If you are a creative entrepreneur, you’ve likely read countless posts on finding balance, avoiding burnout, and creating space for personal time as you try to run your business. While advice like this can be helpful and necessary at times, I believe there are steps we can take to avoid these issues in the first place and be more fulfilled by both our lives and businesses. When running a business, the hustle is a given. You have to discover what you want to do, make time for it, and do the work. But where do we draw the line?
Trouble comes when we feel like we have to say yes to everything. Yes to every client request, yes to every question in our inbox, yes to every new social media platform. The fear that arises is that we’ll miss out on something important, game-changing, or money-making. We’ll be left behind, lose an opportunity, or offend someone by not doing what they ask.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live with that fear. I want to create a business that I feel comfortable with, brings me joy, and reaches the goals that I set, not the ones that a bunch of random blog posts tell me I need to set.
How do you create those boundaries so that you can grow on your own terms?
How Saying No Can Help Your Business Grow:
1) Say no to clients that are not a good fit.
This one can be the most difficult because it is easy to see it as saying no to someone who wants to give you money. However, if someone is raising red flags, the headaches they will cause you later on are most likely not worth the money. You will end up resenting them and dreading every email they send to your inbox. Not every project is going to be a “dream” project, but It is hard to do good work for someone who you do not respect.
Another problem with taking on a client that is a bad fit is that they are going to tell their peers about you and send you other clients that are not a good fit. Then you’re stuck in a niche you never wanted to be in. Instead, say yes only to the clients that fit the area you want to serve (or only put projects in your portfolio that you want more of). Plus, you might not have space to fit in a more wonderful client if you are booked with the bad ones! You’ll stop resenting your projects and begin enjoying the work you do again.
2) Say no to requests outside your boundaries.
It might feel like you aren’t serving your clients well if you don’t answer email on weekends. It might feel like you’re being difficult if you won’t do any more revisions for free when you’re on round 7 and the agreement was for 3. The surprise is that people will respect you for it instead. As long as you set the expectations from the beginning, there is no reason why you can’t create the type of working environment that works best for you and your business.
There is a difference between providing great customer service and being a complete pushover. Whatever you choose as your policies, be professional enough to stick to them. In the end, you’ll be saving your sanity and commanding more respect from your clients.
3) Say no to people who do not value your work.
No one wants to be made to feel like a monkey. When you work with people who don’t see the value in what you do, you’ll start to feel less valuable, too, and that is not productive for your business. When you get the red flag that someone is going to be disrespectful of you, of your time, or your talent, politely run the other way. You will be making room for people who are great to work with and offer you respect.
As a designer, an example of this for me is if I get an inquiry email that says the person has their new logo all sketched and they just need me to create it on a computer (oh, and they need it next week, right away!), I know this is not a person who will want to hear my expertise and work together. While I love inspiration and ideas from a client, I want them to hire me to infuse my own work and best recommendations into the project — and not hire me simply because I own Adobe Illustrator.
4) Say no to tasks that won’t help you meet your goals.
In any given day, there will be endless ways for you to fill your time, whether it be social media, blog posts, creating free content, taking phone calls…not to mention actual client work. Rather than feel constantly overwhelmed, take a step back and define your goals for your business and what you want to build and achieve. Then, omit those tasks that aren’t helping you achieve your goals. It’s a simple check in to help you prioritize when you know your time is not endless.
An example for me is using Periscope. I feel more comfortable expressing myself in writing, and so broadcasting a video is not something in my comfort zone. Since my business is all about visuals, my time is better spent creating engaging imagery for my Instagram account or sharing my expertise in blog posts rather than adding yet another medium to my list. Because I know my clients find me through referrals or after seeing my work on Instagram, I know my time is better spent doing those tasks rather than dividing it among multiple channels.
When you say no to the things that don’t align with your goals, it gives you a wide open space to say YES to the things that do matter. It’s all about realizing the value in your time and talent so that you can offer the best version of yourself to the world.
Where can you begin to take ownership of your time and talent in your life and business? What can you say “no” to in order to open up a big “yes”? Use this worksheet to help you figure it out!