The One Word Self-Starters Need to Say More Often

This year, I’m focused on being more intentional about my bandwidth, saying “no” to the projects that don’t serve my business and saying “yes” to a healthier work-life balance. While I never want to lose my enthusiastic, “happy to help” attitude, I’m quickly learning how empowering a simple “no” can be.

Of course, saying “no” to an opportunity that doesn’t serve you or your business is easier said than done. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Janel Abrahami. As a career coach, Janel understands how powerful “no” can be.

“When you know an opportunity isn’t a good fit, you’ll face some discomfort whether you turn it down or not,” she explains. “You’ll either have a somewhat-unpleasant conversation upfront when you decline the opportunity or you’ll have an uncomfortable experience when you’re spending your precious time and energy on something that’s not worth it to you. Which situation would you rather be in?”

To help, Janel is sharing her tips to saying “no” like a boss.

Know Your Worth

As your own boss, you’re constantly looking for the next opportunity, the next big project, and (let’s be honest) the next big paycheck. So, it can be really hard to pass up a paycheck that landed in your lap. However, Janel says it’s important to think long and hard about what an opportunity can do for you and your business.

“The two questions I ask myself in these moments are: ‘Does this fulfill my purpose?’ and ‘Would I be proud to have my name on this?’” Janel explains. “If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ that’s a significant gut-check.”

When I take on new work, I try to make sure the assignment falls into at least one of three buckets: It’s a story I’m excited to write, I’m contributing to an outlet I love, or it’s a great paycheck. While most of my projects fall into more than one bucket, I’m challenging myself to decline the opportunities that don’t make the cut.

Keep It Classy

Just because a project isn’t the right fit for you doesn’t mean you have to give your almost-client the cold shoulder. When you’re your own boss, you know that change is inevitable, so you don’t want to burn that bridge! (After all, the person who offered you that not-quite-right opportunity might wind up working for a company that’s up your alley!)

“We’re all doing our best, and it probably took some guts for someone to reach out to you in the first place,” Janel says. “Decline with grace. Another important reminder: You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why something isn’t right for you! Try something like, ‘Thank you for considering me for this! I don’t think this project is a strong fit for my business, but do stay in touch in case there’s another way we can collaborate in the future.’”

That way, you’ll get your point across without sounding like a jerk.

Hold Your Ground

The biggest mistake you can make when declining an opportunity that doesn’t suit you? Going back on your word.

“Many of us have people-pleasing tendencies that can get us into trouble when we start faltering on our ‘no,’” Janel says. “I get it. I’ve done it and spent the better part of a year paying for that moment when I said ‘yes’ when I really meant ‘no.’”

Chances are, you wanted to become your own boss because you wanted to be in the driver’s seat of your own life. You wanted to create a meaningful life and career. And, you wanted to have a say in how you spend your days. When you take on opportunities just to please someone else, you’re going against everything that’s so amazing about being your own boss. If you want to shed your people-pleasing ways, try saying no to smaller tasks without feeling pressured to explain your reasoning to anyone.

Good Things Are On The Way

One of the trickiest parts about saying no to an opportunity is not knowing what’s next for your business. Most self-starters live paycheck to paycheck, so it can be nerve-wracking to say no to a paying assignment. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit uneasy declining three opportunities this month alone.) That said, remember you have unlimited options when you’re your own boss. In fact, it’s possible another opportunity is just around the corner. And, when the right one comes along, you’ll be happy to take on the work.

“It helps to remember that you’re freeing yourself up to say,‘HELL YES,’” says Janel.

A special thanks to Janel for such an important and inspiring conversation. You can give Janel some love by following her on Instagram and subscribing to her newsletter, The Audacity.

Hustler of the Week: Dania Ahmad

Congratulations on Good Word! What inspired you to create your own firm?

Thank you! I would say it was a bit of a slow burn. Certain people in my life had been encouraging me for some time to consider striking out on my own. It took me a long time to feel truly ready to take on the challenge.

The crazy thing was when I decided it was time to try my own thing, I was pregnant with my second child, had a toddler, and the country was still very much in the midst of a recession. But, I guess it wasn’t that crazy if I think about it; isn’t that how many women are ultimately able to have both a family and career?

My husband and I decided that we would be moving out of Brooklyn and going to Greenport on the North Fork to help with a family business. I honestly didn’t think I would start a company. I thought I’d just freelance, work with my family, and live by the water. Well, we lasted one summer before running right back to Brooklyn… and my freelance career quickly transitioned into a business.

What is your favorite part about being your own boss? Least favorite?

My least favorite part is the admin work: Bookkeeping, IT, dealing with disappearing calendar invites, and more. I definitely hate having to worry about those things. Oh, and proposals! I HATE writing proposals! There are many favorite parts: My team, my clients, and seeing how our work directly impacts our clients’ businesses, to name a few.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming your own boss?

Always tell and show people how much you appreciate them. Acknowledge the mistakes, think about how you would do things better next time, and then move on. Don’t stop thinking about your next move and how to do better. Be creative, but also authentic about growing your business. Also, know your value and don’t underestimate how much your expertise is worth. Haha, I guess that’s five lessons.

Give Dania some love by following Good Word on Instagram and checking out her services!

(Psst…like what you see? You can subscribe to “Office Hours with Kelsey Mulvey” here.)




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