When you think about it, saying “no” doesn’t seem like a big deal, right ? When I created my business, I never thought it would be such a key element of my growth, both in my personal and professional life.
As a student, and later on as a new employee, saying “no” was not really an issue, because well… You can’t really say “no”, right ? You’ve chosen a degree, you’re not going to say “no” to a teacher who’s giving you an assignment, right ? As a newbie in a company, you will most likely be pressured to say “ok, sure” to everything your manager asks of you (within the boundaries of your work, of course, nothing shady). When I started working as a freelancer, I thought that I was still in that newbie mindset, where I thought I would just accept everything.
Spoiler alert, this is not how you’re going to develop your business in an efficient way.
I made the mistake of thinking that if my prices were low, people would be interested, and thus during the first few months as a CEO, I didn’t earn much, because I didn’t find that many clients. I had researched on many things, I worked a lot on my website, my social media presence etc… but I had forgotten that I was of value, too. Actually, I was the most valuable asset of my little company !
When I realized that, I tried not to be as desperate as I was at the beginning. I researched about the average rates in my sector, creating price boundaries I would not cross. For the first time, I said “no” to a prospect who wanted to hire me for a very interesting project, but one that would take maaaany hours, with very little pay. It was almost volunteering. This was the first time I actually argued with a potential client, and oh dear, it made me feel so much better afterwards. Yeah, during the actual argument I was freaking out and wondering if I was asking for too much (imposter syndrom, hello), but then that lady became so bitchy, telling me that she had other freelancers that were paid even less and still accepted the job and… I just felt so sorry for them. Like ew, you shouldn’t be proud of exploiting people, you know. Pushing back in this way revealed this person’s true character, and I was so relieved afterwards that I didn’t accept to work with her. It would have been hell, honestly, and my self-esteem would have plummeted because of the very low rates they offered.
I know that when you’re just starting, you have this pressure that you should make a living out of your business, as soon as possible. For me, I felt like if I didn’t manage to make as much as I used to make when I was an employee, then my business would never be considered successful. I realized later that this was not an ambition or a worry of mine, it was actually the expectations that my parents put on me. They were not very excited by the creation of my business, and I guess I felt that succeeding quickly would be the only way to get their support. Fast forward one year and a half later, I don’t care anymore about what they think, and whether they support my decisions or not. This is also a form of saying “no”.
Saying “no” means that you’re setting boundaries, healthy boundaries that are going to help you maintain a good mental health, healthy boundaries who are going to protect you from a lot of negative emotions that others are projecting on you. Trust me, when you reach that point where you’re no longer afraid to say “no”, because you know this is what is best for you, and that you are your own priority, so you don’t need to feel guilty about it… It’s truly liberating.
And what are the consequences for your business ? You get better clients and better projects ! Why ? Because you’re finally sorting through your prospects instead of blindly accepting everything. The beginning might be slow, I admit that, but by doing this, you’re getting quality over quantity. Good clients with whom you will like to work, who will pay you according to the quality of your work, with whom you will have a good relationship, and who will maybe bring you new interesting projects as well (word-of-mouth, recommendations, new projects from their own company, you name it) !
As a freelancer, stability may not be the most obvious component of our working life. However, when you find great clients who are willing to work with you on the long run, this is as close as we can get to stability. I’m not saying you should focus on one single client, nope ! But it’s always nice to have a few clients like this, who can give you a little sense of security. You may not work with them every day, but you know that on a regular basis, they will have work for you.
And if you had not said “no” to all these companies and individuals who take advantage of freelancers, you wouldn’t have found these amazing clients. Because they are rare, and you can’t predict when you’re going to find one. But you do deserve to have these kind of clients, not those nasty people who only want the cheapest rate, no matter what.
It will also be beneficial for you as a person, because getting better clients and better projects will only make you feel happier, and less stressed. Doing something that you like, with people who respect and appreciate you, is what you should aim for. The freedom that freelancing gives us shouldn’t be a tool for companies to take advantage of us, it should be a tool for us to create our own safe space, as a professional.
If you’re struggling with saying “no”, you can find a lot of ressources online, articles, books, Youtube videos… Take a look, and see what works best for you. My advice ? Practice. There’s nothing more efficient that practice. Say “no” in your professional life, say “no” in your personal life, not as a game of course, but when you truly mean it, and see how the world doesn’t collapse. Someone might get upset, but if they are upset because you’re setting boundaries… maybe that’s because they were already taking advantage of your lack of boundaries ? Think about it.
Did you relate to this post ? Is it easy for you to say “no” ? Or are you struggling ? Tell me more !
I hope you all have a lovely day, and see you next Wednesday !