Why Saying No to Clients Can Help Your Business

When you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or freelancer, your work flow generally tends to be a little up and down. Some months you have more projects than you can shake a laptop at, while other months find you meticulously arranging the office supplies on your desk into perfect right angles. Because of the nature of your work, it may feel crazy, wrong, or just plain difficult to say no to new or repeat clients. But here’s the secret: the paradox of success is that sometimes “no” can actually help your business.

Why say no to clients <figcaption>Saying no to clients is not easy.</figcaption>

Saying no can feel scary because there is the underlying fear that you are energetically putting up a big dam in the flow of your business. If you turn down a project, who is to say that there will be another one around the corner? But here’s why saying no to clients can help your business:

Better Quality of Work

Saying yes when you mean no compromises your work. In a society that applauds multitasking and rewards a 60-hour or more work week, you may erroneously think “the more, the better.” But there are only so many hours in the day, and if you’re overworking yourself and losing sleep, you’ll be more prone to making mistakes and turning in shoddy work. If this goes on long enough, you’ll start to resent your work and if you don’t enjoy what you do, you might as well give it up because it will show.

Supply and Demand

You may think that saying no will make you seem like a negative or lazy person. Who doesn’t need the extra cash, after all? But if you let a potential client know that you are too busy to take on an additional project, they will generally regard you as a go-to expert who is simply in high demand. Think about some of the professionals whose service you have needed in the past—the best ones are rarely immediately available.

Train Your Clients

Keep in mind that we teach others how to treat us. So if someone asks you to take on a major project with a ridiculously short deadline for less than your usual fee and you say yes—you have just taught them that when they need an impossible job done ASAP to go to you. And this won’t be the last time you’ll go through this stressful experience. If you let potential clients know that you would’ve been happy to take on their project if you weren’t so busy, they will know to give you more notice the next time. Saying no demonstrates that you’re in control of your business, not them.

Build Inner Strength

Many people, business owners or not, are afraid to say no because they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or make them angry. Being regarded as a “nice guy” is so important that they would rather take on a project for which they don’t have time or are being underpaid in an effort to avoid looking like the “bad guy.” But if your business is going to succeed, you’ll have to learn to navigate difficult situations, pushy clients, and hardball negotiations. Being strong and sticking to your priorities is not the same as being rude or unreasonable. Rest assured that as you get better at being firm, you’ll see your business thrive.

Leave Room For High-hanging Fruit

If you’re saying yes all the time, chances are you’re accepting a lot of low-paying work in addition to some better-paying projects. It may seem like you’re raking in the dough, but if you sit down and do the math—total fee divided by number of hours worked—you’ll probably be surprised to see that your actual hourly rate is much lower than the amount you’re charging. When you say no to the projects that don’t pay well and are time-consuming, you leave room for the high-hanging fruit. Friends, associates, and previous clients who recommend your services will stop sending the low-hanging fruit your way.

The bottom line is that you started working for yourself so that you could make your own hours and have more time to enjoy life. If you say yes to every little project that comes your way, that doesn’t leave much time for your family, socializing with friends, exercising, or simply relaxing, which is essential to keep your mental and physical resources full. Learning how to effectively use this two-letter word will help your business grow and your clients respect and value you.