Running an independent business, or any business for that matter, can be a daring thing. One day you’ll look around you and realize that you’re walking on a shaky tightrope suspended hundreds of feet above a chasm full of jagged boulders.
Figuratively, I mean. If you actually find yourself staring down at your potential death, then it’s safe to say that running a business should be the last thing on your mind.
Taking on the responsibility of running a business—creating your own livelihood, in fact—is nothing if not precarious. From considering what sort of company you want to be, worrying about business insurance, and just the day-to-day duties on your plate (among so many other concerns), developing and sustaining a successful business is no small feat.
First off, if you’re in the thick of it yourself, then congratulations. You’ve got nothing but my undying support and encouragement.
If you’re looking to start your own business, don’t let this post talk you out of it. It’s an enormous undertaking, but man is it worth doing.
Back to the death-defying tightrope.
Standing alone, high up on that wobbly wire with the cold wind cutting across your face, all you’ll want to do is clutch wildly at any sort of help you can get. I mean, no one wants to fall and sail off into an unwanted future. You want to know that what you’re doing is going to bring you the success you crave.
It’s in those moments of desperation (or a less scary word—hope) that you’ll say yes to just about anything that comes your way. Whatever will make you feel like you’re moving forward will feel like relief.
Who could blame you in those moments? There’s some interest in you and your work! Someone wants to give you money for what you do. That’s worth an emphatic “YES!”
Right? I mean, sure, but also nah.
What I’m talking about is the sort of offer that makes you feel deep-down uncomfortable. You take a look at the proposal over and over and your enthusiasm for the job keeps withering away. Soon that work proposal looks less like a gift and more like a chore.
The client seems shady. The job is way outside the scope of what your business does. You get the sense that the project won’t be a collaboration, but just a mess of one-sided frustration.
This isn’t the sort of work you dreamt of when you started your business. What’s going on?
The answer is both simple and confounding: you said “yes” to a job offer.
I’ll tell you right now, everyone starts in the same place.
You’ve got a new business and you’re trying to drum up some paying clients (or you already have a few connections, you lucky duck). The last thing you want to do is turn down any sort of offer. After all, why start a business and then turn away people who want your products or services?
Running a successful business is about making all of the money, right?
While running a business is about making money, that’s not all it’s about.
Running a business is about ensuring the longevity of the business. Money helps, but having the ability and desire to run it is ultimately more important.
Accepting everything that comes along is a great way to stretch yourself thin. You’re already going to be working long hours and putting a ridiculous amount of effort into your business, so why burn yourself out?
Taking on whatever pops up will also have the unintended effect of setting the expectations of your current and future clients way too low.
For instance, you’re going to set a bad precedent by lowering your prices for anyone who complains about what you charge. If you’ve done your homework and figured out that you need to charge, say $2,500 per job, then accepting less just because it’s a new job isn’t going to help you.
By the same token, if a client approaches you and it becomes clear they’re going to be a monster to work with, then that’s a deal breaker. You need to have the strength and courage to say, “My time and effort are worth more than what you’re offering. This is my system and my price and I’m sticking to it.”
Saying “no” will inevitably ruffle a few feathers, but it’ll help you build a standard of work that will attract the sort of clients who will love the way you do things. They’ll practically beg to pay you as much as you’re worth.
You’d have to be crazy not to want that sort of dream client.
In the end, it’s the standard of work you set that will help attract the clients you've always wanted to work with. So will pricing your services/products appropriately (as in, higher than you’re thinking, but not laughably so).
Your standard of work is dependent on you saying “no” to some potential clients.
A person who creates amazing logos for local businesses probably shouldn’t say yes to an offer of painting someone’s portrait. Setting up a canvas and making an oil painting of someone’s face could be something that logo-maker is capable of doing, but it’s not going to help their logo design business.
Agreeing to that job may bring in some money, but how can they use that portrait? It’s not going to fit anywhere in their portfolio. At best, it could make for a sweet Instagram post.
If a logo-maker is asked to paint someone’s portrait, the answer to that request should be a kind, but firm, “no.”
I understand the realities of the world. There are times when saying no to an offer could be the very worst thing you do for yourself and your business. Having a roof over your head is nice and everyone has to eat.
The world is rarely under a person’s control. Circumstances of life may butt their way in and force a person to agree on a job that won’t benefit their business. If you have to take on some work, then don’t let me stop you.
Take care of yourself, for crying out loud.
However, if you have the ability to say “no,” then luxuriate in the power of declining an offer that’s not worth your time and effort. Put a resolute foot down, look the potential client in the eye, and say, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do this job for you. Here are some other people who may be able to do it.”
Having to compromise on your business and dreams would be a great tragedy.
It’s a great feeling to take complete control of your life and your work. It’s why you started investing time into what you’re currently doing in the first place, right?
Do everything you can to ensure your dreams become your reality, even if it means saying “no.”
Keep it up, cats.