top of page
  • Writer's pictureFootprints

Why Saying No Is Stronger Than Saying Yes

It’s tempting, particularly at the beginning but always when you’re smaller, to take on any client that takes an interest in you. It’s way easier said than done but sometimes, it's better for your business to say thank you but no thank you.

There are many reasons to go with a new client, and a new client doesn’t even have to be especially big to be tempting. It could be that it’s your first or second client or a quick fix in a quiet patch or a really easy project. However, whether it’s a small case or a big growth prospect, sometimes saying no is better than yes.

Here's why.

There are 4 main reasons:

  1. Reputation

  2. Frustration and lengthy hours

  3. Risk of relying on one client

  4. Damage to scalability

Let’s tackle each of them.


You started out for a reason. If this tempting client doesn’t fit into that reasoning, why would you accept them as a client? Sure, you could be making a bit of money in the short term because the project is easy. Or you could just be bringing on your first client so you drop your prices. Or maybe, if it’s a big client, you can leverage its status for your own advantage in the future.

Sure, you could do this but you will quickly lose your way.

Why This Could Damage Your Reputation

It’ll become difficult for outsiders and prospects to understand what you do, what you offer or what your specialism is. It’ll be hard to decipher you from the competition and how what you’re offering is better, other than being cheaper?

It’s vital you hold on to the reason you started in the first place, understand why you’re doing, what you’re doing and what you stand for. Without it, you’re no different from anyone else and the value you set out to bring to your customers will erode from beneath you. You’ve seen Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, right? Almost every single restaurant owner has lost their way not sticking to their values in the first place and as a result, standards, service and the business slip.


Now when I say “lengthy hours” I don’t mean it in a sense where you’re working really hard positively. I mean it in a way where you’re working all hours inefficiently. Suddenly you are finding yourself doing menial tasks that are a waste of your expertise or you’re dealing with a customer who is paying you minimally but taking up a lot of your time. That is not efficient and can get highly frustrating.

Why It Doesn't Pay

You also don’t need to be paid minimally for your time to be corroded. You could be servicing a huge client that is paying you well but the hours aren’t adding up. Does the sum of the hours reduce the value you’re being paid? Perhaps your other clients are suffering because you’re spending too much time on one? Are you at capacity and it’s becoming detrimental to take on anymore because you won’t be able to give all your clients the full attention they deserve? If yes, say no.


If you take on a big client that seems tempting and ply all your energies into it, you need to ask yourself two questions. 1) is this sustainable? And 2) if they left would the company collapse? These are the main problems with taking on a hugely tempting client that doesn’t fit into your business model or values. You put all your energies into one place so there is no room for anything else. You start working in your business with no time to work on your business and that is damaging in the long run.

If you are relying on one source of income and they leave (which they absolutely could at any point - you need them more than they need you at this point) what do you do? You’ve got to be one step ahead in this game to survive.


This might not be something particularly important at the beginning of your startup journey but it should be something you’re thinking about. No one starts a business to stay in the same place. Everyone looks to grow, whatever that means to your particular venture. If you take on a tempting client at the expense of this, trouble starts to brew on the horizon.

The Gradual Slip

You rely too heavily on the input of this one client, then you start changing your technology, your procedures, your processes to appease this one client but to the detriment of your other clients. This is different to creating a bespoke service - where the values and processes are still the same it’s just more flexible to its users - this is changing your business to become a glorified department for one company. Once you start down this road, it’s difficult to turn off it.

It might seem tempting, particularly if it’s a big client, because you get blinded by the shiny opportunities presented on the table but beware of that double edged sword. By accepting their terms and dancing to their tune, you are acquiescing to becoming the weaker partner. You are accepting that you hold less value than they do.

Equally if you take that quick client and you are the dominant party, it can also bring its own problems with expectations, frustrations and reputation.

What is needed is balance.

Getting The Balance Right

It is important to know your value and to not apologise for it. That might mean that someone cannot afford your services, or that they are not quite in the right place for it. It also means recognising that you have something to offer and knowing that even if they are bigger, the service you are offering is as important to their needs, as their status is to you.

Always, it is about balance and value, and to maintain it, sometimes it is better to say no.

Have you ever said no to a client? Have you ever said yes and wished you hadn’t? Thoughts, tips and experience in the comments!

29 views0 comments


bottom of page