much better than saying yes. It wouldn’t do any justice to highlight just one. When I worked for agencies, I was the designer that all the project managers wanted to work with because not only did I do great work, I said yes all of the time. When I started out freelancing, I got a ton of projects by saying yes. Many of these projects were too small to even take on, but I wanted to help everyone reach their goals. In my mind, no project or timeline was too small and every dollar added up. As long as I could do the job and felt confident that I was going to get paid in return for my work, I was quick to say yes. Over time I made money, built a large portfolio of client work and was able to bring Julie on board full-time with me. We were at least somewhat happy with the success we were having and felt like we had positive momentum moving along in the right direction. It felt like we were growing. Or were we?
The truth is after two or three years of constantly saying yes to most projects that came our way, we never really found ourselves getting any closer to our targeted end goal. It was very frustrating. We were getting our name out there, but we were not reaching any of our creative or financial milestones. After eventually re-evaluating our strategy and letting go of that version of Greenline, we determined the reason we weren’t reaching those goals was because we weren’t saying no enough.
It was a lesson in understanding that just because we felt busy and were becoming recognized as a studio it didn’t mean that we were succeeding in our core mission. In fact, the exact opposite was true. We were wearing ourselves out with very little to show in return. The hard part about this was we didn’t want to admit it. Through this, I found that you spend so much energy ignoring the small fixes in favor of the larger more complex issues. The reason we couldn’t hire contractors and were not happy about the solutions we were creating was because we were not saying no enough. We looked like a business, but we were not functioning like one at all. We were letting fear get in the way of the fundamental fix of simply saying no to projects and clients that were detrimental to our growth and time.
I don’t blame myself for any of this. I simply didn’t know the dangers of saying yes, but I also didn’t know what to say no to. Like I’ve said in the past I was simply learning as I was going. Which is why I started writing this blog, book and workshop. All are ways to help you learn from my own experiences as a designer, freelancer and business owner. Full of the small things that I wish I knew much sooner in my career. The small things like simply saying no.
Saying no is hard at first, but like with anything, over time you’ll get better at it. It’s only hard because we’ve been taught to not say no to people and to always be helpful. Often times we also fear the unknown or let the money determine the decision to say yes or no. I’ve found that since I’ve been saying no more often to opportunites I’ve actually been happier, less stressed, made more money and have had better projects come my way. As a bonus, I’ve also felt an increased feeling of respect for myself. I feel more in control of what I want out of my career and life. And when I’m in control, I’m much more likely to reach my goals as a person, designer, freelancer and company. Sure, because saying yes is easy for me, I still have to remind myself from time to time that saying no is totally okay in life. As long as you do it the right way.
To ensure that you don’t make some of the same mistakes I did with your own freelance business, I’ve created a download below that includes many of the most common scenarios that I now say no to. I’ve also included the exact response that I use to reply to these opportunities. I encourage you to download this and keep it on hand and start using it today.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject? Do you have issues saying no?