FirmBee / Pixabay

At some point in our freelance careers, we get a little too comfortable saying the word yes.

We say yes to projects even if they’re not in line with our strengths.

We say yes to last-minute assignments because we worry our luck will run out and we’ll never find more business.

We may even say yes to work that pays a little (or even a lot) less than what we typically charge.

The problem with this is that saying no is necessary to build a profitable business that you actually enjoy.

Here are some reasons that saying no more often can help your struggling freelance business:

Saying No Brings Clarity

Freelancers do work to get paid; that’s obvious.

But beyond the money, freelancers take on various projects to build a reputation and a lasting career.

Follow work that inspires you like a dog sniffing out a scent to grow the right type of business for you.

My rule is to say no to work unless it meets one or two of the following conditions:

  • It pays well
  • It’s going to look great on my resume
  • It’s going to open up new opportunities
  • It’s going to take me in a direction that excites me

If you keep saying yes to projects that fit none of the above, you’re probably doing work that’s not stimulating you mentally or compensating you properly.

These are two huge reasons freelancers find themselves struggling.

Stop feeling obligated to do work that’s not helping you evolve. Open up your schedule to attract new opportunities and to gain clarity about your business aspirations.

Saying No Can Open the Referral Flood Gates

There’s plenty of advice out there about why you should fake it until you make it.

I agree with the advice to some degree. However, you should not accept work when you have a gut feeling that you’re not the right fit for the task.

There’s nothing worse than committing to do something and realizing in the middle that you’re in over your head. Nobody wins.

The silver lining here is that prospective clients are often incredibly thankful whenever you’re honest about your capabilities.

When they do have work that’s right for your skills (or know someone else who does), they’ll be eager to give you a call.

Don’t say yes to everything.

Niche down and get incredibly specific with the type of work you are seeking to make sure people know what jobs to send your way. Then watch the floodgates open.

Saying No Teaches Others to Respect Your Time

Freelancers who are available all hours of the day, night, and weekends for last-minute projects and other requests can give the impression that they’re not in demand.

The perceived demand for your work impacts how much you can charge.

I’ve found that people take you less seriously when you’re easy going with your time.

A freelancer who shows they have the freedom to decline requests and stand firm in business hours gives the impression that they’re professional and highly sought after.

Say no to odd requests and set the precedence that you have limited time.

Some clients may give you push back and even choose to take their business elsewhere. But new clients and ones who stick around will learn to respect you. This will give you a better work-life balance, and puts you back in the driver’s seat of your career.

Final Word

Adding the word no to my vocabulary helped me go from an aimless freelancer to one with a great business based on referrals.

You may be worried that saying no will impact your ability to pay bills. Your concern is valid and is pretty much everyone’s fear.

But in my own experience, another opportunity popped up the very month I decided to end a reoccurring assignment that made up a good portion of my income. I no longer felt the recurring work was in sync with the direction I was going.

Experiment with saying no more often and see what comes your way.