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‘No’ Is My Favorite Word…

"A lot can be gained from turning down the wrong client." – Stefanie Flaxman

On your own, without any way to gauge whether or not your ideas are practical or wise, you might get carried away with your creativity.

That’s why the word “no” is an essential part of the professional creative life.

Hearing it helps me incorporate another perspective into my vision. I actually like hearing it so much that I consider it my favorite word.

If your client, editor, or boss says “no” to something you want to create:

  1. It’s an opportunity to trust someone else’s decision, rather than blindly believe the best option is what you want to do.
  2. It teaches patience because perhaps you’re not yet ready for what you think you want to do.
  3. It allows you to improve your work and find a new, more appropriate way to execute your idea.

“No” might not be your favorite word, but if your business offers services, adding it to your vocabulary when selecting clients is an advanced, killer move.

A lot can be gained from turning down the wrong client, and those benefits trickle in when you treat your own business as a client instead.

Traits of “the wrong client” vary

When you start your service business, most of the time any client is a “good client.” But over time some relationships may become outdated.

One easy way to figure that out is if you wouldn’t want to take on a new client with the same type of work, pay rate, or contract.

If you aren’t able to negotiate improvements to the factors that are currently unsatisfying, you’re stuck with a crappy client and ultimately have less time to attract new prospects who are a better fit.

And if you are taking on new clients with the same type of work, pay rate, and contract — even though you don’t want to — it’s possibly a good time to start saying “no” more often.

Here are three activities to try after using the word “no” and adding your own business to your client roster.

1. Learn a new skill that could help a client you love

"Writing is solitary work, but professional writers know publishing is collaborative." – Stefanie Flaxman

Getting to know your audience better is never a waste of time.

What can you learn that your audience needs help with?

For example, when I had my own writing and editing service, I treated it like a client and once invested time in learning how to write a nonfiction book proposal.

I set aside time to learn that process just like I set aside time to deliver other client work.

Months after I put together a full proposal (complete with a sample chapter) for practice, a client I loved working with told me that a literary agent requested a book proposal from her but she had no idea where to start or how to write one.

When she then asked if I could help her, I was able to say “yes” confidently.

2. Become a better researcher

"Don’t look for what you need at a place that doesn’t have it." – Stefanie Flaxman

When you have a full client load to handle, it’s challenging to stay on top of the latest marketing trends and techniques.

And you don’t always need to … because a lot of them can be distractions.

It’s critical that you read the right publications and ditch the ones that don’t provide value.

In addition to prioritizing your marketing education, value also comes in the form of developing a specialty that makes your marketing more specific.

If you’re a subject matter expert, you’ll be able to provide the details that show you’re a match for your ideal client’s needs.

3. Sharpen your writing and editing skills

"If it’s not memorable, it’s not working." – Stefanie Flaxman

In Kelton Reid’s most recent article on Copyblogger, he referenced “Want to be an artist? Watch Groundhog Day” by Austin Kleon.

I told Kelton that Kleon’s article was a “drop-the-microphone” moment for me about an artistic life. It completely encapsulates it.

No matter how proud you are of something you created, there’s always more to build the next day. And you have to get used to that in order to thrive in a creative profession.

When you reach professional status as an artist, you don’t stop practicing, so choosing yourself as a client gives you time to look at your content with a more critical eye.

Stronger writing and editing skills will benefit your own marketing and the materials you produce for “official” clients.

Your business has been one of your clients all along

"Transform your writing services into a dynamic business." – Stefanie Flaxman

You’ve likely always treated your own business as a client in some way.

But if you’re only attracting low-paying, time-consuming clients you don’t like, you might need to fit sessions for your own marketing into your schedule more often.

Have you ever chosen yourself over a client that wasn’t the right fit? What did the extra time allow you to achieve?

And, of course …

What’s your favorite word?

If you have a favorite word, feel free to share it and explain why in the comments below. 🙂


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