When was the last time you said “No”?

A couple of years ago, I said “Yes” a lot.

“Yes” to every new client who came my way.
“Yes” to every guest post opportunity.
“Yes” to everyone who wanted to interview me.

I worked with 50 women entrepreneurs in less than 52 weeks and was featured in 22 different places on the web over the same amount of time.

Saying “Yes” opened the door for new opportunities. More exposure. Valuable connections.

But it did something else, too.

It left me feeling overwhelmed:

I was saying “Yes” to so much that I was saying “No” to my needs, and to the needs of my business.

Charlie Gilkey calls this Stage 3 of The Small Business Life Cycle: “Stage 3 is the Crucible stage [of business]. You’re at the delightfully frustrating point at which you’re booked solid and working at full steam, but the demand for your goods and services outstrips your ability to meet it. Something has to give.”

And that something is a simpler-than-you’d-think shift.

As Charlie says, “Stage 3 is the first “no” stage. It’s the time when you finally have to start practicing saying no because you’re already at capacity.”

A Skype call with my uber-talented web-designer friend, Marie Poulin, confirmed this. (She’s designed virtual homes for the likes of Marie Forleo’s RHH Live and Natalie MacNeil’s She Takes On The World.)

Our chat even inspired her to write a blog post based on her own experiences. In her words:

When you don’t give yourself and your business time to breathe between projects, you don’t give yourself room to grow.
Unfortunately, booking too far in advance means that you don’t leave time to debrief, and reflect on the successes and failures of a project. It also doesn’t leave you room to continue to nurture a work relationship with those clients as an ongoing partner. It doesn’t allow you to pick up an interesting last minute opportunity (if you so desire), and most importantly… it doesn’t leave you time to breathe. Not to mention those personal projects that have been on the back burner? HA! Forget it.
. . . So over the course of 6–8 months, I started saying “no,” to every new project that came in. It was hard! There were some exciting projects that I would have loved to take on, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to give them my best. I told new prospective clients that if they were interested in working together, they could back in touch with me in the spring (and to my surprise, some of them actually did!)
Giving yourself breathing room between projects, and resisting the urge to book your schedule up for months at a time allows you to get very intentional about your business decisions, so you can start being more pro-active (aka, get out of fire-killing mode). It also allows you time to actually work on your business, and not just in your business. And chances are, if you are in such high demand, it’s time to raise your rates. Not in 3 months from now, but today.
For the first time in my 5 years of running my business, I now consistently have evenings and weekends free to do what I want to do. I don’t wake up feeling panicked anymore about what needs to be accomplished that day.

I didn’t start saying “No” immediately. I didn’t want to offend or miss out on an opportunity. But as soon as I did, I felt more in control of my business than I had in a LONG time.

Now I only wish I’d started sooner.

Saying “No” is addictive. In the most empowering of ways.

The question is: Have you tried it lately?

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