What to say instead of “no”

by Michele on April 5, 2012

An alternative to "no" for solopreneursDo people ask you to do things in your business that you don’t like doing? If you provide services, are some of your services things you’d prefer not to do? Some business coaches might tell you to stop doing them, but until you’ve got a full roster of things you’d rather be doing it might be worth taking on work you don’t love as long as you can provide excellent work that keeps customers happy. Keep in mind that I’m only suggesting this as a short-term measure while you fill your business with work and clients you love.

I often see service providers in this situation – there is a service they don’t like providing or have no passion for, but people keep requesting and are willing to pay for it. It can be hard to find a way to start saying “no” when you’ve said yes to providing the service for a long time and people expect it.

I was working with someone who is a coach herself, and we were tackling this very issue. We were revising her menu of available services, and there was just one thing she absolutely hated doing but got asked to do all the time. In her case, this was not her main work but an add-on service that she neither advertised nor announced. It was just something people asked for so she started doing it even though it drained her.

This coach had hustled hard during her first few years in business, and as a result was at the next level in her business. She had several key referral partners and kept her practice as full as she wanted it. This dilemma was a symptom of a larger adjustment that needed to be made: it was time to get out of start-up hustle mode and into the business she dreamed of.

As we talked further, what came out is that while she disliked giving this particular kind of service, her clients loved it. What I suggested was this:

Don’t say “no,” say how much.

I other words, don’t deny people that want a premium service the chance to get it, just price it in a way that honors what a stretch it is for you to provide it. Putting a premium price on a product or service you don’t like providing accomplishes two things: it decreases the number of requests for this service and it compensates you for taking on something you find difficult to deliver. My client felt strange about this shift at first, and thought nobody would pay a price that she felt good about for this service. In the end though, she decided that it was okay if just a few people or even nobody purchased at the new price.

If you have an additional service that people love but that you don’t like providing, consider offering your customers a chance to buy that special service at a premium price rather than assuming that nobody would want it at that price. The results may surprise you.

How have you handled requests for services you don’t like offering? Tell me about it in the comments.


  1. Mozette says:

    When I worked in a large insurance company as an office junior and office clerk, I became a ‘yes person’… if anyone wanted something done, I said yes first then figured out how to get it done later, no matter what it was. And believe me, some of those things became harder and harder to say no to.

    Then, one day, I had to say no; and it was the hardest thing I had ever had to do… and the person I said it to acted as though I cutting their heart out. But what asked for just was something beyond my control and beyond my power; it was managerial and not for me to answer (I don’t remember what it was about, but I did recommend they asked the boss).

    Years later, I was involved with a writer’s guild and working in the committee side of things. However, I had been demoted to only a committee member from Librarian and Fund-Raiser (yeah, we had a tough President who loved tossing her weight around). Anyway, one of the new members asked me a question she wanted me to answer and I found it hard to say no, but I did… not because the president of the writer’s guide was fuming next to me ready to scream at the person (which she was), but because I had to tell this new person that she had to talk to the president of the guild and not me. This was the hard part because the president of the guild was not a people person.

    And that’s the most difficult part of saying no to others… when you have to point them in the direction of the right people who are going to act in the wrong ways where you might be able to make things better… and those who you have to work with won’t make things work well in the first place. It’s not a good feeling.

    However, that’s another story for another time, eh?

    I have become better at saying no to people. It’s something you just have to become comfortable with… practice a little in the mirror saying… sounds silly I know, but that does work.

    1. Michele says:

      Good point Mozette – it does take practice at saying no, and sometimes we just have to do it until we feel comfortable doing it.

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