Just Say No

For the first few years of my business, my default answer to most ANY request – requests for favors, free advice, “picking my brain,” meeting for coffee, unpaid seminars, writing proposals, “exploring potential synergies” or partnering on new projects – was “YES.” I was a “yes” MACHINE.


All those yeses got me into trouble. First off, I ran myself ragged – oftentimes for people and projects that wasted my time and didn’t pay. At one point I was working 90 and 100-hour weeks – without much to show for it. Second, I had far less time and energy to spend on the clients that DID value my time and WERE paying for the privilege of working with me.

Something had to give. I was forced (thank goodness!) to put systems in place to protect my time.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this challenge, so I’ve put together a few of the processes my team and I have implemented, perhaps they’ll inspire you:

  • First and foremost, I switched my default answer from “yes” to “no.” This doesn’t mean that I don’t take on new opportunities, meet new people or embark on new projects, but it does mean that I’m muuuuuch more discerning about how and who with.
  • If a substantial request is and I’m leaning towards “yes,” I instead say “let me think about it and get back to you tomorrow.” This technique buys me the time I need to evaluate the opportunity (because some requests DO merit a big, fat “yes”) and, when appropriate, to formulate a thoughtful, and respectful (yet FIRM) “no”.
The Media Kit that saves us from spinning our wheels…
  • Rather than meeting with and sending proposals to all whoexpress interest in working with me (the “old” way), we now use a media kit so potential clients can see what we offer and decide if they want to move forward. Showing price up front filters out those who aren’t serious or whose budgets are unrealistic.
  • Have you met Toma yet? I’ve hired her to manage my calendar and ensure that important meetings and client work get scheduled. Delegating this simple task has released HOURS every week to allow me to focus on what’s really important.
  • I set aside one whole day a week to do exploratory phone calls with people and prospects. This limits the amount of time I spend on potential time-wasters.
  • I no longer work for free. Period. And I’m much more willing to let business “walk away” because I know that the space that remains will be filled with activities that bring real value to our bottom line.
  • I get so many requests for one-on-one meetings with people I really want to connect with – but I just don’t have enough time. So now I invite them to a small group lunch (max 8 people) that I host every month. If they come, GREAT, we chat and get to know each other, and if they don’t, well then I figure they weren’t that interested in the first place.

The upside since implementing the above?

Way better clients, way cooler projects and waaaay more free time for FUN. I actually have a LIFE!!

Plus now I have quality time to spend on the clients that really deserve it. Just one example is GKIC who I just came back from visiting in Chicago (with Badass Business Woman Jessica Kizorek). You’ll be hearing more about that project for SURE.


Remember: Just say NO!!
Who loves you?

Michelle Villalobos






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