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How to politely say “no.”

Posted by Deidre Rienzo on

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a website copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

In my last post (Did you shave your legs?) a commenter asked if I had a rejection blurb. What a good idea for this week’s post! (Thank you, Amel.) Here are my thoughts on rejection: when, why, and how to do it.

By saying yes to projects that aren’t good for you, you’re not allowing yourself to do your best work. You are simply:

• Causing yourself frustration, aggravation and upset
• Not adding to your portfolio
• Not getting the right kind of experience that supports the direction you want
• Taking time away from finding/doing the projects you do want!

I love saying yes. But now I realize that in order to say yes—the project/client/commitment has to be a good fit. If I know I can’t do my best job (because of the type of project, client, budget) saying yes would be taking two steps backwards.

Some people have a hard time saying no. But it’s better than the alternative. Here are some tips that I find helpful:

  1. Change your mind.  Do you realize that every time you say no to a client or project you don’t want—it’s because you’re saying yes to yourself and your business? It’s true.
  2. Don’t feel bad!  Somewhere along the line, saying no got associated with feelings of guilt (and you probably know what I think about feelings these days).
  3. Smile. When you smile, even bad news sounds better.
  4. Make it about them. Seriously, if you were to go ahead with this project—would this client get what they need? If you really want the best for them, let them find another creative pro. If you can recommend one who might be a good fit—that’s nice too.
  5. Be honest. Tell it like it is. This can be anything from: “I’m sorry, but I’m too busy for this project right now.” (Maybe they can do it next month?) to “I’m sorry, but I can’t get behind this type of project because I don’t support the message, and that would be unfair to you.” or “Thanks, but I’m focusing on website/branding/logo projects these days—and this project isn’t a good fit.”
  6. Be prepared. If you don’t know what to say, have a response prepared. It can be something as simple as, “Thank you for reaching out, but I don’t think I’m a good fit for this project.”

One more tip: Don’t say no without giving it some thought. In my post, Should you listen to your gut?, I talked about questioning that initial “gut” response … Make sure you’re saying no for the right reasons—and not because you’re nervous or intimidated.

How do you say no?

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