If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer that has a problem saying no, raise your hand.

Thank you, and welcome. Saying no is not fun but it is indeed a complete sentence.

A few of these scenarios might seem familiar to you:

A) You’re on your last dollar with no checks in sight. You recently quit your job and could not file for unemployment. The bills are due and your gas tank is running on empty and a prayer. An opportunity randomly comes your way and you take it without checking if it was legitimate. You find out that it’s a pyramid scheme and you lost the money you borrowed to invest in it.

B) A friend approaches you with a super cool collaboration project. Unfortunately, you’re swamped with your own projects and a corporate job. Your mind hasn’t really even wrapped around her project enough so you’re not even sure if you’re that interested in what she’s doing.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found a way to say yes to both A and B scenarios at some point in your freelance journey. What sometimes seems like a smart, financial and mutually beneficial decision turns into a living nightmare. Saying yes to things that physically and mentally exhaust you leaves little room for the things that bring you joy.

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo recently. It is a book on utilizing Kondo’s specific method, dubbed the KonMari Method, to declutter your home. What made her method so revolutionary was that getting rid of clutter was made simple by asking yourself a simple question: does this thing spark joy? And if that thing did not, it had to go. No questions asked.

I think the same logic can be applied to the opportunities that come across our paths in life. Some projects that come your way may look amazing. The money might be speaking directly to your pockets but sometimes, your no should mean no.

You might not realize when you should probably say no to an opportunity. This might help:

When should saying no be the right thing to do?

● When you have more opportunities than you have time.
● When you’re not fully invested in the mission.
● When the money isn’t worth your time.
● When you keep making excuses as to why you can’t do it.
● When what is pursuing you does not align with your personal brand.

You’ve realized why you want to say no but the pleaser in you still doesn’t know how. Learning to say no is difficult but can be done.

How to say no

● No need to make an excuse or give an explanation. No is a complete sentence.
● Be straightforward. Try saying “No, I cannot.” or “Thank you, but I’m going to decline.”
● If you must give a reason, keep it simple, brief, and honest. “Committing to this project with my current workload would be unrealistic.”
● Practice saying NO outloud.

When saying yes is worth it

When you begin to value your time, you’ll find that saying no becomes easier. You will find that you have more time to commit to the jobs that bring you joy. You’ll be able to recognize those jobs and say yes immediately. You’ll have more time to focus on the projects and jobs that matter to you the most.

Saying no creates room to say yes to the opportunities that spark joy in your life. Saying yes to the work that sparks joy will lead you to living your most fulfilled life.


Lucy is a former Creative Circle candidate in Atlanta. She is a freelance writer and visual storyteller. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely exploring new restaurants around town, traveling, taking pictures or reading blogs dedicated to SELF – awareness, development/discovery and expression. If you are interested in working with someone like Lucy, contact your nearest Creative Circle office.