Work and life completely blew up the last couple of days, and I have suddenly been overwhelmed with work and very busy. Just starting out my self-employed career this is a very good thing, yet the stress is building and needs to be managed better. I also know it is a transitory situation stemming from the previously schedule vacation days next week and next month.

When do you decide and how do you gracefully turn down work, though? I have a couple of CPA firms referring potential clients right now, and some of the inquiries are just tedious enough or the potential client difficult enough to make me want to pass. Yet I feel like I cannot quite do that yet. Small one-time jobs still pay the same, and money and experience are both good things to have. Besides, I really want to build a solid reputation as a dependable referral source, so I truly feel as if I cannot be too particular or picky.

I am quickly learning that I need a minimum fee/hourly commitment, particularly for one-time projects. It does not seem worth my while to meet with or talk with a potential client for an hour and take on a project on an hourly basis that takes 90 minutes start to finish. The policy is taking shape, and I need to stand firm with myself in implementing it. I like helping people; it seems like part of who I am as a person. With no overall firm absorbing my overhead hours, I must fine tune and work smarter.

Other than my inability to say no to new work, things are shaping up nicely in my professional roles. My former full-time job has someone else in place to handle day-to-day office matters and while I want to decline my official officer seat, I am the financial advisor and will have to stay in that role for the time being. The less time I spend in the office the less disturbed I am about the owners’ short-sighted quirks, so that is a positive. Law firm client is going very well, keeping me busy, but I set the pace of my work and it is primarily work I enjoy. The rest of my existing and expanding client base chugs along to fill any and all gaps in the workday and evenings, yet still leaving time to prioritize and pursue my personal projects and endeavors. Actually motivating myself to prioritze and pursue personal projects is another matter entirely. I am just not interested in organzing my disaster zone guest bedroom, which has become the holding pattern room for everything we have to do something with or make a decision about. It has not yet reached the tipping point where I can no longer stand the mess and must deal with it, so for now I can close the door and pretend it does not really exist.

Sometimes denial is my friend.

3 thoughts on “The art of saying no

  1. Let’s talk about turning down clients as a self-employed person. This is important stuff. First, make sure you thank the people giving/offering referral AND explain to them the kinds of work you are looking for – type of work, scope of project, minimum contract amount, etc. I’d actually develop a little bulleted list that you read off of so you are consistent. Plus writing it out will allow you to practice and clarify and refer back to. Don’t be afraid to say no politely. Don’t devalue your time and take anything that comes along – you won’t build a good business that way.

    We spent significant time pitching a client – being very flexible in contract, rates, etc because of the unique situation. We gave them a very very very very discounted rate and hourly structure (we normally of fixed fee only). There last change was to basically cap the whole thing at 5% of the value. Would not have been worth my time (even at the full contract amount honestly), devalued our work, and meant they would cherry pick what to hear from us and not be successful in getting the outcome they wanted – and blaming us for it. We turned it down. Not worth it.

    It isn’t being particular or picky to limit the scope and size of your work – it is being smart!

    1. These are things I truly failed to even consider when I stumbled into busienss for myself. My primary referral source has given me some terrific leads, even a one-time project I’m costing out right now is going to be both great experience and fun work to do, but the other firm is sending me what feels like crap they do not want to spend time or resources on for existing clients. It’s fine; I appreciate their confidence to even give me referrals. However, this week I am feeling a tiny bit taken advantage of, because they know I’m starting out and it feels as if they are low-balling me because they can. I am doing just what you prescribe – writing out my bullet points and “script” for discussions when they call or email me. With a couple of specific people, I have to set the boundaries and remain firm, or they will dance all over me. Time to put on my big-girl panties and just do it.

  2. Its also a change in relationships from before which is hard. But I agree set your limits, set your prices. Remember nobody works for free in this world

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