Inspiration - Say No

The Most Important Word You Can Learn As A Digital Nomad: No

It’s been a wild ride since 2020. As a digital nomad working in tech and research, I’ve been bored, busy, stressed, and at the same time aching for more work. In short, a rollercoaster of business emotions.

In 2021 as my business picked up in speed during the summer months, I noticed the stress also going up. More work = more stress. Of course. But it wasn’t because I was working more, it was because I was working for the wrong clients.

Why was I working for the wrong clients? Simple: money. Right?

Wrong. I was working for them because I didn’t ask the right questions to vet them at the start. When the work initially started, I noticed that they pushed for more and more. Things outside of my initial scope of work. Since it was a fixed contract and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, I tried to make it work. (Error #1).

I already felt tired with the project, but the client asked for more. I’d probably already done enough to be worth at least 5 times what I had been paid, but something wouldn’t let me say no. So yes, I took on the client’s next project and didn’t ask enough questions at the start (Error #2).

After going way past the scope again, the client asked for one more project to automate another piece of his business. I’m not a glutton for punishment, and luckily I had learned a very important lesson.

Even if the client paid me what I thought it was worth, I would still say no.

The Power of Saying No

It’s tough to say no as a digital nomad, but it’s necessary. We really do only have so much time in the day, and when you put your energy on things that drag you down, your mind closes off from your full potential. You lose focus. You get negative. You lose the power to say “yes” to other things.

No is great. Yes, it does cost you money at the start. That’s the biggest loss here, and no one likes to give up cash. However, think of what you could do with that time.

What “No” Can Do For You

Instead of saying “yes” to this bad project just for money, say no. Even if you’re losing money, use that time to do things like…

  • Reaching out to your network for opportunities
  • Reflecting on yourself and your business
  • Scoping out your business strategy
  • Relaxing! Take some time off you filthy workaholic!

Do anything but say “yes” to a client who doesn’t appear to be valuing your work at the start. No opens you up to a world of possibilities, less stress, and feeling valued for your work. No saves you. Yes, will drag you into the pit of despair…’t help a Princess Bride joke.

How to Know If I Should Say No

Here are some questions to ask your clients to figure out if no is the proper response:

Q1: How much value (cost/time savings) will this have to your business?

If they truly believe in the project and value it, they will have a high value here. If you feel comfortable enough, price your services around this value by leaving some value for the client on top.

Q2: How high of a priority is this project for you?

If they say “not much” or “it’s on the back burner”, beware. They might not value your work because they don’t value the project.

Q3: My billing rate is ($XX/hour), and I think this project will take (XX hours). Would you be willing to put down a 30% deposit?

This is a biggy! If they wince at your price or deposit, beware (or… time to rethink your business strategy!) If they ask for a discount that is 30%+, don’t think for a second that this might lead to future business. If they don’t value your services now, they probably won’t in the future. If they ask for an “everything included” fee, make sure that it’s PLENTY in case of extra work. Sometimes a client does need a bit of a discount, and that’s okay. However, don’t break yourself to save your client money while you feel undervalued. If they’re way beneath you’re planned fee, don’t go down. Find another client. Just say no.

Don’t look at the lost (little) money. Look at your opportunities and sanity! 😀

TL;DR — So no to bad projects/clients, even if it costs you money.

Ask good questions before taking on projects. Make sure your prospective client will value your work. Don’t underprice yourself to make a client happy.

Value yourself. Learn to say no. Say it when you feel it, and your business will prosper.