The Elegant Art of Saying… No

Suddenly, all your good work is paying off. You have great referrals. Business is booming. You are also in demand for every school function, community project, and online organization known to man. You have arrived! Now, the next step in building your business while maintaining your sanity is simple. You only need to know one word.

(Psssst: The word is “No”.)

Right now, even family members are calling you (and having their friends call you) when they have a question about how to look something up on the Internet, a question on which software they need, or help because their computer is acting flaky.

You have arrived!

Now, the next step in building your business while maintaining your sanity is simple. You need to know one word. That word is No.

It’s not enough to just know the word, and use it in casual conversation like, “there is no way the current economy can continue to…” or “No, I think I’ll have the roast beef instead.”

You must know how to use it when you really need it. For instance:

Business requests:

You have a client who pays slow and is difficult on a regular basis. He’s a nice enough guy, but you just don’t seem to “mesh” in work style and priorities. After multiple attempts to collect, he pays. Now he calls again:

Joe (client): “You have been great with my other projects and I want to do more work with you, but I can’t afford your rates. Another VA has offered to work with me for $20 less per hour and I can get a part time person for a fraction of your fees. I’d prefer to work with you, however, so can you lower my rates?”

You: “Hi, Joe! Great to hear from you! I appreciate your loyalty and wish I could lower my rates, but I can’t.”

Joe: “I just thought it would be nice to work with you and still be able to make a living myself. So, can you reduce it by $10 per hour?”

You: “No, I really can’t. I extended you the old rate for several months past the time I raised it for everyone else. In fact, my current rate is now $XX per hour. But, I do appreciate you thinking of me. If you want a lower priced VA, I can offer you some possible resources.”

Volunteer work:

You have spent ages volunteering and building your reputation locally, even as you were building your business on the web. Now, you have a thriving business and you are so busy that making time for your family and the other aspects of your life must come to the forefront.

Sarah: “It’s that time of year again! I’m looking forward to working with you on the bake sale! Our first meeting is Monday.”

You: “Oh Sarah, it’s so sweet of you to think of me! I do wish I could help with the Orphan Home’s bake sale again this year, but I’m already committed.”

Sarah: “You MADE the bake sale last year, we can’t possibly do it without you!”

You: “You flatter me, Sarah, but, no, I really can’t. You have Jane and Ellen to help you, and I’m sure this year will exceed last year’s sales! I’ll pre-order one of Claire’s cherry pies now! Let me know how things go for you.”

Family calls:

You are working in your home office when your 11-year-old bursts in:

Jessica: “Dad, will you look up the habitat preferences and eating habits of Badgers in the UK for me?”

You: “No, you can look it up yourself on the other computer (or at the library, or at school).”

Jessica: “But, it will only take you a second you are an expert! (*batting eyes*) And it just takes me forever, and I never get the right kind of stuff. (*small pout*) When it comes to this computer stuff, you rock! (*beaming grin*)”

You: “The reason I can do it quickly is because I’ve done my own research for years. No, I won’t do your research for you, but if you want to sit down with me I’ll show you how to use some advanced techniques. Then, you can get any information you want just as quickly as I can! We can do this when you get home from school tomorrow if you like.”

Just because you are overextended, your clients are stacking up, your volunteer work is coming out your ears and you have finally succeeded in becoming the go-to person for everyone you have ever known, doesn’t mean you have lost control permanently.

Consider it a great accomplishment. You have done well. Now, all you need to do is look over your list of priorities and ensure that what you DO aligns with what you WANT. If you do what you love, the money follows. But you have to make room for it. One of your best financial decisions as an entrepreneur is to decide to say No.

You can do it elegantly if you offer something to support the person making the request. In the examples above, you offered resources for Joe, the purchase of a pie to Sarah, and a tutorial for Jessica.

So go forth and learn how to say no.