I have always thought of myself as business savvy. I studied finance and international business in college, and I’ve worked for a few for-profit and nonprofit companies in operations, HR, and finance. However, it wasn’t until I started working for myself that I understood the ins and outs of running a business. When you own a business you are eager to make money, so “yes” is often the answer to many questions. But, it shouldn’t be! As a busy wife, I don’t have time to go back and forth with clients. Here’s how I learned to say “no,” make more money, and found my stride as a result.
Learn the power of “no.”
When you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you are the marketing, sales, and accounting departments of your own entity. You must decide what is best for the company on all fronts, usually through trial and error. When you first launch, you’re so excited to get your first client or sign your first deal that securing revenue is your only goal.
After you have been in business a while, you start to calculate your worth, and that is when learning to say “no,” is critical. Not long ago, a brand wanted to work with me and compensate me less than my usual rate. I was so excited for the opportunity to work with this company that I didn’t consider the financial ramifications of the deal. My close friend bluntly said, “Tell them ‘no’!” I looked at him like he was crazy but begrudgingly took his advice, and I have to admit, it was a smart move. Not only did the company come back and offer more money, but I used that amount as the basis for my next project. There is power in saying “no.” You never want to appear too eager or desperate to close a deal.
Say, “No, but…”
If you genuinely want the business, you must use finesse when declining a client’s offer. You cannot flatly tell someone “no” without leaving an option open for future deals. Let the client know that, unfortunately, their proposed amount is lower than your typical rate, but if their budget ever allows for it in the future, you would be happy to work with them. When you leave the ball in the client’s court, somehow more money magically appears for the project. This isn’t always the case, but it’s happened to me several times.
Know your worth.
When you set your rates, take into account the clients you want to attract. Being the lowest-priced option isn’t always the best strategy. If you have a service-based business, I recommend pricing packages at three different levels. The goal is for the client to choose the middle-range option. When potential clients start to frequently book your top-priced option, that indicates that it’s time to raise your rates.
There is always room for negotiation.
Not everyone who wants to work with you will be able to afford your proposal. Keep in mind, though, that you can negotiate to accommodate clients with whom you really want to work. If a desirable client refuses to come up in price, you can always adjust your services and offer less. By decreasing your deliverables (aka: the amount of work you are agreeing to do), you can keep the price consistent while keeping the client on board.
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Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, a deal will not turn out in your favor. In these cases, you have to be ready to walk away. Though it may feel like it at the time, it’s not the end of the world—I promise! More clients are waiting right around the corner, and you may have avoided potential difficulty. In my experience, the clients who give you the most headache during negotiation are just as troublesome when you start working with them. Often, the relationship isn’t worth the stress.
I am honestly so grateful to my friend Dan for sharing his wisdom and helping me see the power of saying “no.” This valuable lesson provides clarity each time I approach business negotiations. It has taught me to stick with my prices and value my work. And thanks to this strategy, I now make more money and am happier in my business.
Do you say “no” in your business dealings? What has been your experience? Share in the comments!