A few weeks ago, I got an email from a guy who was interested in hiring me.
It took a few emails back and forth for me to figure out what his business was all about and what kind of help he needed. But once I understood, I realized that I wasn’t a good fit for him. It seemed pretty clear to me that he would be best served by an all-in-one marketing agency that could develop advertising campaigns, product packaging designs, etc. as well as content.
At this point, I had two options.
My first option was to just accept the job anyway… write up a copywriting proposal, maybe even subcontract out the parts I couldn’t do, and stretch to do a project that didn’t fit.
And this option was tempting, of course, because… money! Someone wants to give me money, and I happen to like receiving money. But it just didn’t feel right.
So I went with my second option, which was to be honest with him. I sent him an email explaining that while his project sounded great, I wasn’t the right person for the job, and I recommended a couple local agencies that I knew could do amazing work for him.
Now, if you’ve ever had to send an email like that, you know it’s kind of scary.
First of all, turning away a client who is eager to work with you feels, well… stupid. Even when you know it’s the right call. But the other thing I always fear is that the client will be disappointed in me. In this case, we had spent some time discussing this project via email, and I worried that he’d be pissed about all that “wasted” time.
So I have to admit I was pretty surprised when I received this response:
“Thank you for your honesty. I can tell you are really good at what you do. I too have to turn away business, which is a difficult decision. I appreciate you taking the time to consider our proposition. If I can be of any assistance to you in the future, please let me know.”
Did you catch that? Even though I had never actually worked with — or even directly spoken to! — this person, he said:
“I can tell you’re really good at what you do.”
How amazing is that?
He was making an assumption about my skill based on nothing but my confidence in my own brand and my straightforward communication.
This is the power of saying “no,” people! This is the power of defining what your business does and doesn’t do, who it is and isn’t for, and then really owning it by communicating it clearly.
The outcome is a level of trust and respect that you don’t get if you just say “sure” to every little thing that comes along. The outcome is more time to do the work you’re best at and enjoy most. And in this case, the best outcome was a feeling of pride that I stood up for myself to make the decision that was best for both my business and his.
If you find yourself accepting any project that comes along — even the ones you know aren’t a great fit — let’s work together on defining your brand in a way that makes it clearer, both to you and your clients, when you should say “no.”