Learning To Say "No"

Sometimes you need to say 'No' before a job even starts! 

Sometimes you need to say 'No' before a job even starts! 

Saying No To Freelance Clients

As a freelancer, one of the first things you need to learn is when to say ‘No’ to a prospective client. When I started, I said yes to nearly everyone. They want to give me money, right? Why would I turn down cold hard cash? When you are cash strapped, saying no seems counter intutitive. But there are good reasons to say no. 

Because sometimes it is just not worth it – for you or the client.

You have limited time, so do not let a less than awesome client take up time you could be spending on learning or landing ideal clients. 

Start by being honest when discussing a job. If you don’t have time, say so. “Hey, I really don’t think I will be able to give you the level of commitment you need right now, and I don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver.” Clients appreciate honesty, and may come back to hire you later. And, I think it’s just good business.

So, what clients should you say no to before they even hire you? Here are a few. 

When They Don't Know What They Need

They want you to manage their Facebook page, no their client’s Facebook page, on second thought, could you just build a list of packages to offer their clients? And the list goes on. This client may be a good fit later, when they know what they want. Or, they may not ever figure out what they need.   

Either way, taking on a client who isn't clear on their needs will just end up eating up your time. It is very difficult to give a client what they want when they don’t even know. Back away slowly.

The Job Is Not A Good Fit For Your Skills

This is where the honesty bit comes in again. There is a difference between a skill you are confident you can learn and taking on a job you have no clue how to do. Facebook? I got you covered. Writing, editing? On it. PPC? Not so much. I know about PPC. I can have an intelligent conversation about PPC. But manage your PPC account? That isn’t a skill I can learn over night, and I wouldn’t take the job.

If I did, I would just end up floundering around, making mistakes, and pissing off my client. It isn’t fair.

So, be upfront and honest about your abilities. Instead, steer them towards someone who can do the job. Your client will appreciate it, and you build up a little referral karma. Win, win.

They Complain About Past Hires

If they have hired multiple people and fired them all, that is a pretty good indication they won’t be happy with anyone. While there is a chance they hired complete idiots in the past, it is more likely that they are the problem.

It’s kinda like dating a person who swears all of their exes were bat crazy. There is usually a reason why past people didn’t work out. It is not you, it’s them.

When Their Approach Won’t Work

I am totally down with trying new approaches, but some things just don’t work well. If I know that and take the job anyways I end up wasting my time and having an annoyed client on my hands.(And can result in a client who doesn’t want to pay.)

For example, I have worked with clients who want to only post about specials on their business Facebook page. But engagement is a key component of being successful on Facebook, and just posting about your business isn't going to work. If I can't educate the client, then I turn the job down. 

It isn't worth my time, and I won't let them waste money on an approach that won't work. 

When They Aren't Your Ideal Client 

When you first start, you may take on clients that don't excite you. You may take on jobs that pay the bills but don't really help you move your career forward. And that is okay. But, as you grow and get experience, you need to learn to say no to clients whose jobs don't excite you. 

Slowly, you will start to curate your client list to only include work that makes you happy. And that is one of the most beautiful things about being your own boss. 

Final Thoughts

Part of becoming your own boss means learning when to say no. It isn’t always easy, but it will allow you to build better relationships with clients and use your time more efficiently. And, less headaches. That’s good too.

When you are just starting out, you might say yes to some less than perfect clients, but as you grow and learn to recognize the red flags, you need to learn when to say no. 

Thoughts? Any other red flags you avoid when taking on clients?


6 Tips For Coming Up With More Content Ideas

You already know content is a big deal. Creating high-quality content is a vital way to engage, educate, and connect with current or future clients and customers. But ideas are pesky little things, and seem to be the area where most people seem to struggle. 

"I am just not creative." 

"I don't know what to write about!" 

"I only write when I have a really good idea." (which means you don't write much at all) 

Sound like you? I totally get it. 

I think it is time to change the conversation around where ideas come from. Ideas aren't magic. They don't come from some fickle muse. They are around you, all the time. They are waiting ot be uncovered in customer complaints, in staff meetings, in sales calls, and on social. 

Coming up with ideas for great content is more about recognizing when those ideas present themselves than it is about being creative. 

Here are ten tips for coming up with more content ideas. 

1. Listen 

Pay attention to the questions your customers ask you, and write content that answers those questions. Let's say you are a social media manager who works with small businesses, particularly restaurants. You probably get a lot of questions about what platforms they should be on, or whether being on Facebook is really necessary. 

Write articles, eBooks, white papers, or produce webinars to answer those questions! 

The benefits here are two-fold. First, you are educating your customers, hopefully before they even come to you. This means the customers who come through your website will already know that Facebook is going to help their business. (Time saved!) Second, you are positioning yourself as a leader in the social marketing field who knows what they are talking about, which builds trust. 

2. Expand 

Not all ideas have to be new! Taking content you already produced and reworking it into a different format or a taking it from a slightly different angle is a fantastic way to get the most bang for your buck. 

Let's look at an example. Say you are a life coach who publishes a weekly podcast and last week's topic was about using time more effectively. Can you turn that podcast into a blog post? Can you tweak it a little bit and write a post titled "10 Tools to Work More Effectively" or "10 Tricks to Work Smarter Not Harder"? 

Writing content loosely based on other content also gives you the opportunity to link back to the original piece in an organic way. 

3. Use Tools 

As I said before, ideas aren't magic. They require work. Tools are a great way to shake the ideas that are already rolling around in your head loose. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Buzzsumo: This tool analyzes what type of content is the most popular for specific topics or even your competitors. Just type in a topic and you will see what content people are sharing the most. 

For this I typed in content ideas. Turns out it is a pretty popular topic! 



Portent's Idea Generator: This is an awesome tool that generates quirky titles based on whatever topic you give it. It is super easy to use and will generate topics over and over again if you hit the refresh button. 

HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator: This fancy tool gives you a full week of content ideas. All you have to do is enter in three nouns and it goes to work. I typed in "content", "ideas", and "writing". They might need a little tweaking, but it is a fantastic starting point. 



4. Put It on The Calendar 

When I say that coming up with good ideas is work, I mean it! Just like any other skill, you need to make time for it. Flexing your idea-muscles on the regular is the best way to build up a supply of ideas so you are ready to go when you need a new blog, want to try out a platform like Medium, or get tapped to write for a place like Inc.com or Entrepreneur. 

5. Make It A Team Affair 

Brain storming session can be a treasure trove of really great ideas - if they are planned correctly. I recommend limiting the number of participants to three or four at the most and paying attention to the dynamics.

For example, if you put a bunch of middle management folks in with the Director of Marketing, the lower ranking folks might not feel comfortable throwing out ideas that aren't completely formed.

And I fully believe coming up with really terrible ideas is part of the process. 

6. Look in Google Analytics 

Dig into your metrics and look at the most popular pages on your site. Can you expound on that topic? Could you update a really popular post? Are posts about social media getting tons of traffic? Maybe you should be creating more content about it - you already know your audience is into it. 


For many, coming up with ideas is the hardest part of the content creation process. But it doesn't have to be. Stop waiting for your muse to show up and start putting in the work to come up with great ideas all on your own. I suspect you will find it is easier than you expect.