Saying NO to different opportunities as a small business owner is scary. We want to say YES all the time because we aren’t sure when the next opportunity might come or if by saying NO just that once, all the opportunities will disappear. But it’s not that cut and dried.
Saying NO when you really need to is necessary. It prevents you from overextending yourself, from running yourself into the ground or hurtling yourself into burn-out territory. It also, importantly, solidifies with yourself (if not your customers and clients) that you are considered successful in your business – you have enough work on, to be turning work away.
So say NO. Say it out loud. Say it in an email. Say it in person. Say NO to opportunities that you simply cannot do, cannot fit in, cannot work out. But where do you begin with saying NO? When is a NO necessary or just fear of hard work? What do you say NO to?
Know what your time actually looks like.
I don’t care if you are using sticky notes on a pinboard or a more digital savvy tool like my personal favourite, to know whether or not NO is the answer, you need to KNOW what your week looks like. If you don’t consider your existing commitments, you are going to find it really hard to deliver on them and your new project. So plot out each task in a bigger picture task, have them all written down and be really realistic with yourself. Can you feasibly get all of those things done in a 9-5 day? Can you do them in a 7-7 day maybe once or twice a week? If not, then you have too much on your plate. It’s as simple as that.
Choose something you really don’t want to do or enjoy doing and say NO to that first. Don’t want to work for that company that comes back with 3000x iterations of the same document? Say NO to that project. Being asked a favour by a friend that you just can’t squeeze in? Say ‘NO, but’ to that and slot it in some time when you have time. It doesn’t matter how you justify the no, whether it is time or disinclination or inability to perform to the standard of the task at the time – make a little step in saying NO and then the next one will be easier.
Do what you do best. And JUST do that
In the website development world, they call it scope-creep. And I am going to repurpose that sentiment here. Instead of being a jack of all trades, taking on ANY project that comes your way, do what you do best. And only that. If you work in social media, don’t take on PR work, graphic design work or “just quickly” being a photographer. Outsource those things, hook up your friends who are great at that sort of stuff, or just say NO. be the best in your field at what you do, and keep your scope nice and tight. This will also prevent you from over promising and under delivering, an issue we will talk about at some length later.
DON’T SAY NO – If you just don’t want to work.
This is the beginning of the end. If you just don’t want to do your job, run your business, go and do the things that you have strived so hard to put yourself out there for; then you have to question whether you are doing the right thing. If you’re a graphic designer who simply doesn’t want to design anymore and you are always turning down design projects – are you really a designer? If you just don’t want to do anything anymore – maybe small business isn’t right for you.
DON’T SAY NO – If it’s your Mum calling
Come on. Be sensible. The woman gave you life. If she wants a website, make her a damn website even if it takes away all your mornings, nights, weekends and the 5 minutes you spend in the bathroom in the mornings. Because it’s your mum and that’s just what you do.
The hardest actions to take are always the ones that are going to pay off the most in the long run. When you started your business, undoubtedly it was difficult and scary and full on. Much like saying NO to work that will pay you and put food on your table, no matter how busy you might be. But it is far better to be happy, doing what you are doing and working well, effectively and consciously… than hurling yourself headlong into a project that is going to stress you out or that you won’t perform your best on because you have a ‘bust it out’ mentality.
Give yourself a break, give yourself a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T and learn to say NO.