How to say "No" to your clients

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When we start our business, the first thing we should be looking for is clients.

A business isn’t a business without clients, right? You need to start earning money.

At this stage of our business we can be really eager to please. We want to hang on to the clients we’ve managed to get and so when they ask more of us, in terms of “can you just…” we often answer “yes!”

This can feel amazing. We feel valued and respected; our business is highly regarded. It’s funny, we often say “yes” to things we don’t want to do in order to keep our clients happy – they’ve asked, so we will deliver. Or we say “yes” to things we don’t know how to do – it’s fine, we’ll learn. The latter is ok if it’s something you want to do in business, it may be a great opportunity to learn. But what if it’s something you don’t want to incorporate into your business?

Ask yourself – what do you or have you said “yes” to? I’m sure you have one or two examples; I know I have!

In one way, you feel it’s ok to say “yes” in the early days – you plan to put a stop to it once your business grows – you’ll have more ideal clients and you’ll be doing the work that you love, so you won’t have time to do these extra tasks. But what you find is that these clients keep on asking you to do more and more, suddenly you’re falling out of love with your work, your clients aren’t what you initially hoped they’d be – they’re asking you to do all sorts and as a result, you’re not finding time to market your business to these ideal clients you’d hoped for – instead, your business is looking less than ideal… help!

It won’t surprise you to hear that you need to put boundaries in place from the very start of your business. Your business, your rules. You are not employed by your clients – you are allowed to say “NO”.

Here are some steps. Take these steps and you will feel empowered to say “NO” (or “no, thank you very much” if you prefer!)

Identify your offer

Literally what it says on the tin –

  • what is your offer?

  • what are your skills?

  • what are you great at?

  • what do you love to do?

Importantly here – what work won’t you do with them?

It’s really useful to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be bashful about identifying your strengths – this is what you’ll be marketing and selling to potential clients – and if you know you’re no good at something, don’t offer it – and don’t agree to doing it if a client asks. Be very clear here what your offer is and what it isn’t.

For me, I’m very clearly a business coach – I’m not a life coach, I’m not a money coach, I’m not an energy coach – you get the picture. 

Action: write 2 lists: What I do; What I don’t do.

Identify your Ideal Client

I know, I talk about this all the time – but…

You need to be aware of the type of person you want to work with. Normally, they align with your own values (do you know what your own values are?). Working with the type of client you like makes working with others SO much easier. 

Action: define your type.

If you need help with this, you can download my ideal client workbook here.

You may not know if someone who contacts you on social media is your type but you can find out more about them via a conversation. We often get a feel for people – this is where first impressions really do matter.

If you do end up working with someone who isn’t your ideal client and you don’t like working with them, don’t be afraid to work out how to let them go.

Define your working boundaries

I see so often boundaries being stretched, if in place at all. Working boundaries are so important. If you’re working with a client, then you should do so with mutual respect.

It’s a great idea to set out your boundaries in your terms and conditions. Have your client sign up to these at the start of your working relationship.

Your boundaries might include

  • your working hours;

  • how you like to be contacted;

  • how long it will take you to respond to communication;

  • the tasks you will undertake for the client;

  • an understanding that additional (out of scope) tasks must be agreed and not sprung upon you;

  • your rate of pay;

  • your rate of pay for urgent tasks; etc.

Action: define your boundaries.

Define your responses to client demands

If you don’t mind saying “yes” to additional work, as your business grows and you get busier, you will need to have an understanding with your clients about whether or not you can actually take on this additional work.  

Sometimes, it can be beneficial to write out a script so that you can easily tackle what could be an awkward moment when the time comes. You may need to say, “at the present time, I’m at capacity and cannot take on any more work, however in X weeks I will have time available to do this for you.”

Or, you could agree a higher price for urgent work – work that needs to be turned around in a short amount of time. Yes, you’re able to take it on but as it will mean working hours outside of your general business hours, you will need to charge £X above your normal rate

Or, you can say “no, I’m currently at capacity”, or “no, with regret, this isn’t part of my business remit.”

Action: what responses can you define now to help you out in the future?


I understand it can be scary to say “no”! But if you keep on saying “yes”, what damage will that do to you and your business? 

If this is something you feel you need help to achieve, then please get in touch, I’d be delighted to help you set these boundaries so that you can completely enjoy the work you do for clients who are truly aligned to you and appreciate your hard efforts.

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Hi, I’m Fay!

I’m a business coach and adviser and I’m here to help you grow your business with clarity and confidence.

I’ve worked with business owners just like you for over 20 years.

I know that you started your business for flexibility and satisfaction and to live your purpose. You have a fabulous business idea that your ideal clients should love.

But you’re frustrated becuase it now feels daunting and overwhelming - there’s so much to do and you’re just not sure if all these things you’re doing are the right things.

I do know how you feel, and I’d love to take you from this confusion to creating a clear direction to develop the business you’ve always had in mind.

If you’d like to chat about how I can help your business,

please click below to book your FREE call with me.