When I first started my consulting service to help other female entrepreneurs, one of the hardest things to do was say, “NO” to business opportunities.

In the beginning of your business, you’re desperate for clients and publicity. When the clients start trickling in, you’re so eager to please and to make a respectable name for your company, that you may find yourself taking on projects that you don’t have time for.

You’ll also find that there are a lot of sinister people out there – would-be clients, promoters, and other business owners – who will try to manipulate you into doing work for free. They might justify their requests saying, “I’m doing you a favor by bringing you business, so you should be willing to perform this work for free.”

Female business owners know these types well. Unfortunately our talent and worth often get condescended to and overlooked, simply because of our sex.

This is the situation I found myself in years ago: burnt out, taken advantage of, and discouraged. I didn’t have enough time for my personal life, and I certainly didn’t have enough time to manage all these projects I took on my plate.

That’s when I learned that not only is it okay to say, “NO,” but it is absolutely essential.

3 Tips For How To Say NO

Below are the top 3 tips that have helped me to learn to say “NO” as a female entrepreneur and business owner.

1. Be Polite But Firm

Just because you’re saying “no” doesn’t mean you should be rude about it. You may want to work with this client later when you have the time and space, and you don’t want to ruin that by being brusque. Even if you don’t want to work with them, you have your integrity and dignity you need to uphold.

At the same time, though, you must be firm. Don’t say, “Maybe if I have a break in my schedule, I can take on this project.” If your answer is “no,” it’s “NO.” Period.

2. Keep It Short And Sweet

You don’t need to write a long paragraph about how you don’t have time to take on this project. “No” is a two-letter word for a reason. It’s quick and easy to type, read, and speak. A simple statement such as, “No thank you, I am not able to fit this project into my schedule at this time,” is all it takes to get your point across.

3. Stick To Your Decision

Sometimes after you tell a client, “NO,” they will come back and offer you more money. Or they will send you a passive-aggressive threat, such as, “I’ll have to seek out someone else to work with if you don’t take on this project.”

If a client doesn’t accept your answer, chances are they would not be easy or fun to work with. They don’t respect you now; what are the chances that they will continue to disrespect you throughout the project? In my experience, the chance is pretty high.

Always stick to your decision. Don’t let yourself be bullied or cajoled into changing your “NO” to a meek, “Well, okay.”

Saying “NO” as a female entrepreneur is not easy. But if you want to establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with in your chosen industry, as well as carve out your own personal time and space, learning this lesson is inevitable.

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