How Saying No Will Build Your Business
When I first started working as a consultant, I said yes to everything that came my way. I was hungry (literally and figuratively), building my business and didn’t think I could afford to say no to work, speaking or volunteer opportunities.
And then I learned there is more power (and respect) in saying no than in saying yes.
In my early days as a consultant, most of the consultants I encountered were of the billable hours mindset. You know the ones. They are constantly tracking their billable hours, bragging (at least to other consultants) about how much they billed in a week. To do this, they took on all and any work they could get.
It was exhausting just watching them.
I soon realized I needed to find my own way. This meant only saying yes to projects and opportunities that were in direct alignment with my interests, passions and energy. It also meant being aware of warning signs, and saying no to working with individuals or companies that raised the hairs on the back of my neck (a feeling that if ignored only leads to trouble).
Shift in energy
When I consciously began saying no, the magic started to happen.
By only saying yes to opportunities that interested me, I found the quality of the work I produced improved. A lot. It wasn’t just the excitement of working on something I enjoyed. I had cut ties with clients and projects that sucked my energy and creativity.
Saying no also freed up space in my calendar. More space meant more room for the things I wanted to appear in my life.
In stopping volunteering for every cause that asked me (because I felt guilty saying no), I decided to focus my volunteer hours on advancing paediatric care, especially for kids with special needs. Within a month of untangling myself from non-aligned volunteer commitments, I was asked to sit on an island-wide paediatric committee. I was quickly able to use my voice and experience to make real change instead dreading attending another volunteer meeting I didn’t enjoy.
And with this new focus came new work opportunities. Paid speaking engagements, increased book sales and clients who loved what I had to say and wanted me to help their organization grow.
While this might sound oh so amazing, it can be easy to slip back into old patterns and let guilt, and bills, take you off focus.
Each time I say yes when I should have said no, the lesson repeats itself. I find myself exhausted or resentful of the project. My energy slips and I grumble all the way.
When this happens I pause (or my husband calls me out) and try to figure out what has taken me off course. It’s often a heat of the moment conversation or offer where I let the initial excitement (someone wants me) cloud my judgement (do I want them).
Saying no is a continued learning for me. It involves regular self check-ins on what work is inspiring and fulfilling me, and what work is draining my energy. As a grow as a professional and person, so do my interests. What I enjoy today may no longer serve me in five years. I give myself permission to evolve and grow, with what I say yes to changing with me.
I encourage you to look at the projects on your plate (paid and volunteer). Which ones excite you? Which ones make you sag into your chair? By taking the time to be aware of how they impact you, you’re in a better position to know what to say no to in the future.
I’m passionate about helping people share their stories and be heard. Let’s keep in touch. Sign up to receive more insights and communications advice from me.