When you’re trying to grow your brand, or even advance in your career, you immediately believe that you must say “yes” to every request made by your prospects, clients, or boss.  The fact of the matter is that this is not true, not the slightest bit.  The obvious issue of saying “yes” to every request is that you will over-commit and never be able to provide proven results.  While you may think saying “yes” will make you a productive person, or business, the reality is that the result is completely opposite, you become entirely unproductive.  Not only will you become unproductive but you will become overwhelmed, stressed, and who knows what will happen after that.  By saying “no” in the right instances you not only save your sanity but you also create value.  You create value because you let people know that you are someone who prides their work, their results, and those that they work with or for.

You may find that sometimes it is actually hard to say “no” to people, why is that?  Feelings.  Let’s be real, feelings can get in the way far too often and knowing when or how to control them is an entirely different topic.  Saying “no” to some people may make them angry, they may despise you, they may feel let down; no matter how they actually feel about you saying “no” should give you an indicator on how they actually value and respect you as a person, just keep that in mind.  However, saying “no” also requires a little bit of finesse, just for those very reasons.  Because as a business you need to know how to say “no” so that you do not cause a storm of negativity because with social media people can spin a simple “no” into a massive issue making it sound like you just told them off, when we all know it is almost always the total opposite.

Know Your Value and Availability

The first step on being able to say “no” is to know what your time is worth and also know what your schedule looks like.  Saying “no” based on a value not meeting can be a missed opportunity as you never even tried to negotiate to a “yes.”  Knowing your availability lets you know what type of work you can fit in and how much time you will have left for any tasks that happen to come up and need immediate attention from you.

Knowing your value applies more to those running a business rather than employees.  Employees are paid an agreed amount to carry out specific types of tasks, which is stated up front in a job offer.  Not to mention, if you are trying to grow within a company you will actually need to toss others a bone to build a reputation, even when you know you technically are not responsible for a specific task.  When it comes to running a business however, you need to know your value because if you take the first $1,000.00 gig someone offers, you then block out that time to cater to them when there is a good chance someone who is willing to pay you your actual price is just a phone call away.  This is an issue, an issue that does not create demand contrary to popular belief.  Now, the exception to this can be when you are first getting started, such as a freelancer, and someone is willing to help get you started.  You have to remember that if you are just getting started with nothing to show for and WANT to make $35 per hour then you will have to prove it, and to prove it you may have to take a few offers at $20 per hour just to build up a real portfolio.  I have seen plenty of portfolios from novice designers who made a bunch of great graphics in their college courses, which is generally on a very relaxed schedule, and want to be paid $75 per hour because they know it looks good.  Smart leaders are not looking just for quality content, they are looking for quality execution as well.  I need to know that you can work on time crunches, that you don’t play around on the clock, and that what I am paying you is going to truly get me a great experience as a customer.

When it comes to the topic of availability, knowing what your schedule looks like applies to both employees and entrepreneurs.  Why does it matter?  What happens if you say “yes” to every task request at work?  You soon have 3 weeks worth of work for a team of five that you committed to doing for the week all on your own.  You are now a living example of what happens when shit hits the fan.  Not good.  You put yourself into a bind, you let people down, you make a fool of yourself and others, and even worse is that you let yourself down.  Letting yourself down is probably one of the biggest mental challenges that you can create because it will hinder your future work because you will be too focused on self questions like “am I doing this right?” or “will they fire me?” thus causing panic and stress for 8 hours a day of your life.  The same applies to entrepreneurs, saying “yes” to every opportunity or customer change request will build up your schedule putting you into a constant crunch mode and just burning you out.

The solution to both is simply being honest.  There is nothing wrong with you trying to negotiate up from $20 per hour because you believe you are a $35 per hour freelancer because of reasons x, y, and z.  There is nothing wrong with you also telling customers, or your boss, “I have tasks A, B, C, and D going on right now and I would hate to take this on just to not complete the task.  Maybe Joe can help out?”  By being honest about your worth and your availability people will then respect what it is that you have to offer.  They will respect your time and they will start approaching you with “do you have time for this?” rather than “will you do this?” and you will find that it is such a great feeling that you will not only be happier but you will also provide consistent and flawless results in everything that you do.

Be Firm and Do Not Be Sorry

So many times people will start their no reply off with something like “I’m sorry but..” which is just terrible.  You not only create that since of puppy love rejection but you make yourself sound weak.  You cannot know your value and availability and start it off with “I’m sorry.”  It is counteractive.  You need to start with a firm “No I cannot complete this request because my pay rate is at $35 per hour” or “No, I cannot fit you into the schedule for next 3 weeks because I currently have a complete workload until then.”  The latter is of course a no/yes.  Part of saying “no” is negotiating, and negotiating requires you to be firm on your offers and answers.  Being sorry for not being available or for having a set rate of pay is just senseless, so please whatever you do never be sorry for having value.

If you are an employee then you can be pre-emptive about your availability to avoid any confusions.  If you see that your schedule is booked for the next week then be firm and address that to your boss.  Tell them “hey look, I am going to be busy with tasks A, B, and C this week so I will not be able to take on any additional requests as these are urgent tasks.”  It may sound crazy but people will appreciate it, your co-workers might not, but your immediate consideration should be directly with your boss as it is their job to make sure work is getting done and delegated.

Saying “Yes” Is Actually Saying “No”

To conclude, you need to know that when you know you are saying “yes” just to please you are actually saying “no”.  When you do that you are just going to cause yourself to create resentment towards a person, or business, which causes you to seem like a dick.  And nobody likes dealing with a dick.  All of this of course is so much easier said than it is done, but the sooner you start sticking to a schedule and recognizing your worth then the sooner others will as well.


Also published on Medium.