I understand that some people find it really difficult to say “No”, especially if it means turning down work. On the other hand, if you say “Yes” to everyone you leave yourself wide open to all sorts of problems.

You can soon find yourself bogged down with too many tasks to do, not able to prioritise them and ending up making a poor job of most of them. In the short term you may make plenty of money that month but longer term your clients and customers will be taking their business elsewhere.

Think about these four ways of turning away work while knowing that you are doing the right thing in the longer term:

• An existing client asks you to do “just one more small job”. You already have a heap of work on for them. Say you’d love to do the extra job but ask which of the other jobs you are doing for them it can replace as you just don’t have the time to do them all equally well.
• A client asks for your help on three or four new projects. Explain that to do them all you’d have to spread yourself pretty thin. However, you could take on one and give it your full attention and do a thorough job. Hopefully they will still give you the other work in the future.
• Say “No” straight away but, if you think you might be able to fit it in, add “but leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do”. Then if you can do the work they’ll be pleased and impressed but if you can’t they won’t be too disappointed.
• Let them down gently. Explain that, while you think it is an excellent project, you simply have too much on at the moment to be able to do it justice. Assure them that you are jealous of whoever is going to get to do the work for them.

Don’t be afraid – just say “No”.