The art of learning the assertive "no"

When you agree to try most anything, you truly do like people, and are intrigued by many projects, you may - like me - later find yourself trying to back-pedal when you realize that, once more, you should have said no.

I'm working on this in my career. As a creative freelancer, it's pretty easy to become excited when someone suggests they'd like to hire me to do x, y, or z. "Hmmmm!" I'll find myself thinking, "I never did that before!!! Could be interesting." It's the kind of thinking that got me where I am now.

There's this phrase I used to have to say to clients who wanted animated gifs jumping all over their websites...or music playing when the page loaded: "Just because we can, doesn't mean we should." These days I'm trying to remember that phase as I encounter new possible projects.

Last week I called to discuss letting one ongoing work gig go. My call was met by shock and incredulity. Turns out they looooove my work. "Of course it's my decision, but..." By the time I got off the phone, I'd agreed to table the conversation and reconsider. Sigh. There are lots of reasons I struggled to stick to my guns. But now I'm thinking we're going to have to have that talk again - only it needs to end differently.

Likewise a different project I was up 'til nearly 1 working on last night. Still not finished, still having angst because I don't know if I did everything right. But when a client declares you to be smarter than your average bear - that you can do anything and she has faith in you, it'll be fun, you're the best person for the job... yea, should have probably said no. Should be putting my energy, instead, into working on this client's website, which is how we got started in the first place! Fortunately in this case, she asked me the other day if, once we're finished with what we have going now, I'd like to do more. I confidently told her no.

There's that phrase, "baby steps," that rings in my head when I think of all the things I need to weed out of my life. I'm not so good at letting them go, and sometimes as a result it takes me a really long time to do so. But I'm taking the baby steps to get to a place in which I confidently thank someone and politely turn down their request at the beginning. Then I won't have to extract myself, later on, with all this awkwardness when I awake to discover that I am not Super Woman, after all...

**Since writing this, just getting ready to check the "publish" box, client called. She completely understands, and - in fact - said to me some of the things I needed to hear: "Now that you're concentrating more than ever on building websites, you need to be focusing on that work. Otherwise this will block everything you're trying to do!" So we're meeting in an hour, running through the last bits of what needed to be done before handing it off to the next person in the cycle, and I will be able to breathe again. And??? It's gonna' be fun to make those changes her website's been needing for so long!