Why You Should Say “No” More Often

Opportunity knocks on your door every day - open it.A few weeks ago, I was approached about a web design project. I’m not sure why as I am not skilled with web design nor do I promote myself as a web designer. I am a writing coach, writer, poet, and artist, not a web designer. Yes, I tinker with my site, and I dabble with HTML and CSS, but neither of those things make me a web designer. They only make me realize how inadequate my web language skills (Not my coding skills as I consider coding to be the realm of Ruby on Rails and C++.) are.

A former version of myself might have tried to figure out how to accept the web design project. That version was naive and desperate for work of any sort. The person I now am refuses to take work that is not within my frame of reference or that does not contribute to what I’m trying to build at Write Right. As a result, I declined the project and sent the person to someone I hoped could help her.

That wasn’t the only result; two days later, I was asked to help tell the story of The Pineapple Project, an in-progress mobile- and web-based application that will help determine the best tropical crops to grow in certain regions of third-world countries. My responsibility, if I accepted it, was to turn what the developers were doing into something relatable and intelligible, unlike the binary code with which they were working. Although it was an unpaid and short-term writing project (one full weekend for the time being), it fit within my parameters as a person and as a business owner. The desire to tell a story? Check. Service-oriented? Check that, too. I accepted the project, then I laughed. The reason I could say “yes” was that I had said “no.”

Have you found that saying “no” sometimes leads to bigger and better opportunities?

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0)


  1. I’m sure that it has, but we (now) tend to pick and choose the projects that come our way because we see that our time has value;  and some projects aren’t worth your time or your value.

    • DustBunnyMafia It does become easier to say “no” to projects when you have a better understanding of yourself and your skills and talents.

  2. Yes.

  3. timbo1973 Haha! Two years olds are infamous for that word. That one and “mine.”
    I’m glad you had a clear sense of direction and were able to withstand the questioning. Staying strong is hard work.

  4. Totally!
    Desperation results in delivering yeses too often. And I would say that not only is there the opportunity cost to using it too much and too soon, others can smell it a mile away. Which then leads to more desperation, more yeses, and more….

    • garrystafford “Yes” can become a vicious cycle. I’ve grown up a lot since beginning this entrepreneur adventure almost three years ago. 🙂

  5. Sometimes it makes sense to “stretch” a little and try to expand what we do because it complements what we do, but not always.
    No is a powerful word and it should used more frequently than it is, or so my experience has taught me.

    • thejoshuawilner I’m all for stretching and growing. I think that’s part of the reason my comics continue to get more complicated and why I continue to work on secret projects. 🙂 Like you, though, my experience has warned me away from saying “yes” despite how hard it can be to refuse a project either because you know the person or because it sounds lucrative.
      Web design isn’t a path I should pursue. It’s a responsibility to take on the title “web designer.” Many people do, and they’re hacks. They know how to use Dreamweaver and other, similar programs. They don’t actually know how to code, and that’s what I would require of myself before stating I could design a website. Rant concluded.

  6. Thanks for informative post….Yes! I do agree with your points!