I say “no” to a lot to projects that come my way with my company and stick to pretty strict schedules for projects I do take on. I’ve spent the last 15 years running my company successfully by saying no strategically often. Here’s my reasoning—

  • Saying no means I am 100% committed to what I’m currently working on (or doing), and those clients get my full attention and creativity. And they always come back for more.
  • Saying no means I’m not putting unreasonable stress on myself to fit everything in or work 20 hours a day (as if that was a badge of honour?). If I’m so busy I can’t enjoy life (hanging with my wife, surfing, yoga, music) — it’ll show in my creativity and I won’t be doing my best for clients. Balance is required for optimal output.
  • Saying no means I can focus and stay present.
  • Saying no might mean turning down income in the short-term, but it also means that the people paying me are so happy they become sales people for me in the future (i.e. lots more income).
  • Saying no doesn’t mean I’m not going work with a client, it could also mean no to now, but yes to when my schedule is open (and a lot of clients are ok with that, since they know when I am doing their work, it’s with total focus).
  • Saying no sometimes means I get a feeling that the client could be tricky to work with, or not jive with how I work. It’s ok to turn down projects I have a feeling might not go well, because chances are they won’t. And if they don’t, it’ll end up costing more to do the work than if I had just said no first. Not everyone is a perfect fit, and I’m certainly not a perfect fit for everyone.

There’s always a polite way of saying no—and every “no” can always have a suggestion to make the no a “yes”—like offering an alternative (another web designer you trust) or a later start date.

So try saying no. You’re not trying to be negative or mean, you’re just respecting yourself and your current obligations.


I’ve been a web designer/developer, running a company called twothirty (which is now PJRVS) for the last 15 years. I’ve worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500s, to Valley startups to entrepreneurs with online empires. This article first appeared on my own site 3 years ago but still holds true today.