When to Stop Saying “Yes” and Start Saying “No”

Nicole ChristieEdit2

When I started working for myself, I said yes to everything―every client, every project, every time I was asked to cut my rate. I was so afraid of not having enough work and not being able to pay my bills that I repeatedly sacrificed my own worth. But I also couldn’t forget this advice: “Always find a way to get to yes.”

There’s a lot of hullabaloo around the power of “Yes.” And saying yes can be very beneficial, especially when we’re in transition―between jobs, after ending a relationship, starting a business. These are times when it’s good to explore and experiment, as we shed one skin to make room for another, one that’s more aligned with who we are, who we’re becoming, who we want to be.

In my early entrepreneurial days, a whole lot of yes wasn’t a bad thing. After a while, though, always saying yes was no longer necessary, and I was at risk of becoming an entrepreneurial tart―giving it away without regard to my vision for the business, much less the value of what I had to offer. Eventually I understood that getting to yes is about negotiation, about creating a win-win.

So I started saying “No.” No to projects that aren’t a good fit. No to clients who don’t feel right. No to anyone who asks me to cut my rate. Recently, I shook my head no twice in one week. After all these years, there was still a flutter of panic. There was still disappointment. But there was also faith that something better would come along. Because when we eliminate options, we create focus. We close the wrong doors so the right one can open. And it always does―if we sit with the fear, believe in our worth, and flat-out refuse to accept anything less.


Nicole Christie is a writer and storyteller who splits her time between Seattle and Montreal. She is also the principal and creative director of NICO, Inc.―a one-woman firm specializing in fresh, honest, engaging employee and marketing communications for Fortune 500 corporations, leading-edge creative firms, and rapidly growing new technology companies. You can soak up her solopreneur wisdom at http://nicolechristie.com/.


  • Alesia Zorn says:

    Amen! Last year I received an inquiry in the afternoon from a former repeat client. None of my experiences with them had ever been good, my last experience with them had been HELL. I had the availability to take the job… my heart said “NO! It’s not worth it at any price!” My head said “You have to say yes. You can’t turn down money, fool!” I slept on it, the next morning I wrote the “no” email, that afternoon I recieved an inquiry from a new client for the exact same time period and they were a DREAM. I have that client’s name pinned up next to my computer so when there’s a war of head vs. heart, I’m reminded of that experience and it calms my panic right down.

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