When to say ‘no’ in your business.

when to say no in your business-fiona kelly photography-mentoring_0003

It is the eternal struggle of the self employed person. Knowing when you really should say ‘no’ to something. You know the feeling…you have a few bookings, but not enough to fill the diary. You are a little worried that you might not get any more jobs and the enquiries aren’t coming in as fast as you hoped. Then when you do get an enquiry you are SO keen and eager you practically leap on the person and almost without really thinking about it properly, or working out if you are the right fit for the client (and they are the right fit for you) you take on the job. Slowly you start to come to the realisation that it’s not really the kind of job you want to do. Maybe you don’t see fully eye to eye with your client, or their ideas leave you a little cold. Maybe the money they are paying you is less than you wanted (or needed), or maybe you have a niggling feeling that they don’t really value the job you are doing.

Or the other thing that can happen when you don’t learn to say ‘no’ is that you take on too much. This is something I am very guilty of doing! Your are getting the enquiries and the bookings, your diary is full, your time disappears, you are working all hours and eventually you crash and burn. The first year I freelanced as a graphic designer I was busy, happily so. But because I wasn’t used to working for myself and not having a regular income I kept working and working with a slight panic that if I didn’t work I wouldn’t get paid. It was fine for a while, but you know what happened? At the end of that first year I crashed. I got so horrendously ill that I spent two weeks in bed. It was rubbish! It was also a huge lesson learned.

Rest assured, we have ALL been there. There are times for every business owner when we take on jobs that really aren’t the best fit for us. We take on jobs because we worry we won’t have enough work to cover the bills or keep the business going. We take on job because we feel we can’t say no, like we are going to disappoint someone if we do. We take on jobs because we love the thrill of working on something we love to do and figure ‘it will be fine, it’s just one more job, I’ll make the time for it’. When that happens all you end up doing is getting frustrated and exhausted. You don’t look forward to the job. Maybe you can’t put 100% effort into it because you are tired or you just can’t click with the client? Then you get frustrated because you know you aren’t doing the best you can do and you worry that the client isn’t going to be happy. It becomes a vicious circle and it’s not a happy place to be. This is the time you need to learn when to say ‘no’ in your business.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to a job if you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. If you can’t give your all then you aren’t giving the best you can and that isn’t fair to the person who is paying you for a service.

You owe it to yourself to keep fit and healthy so you can give each and every one of your clients 100% and the best experience you can offer. You owe it to your clients, as much as you do to yourself, to know when someone isn’t a good fit for your business. You want to work with people who excite you with their ideas. People who ‘get’ what you do. Someone who can’t wait to work with you and someone you know will love everything you do for them. These are the clients you want and the clients you deserve.

I still remember the first time I said ‘no’ to a client who had some to meet with me. Ok…I wasn’t quite that blunt, but I didn’t take on the job. From the first meeting I had a gut instinct that it wasn’t right. The things they talked about as being important to them didn’t resound with me as much as it should. It was scary and I questioned the decision a few times, but ultimately I knew it was the right thing to do. You HAVE to learn to trust your gut instinct in these situations. If it tells you something doesn’t feel right, it’s generally for a good reason. Don’t be afraid to turn a job down now and again. I’m not suggesting you sit their waiting for that one perfect client and not working at all! That would be business suicide. But you can learn to be a little more selective. Start working out who you want to work with. Who is your ideal client? What do they love? What is it that will make them a perfect fit for you and the style of work you do?

When you know who you want to work with you will learn when to say ‘no’ to those you aren’t right. Nothing beats that feeling of working with a client who you totally connect with. Who is a complete joy to meet with, talk to and create something amazing for.  Why would you want to work with people who you don’t get that feeling about when you could find people who do give you that?

Next time you have an enquiry, ask questions. Find out about them. What do they love? What’s important to them? Do their ideas sit with what you can provide in terms of style and approach? As a photographer, particularly a wedding photographer, it’s so important that you have a connection with your client. It’s a very personal job and being able to put someone at ease takes understanding and a level of trust that you will find hard to get if you haven’t truly connected.

I am by no means perfect at getting the balance right between work and life, but I now know the signs to look out for. I can recognise when I need to slow down a little. I know now when I have to say ‘no’ because I have taken on too much. I also know the people who I love to work with. When I meet with a couple to discuss their wedding I know pretty quickly whether we are a right fit for each other. If we aren’t then that’s ok. It’s much better that they find a photographer who they connect with and it’s better for me to find clients who totally trust me and love the way I work.

Why not make this a challenge for 2016? One step closer to having the kind of business you want, the kind of business you deserve. A step closer to working the way you would like to work and with the people you would like to work with.

Please do let me know how you get on. If you have any challenges or questions do ask.


Thanks for popping by

Fiona x


2 thoughts on “When to say ‘no’ in your business.

  1. Sam & Louise Photography says:

    Agree with every word of this Fiona! Our business only really started to grow when we began to say no to the jobs we didn’t want to do.

    Continuing to take on work we didn’t love or wasn’t passionate about was holding us back and stopping us from progressing. At the time it definitely felt like progress because it was money and bookings coming in, but ultimately all it did was bring more bookings our way that weren’t what we wanted to be doing. As soon as we focused specifically on weddings (which is what we wanted to do) and stopped agreeing to parties and newborn shoots and family sessions, we blossomed.

    It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do in business and it’s still difficult now, but it’s also the best thing you’ll ever do for your business, yourself and your family.

    Great post!


    • fionakellyphotography says:

      Thanks for such a wonderful comment. Great to hear a positive story of doing just that. Your work is beautiful so clearly focussing has allowed you to really develop a wonderful business. It’s a tough thing to do and I have to continually remind myself! x


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