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Business lessons – When to say ‘No’

Turning down potential clients or projects that don't align with your values and level of professionalism is key to success and something you don’t have to regret. While it’s tempting to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity, every new client or potential project, think about the value of the opportunity and how it may affect your business. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you say yes.

Is this going to help my business?

The short-term result of the new project or client may look good, but how will that translate in the longer term?

Does this align with my business?

Does this opportunity sit in line with the values, ethics and goals you have in place? Is the nature of the job something you associate your business with? Does it reflect the path you plan to take your business on? If it doesn’t, then it’s probably best to walk away from the opportunity.

Can I do the job?

Sometimes you might be contacted about a project that requires a particular skill set which you may not have any experience with. You may be up for the challenge or think you can give it a go, but you might find yourself throwing more energy at it than it’s worth. Unless you have an experienced staff member or a contractor you can confidently outsource the job to, you might have to turn it down.

Is this a positive client?

When you first start out in business, you may feel that you don't have much choice about the types of clients you work with. To keep the revenue streams flowing, you'd say ‘yes’ to any job that comes your way. As you quote for jobs or liaise with potential clients you'll get a general idea of how they operate. Look for signs from a client that could get complicated - one that doesn’t have good history, doesn’t pay on time, one that contradicts company policy (which you are best to identify before agreeing to work together). The clients you work with reflect your business, so choose them carefully.

Is this a paying client?

This should go without saying, but you’ll be surprised (or perhaps not) at how many people try to get work done for free. While you may exercise some degree of altruism in your business and work with a pro bono client, don’t make a habit of giving your services for free, or for a special, or contra deal or ‘mates rates’. Always think about the bottom line and know how much you need to be charging to make your business viable. And value your time, expertise and services, enough not to give too much away for free.

A 'Yes' or a 'No'?

If you say ‘yes’ to an opportunity, will you have to say 'no' to another? Will other clients suffer because of it? Look at the other short-term commitments and decide if you can make time for the job. If you take on the job, does it mean you'll have to move other projects around - or would you have to employ a contractor to assist when times get busy?

What if I don’t have time?

Are you able to make the most of the opportunity? Realise the value of your time and don’t give away too much for free, unless you see the long-term benefits. Value your business, your products and services, and learn what to make time for. When you decide 'no', don’t worry, because you're creating space for something more viable.