Knowing When to Say No to New Business


Our society has led us to believe that more is better. But really, the only true and consistent correlation is that more is more. What you choose to do with that “more” could result in benefits like business growth and extra income – but it could also bring stress, exhaustion, and frustration if the opportunity is not a good fit.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we’ve learned to build a business by saying yes to opportunity as often as possible. This means taking on hard and low-paying projects to get the hustle started. But at some point, we must graduate to the next level of not needing to say yes to everything and everyone. We will surely burn out doing so!

When the balance shifts and it comes time to strategically say no, pass on a potential project, or recommend someone look elsewhere for a solution, it can be really hard. But if we don’t learn when to say no confidently and correctly, it can destroy our work-life balance and everything we’ve worked to build. If you can resonate with this dilemma, I have good news to share. It is possible to require the “yes” mindset of an early entrepreneur to a wise and established business owner who knows you can put a price on peace. Keep reading for my tried and true advice!

Does it fit your bandwidth?

As a business owner, you should always have a good handle on where your time is currently allocated. It’s your single most valuable resource and not knowing how it’s being used, or if it’s being leveraged to its fullest is like handing over your credit card for anyone to start spending. When you don’t protect your time, people will surely look to take control of it and use it for their benefit. When a new project or opportunity presents itself, you should be able to identify if you have the bandwidth to accommodate the work this will require. If you don’t have the bandwidth or the means to move the project (or other projects) to accommodate it, it’s pretty clear you need to let this opportunity pass.

Does it fit your budget?

If your schedule is already full with other paying projects, you can be picky about the new projects you take on. If someone is squeezing you into a tight budget and already sending up red flags that this will be a challenging project, simply don’t take it on! State your price and if they decline based on price, the decision is made for you. Also, your time is a commodity and like Uber, you can have “surge” pricing during extremely busy seasons. You’ll find that the clients who value your time and talent will gladly meet you at a cost that’s fair to you, if they really want you on the job. Or if they’re just looking for the cheapest deal, they’ll move on. And that’s okay too.

Is it something you enjoy doing?

If you’re like me, some types of projects are harder than others. You might think it’s the intense writing or creative strategizing that would be the hardest – and don’t get me wrong, this is challenging – but it’s actually the mundane and lackluster projects that are the most draining for me. I’d rather pour my time into something I know will have a big impact and deliver value than churning out words that will get buried somewhere. Whatever the equivalent is for you, take note of where you enjoy spending your time. When do you come alive? What brings your creative side to life? Say yes to opportunities that bring you joy and satisfaction, and pass on ones that drain your creative energies.

Do you know someone who can do it better?

And finally, recognize when you’re not the best person for the job. This isn’t a shot at your ego, rather it’s a freeing truth to know when something is outside your wheelhouse and better suited for another professional you may know. Because so often the content I write for clients ends up on their website, they may mistakenly believe I can also design websites. I cannot, and you would not want me doing so! Instead, I gladly refer out work that doesn’t fit my skills, time, or prices. In turn, I build rapport with the people I refer work to and I build trust with clients who are happy with the referral. From this goodwill, more (and better) business often returns my way.

I’d love to hear your personal stories of times when you knew the right thing was to pass on a new business opportunity. What were your red flags? Was it challenging? How are you working to get better? Comment below!