If you’re motivated by productivity like I am, you know how hard it is to say no to new projects. Over the past few years, I’ve learned to acknowledge the value of my talents, my time and I’ve been able to identify what’s most important to me: social impact, adding value to my network, challenging myself and maintaining relationships.

Those priorities and values, helped me establish ground rules, prioritize and allow myself the option of declining an offer or request. As a Consultant, I’ve established the following ground rules:

  1. Defining a monetary value: Set an hourly rate [or project estimate] and calculate accordingly before any negotiations /considerations take place.
  2. Defining personal value: Potential client project should always be a possible portfolio piece.
  3. Accepting a Challenge: Calculate how much time the whole project will take, how much there is to learn during the process and add to the wheelhouse and then compare to profit. What is the opportunity cost?
  4. Social Impact: Not every project has to result in social impact, but I like to balance it out. One project a month resulting in social impact is my baseline.

Now, after you’ve done that for yourself – the world opens up quite a bit, and you have the choice to be selective in taking on a new client. Managing capacity is everything when it comes to being a consultant. So here are a few questions to ask yourself when you find yourself overwhelmed with all the things you’ve committed to.

  1. Why did I agree to this?
  2. Does the cause/project hold particular importance to my personal mission or beliefs?
  3. Is this a favor for a friend?
  4. What value am I adding to my repertoire and how much value can I add to this person’s mission?
  5. Do I need the money?

I used to find myself accepting project requests simply because I was flattered by the opportunity. One part of me is constantly telling myself

“I’m not qualified, there is someone better for the job”…. blah blah blah

I didn’t want that kind of pressure when seeking something out. So instead, when someone came to me, my ego received a boost and I was quick to say yes – even if the project was not the right one for me.

You’ve been there? Yeah – I figured. So let’s review.

What happens when you say yes to a project that doesn’t check the boxes? Usually, you lose motivation! You put that one project off until the last minute, it looms over your head and you’re reluctant to finish it, because it doesn’t align with your personal mission, it’s not adding value and you probably don’t need the money. Not only will this feel like a mistake for you, but it may mean you’re offering less than your best for your client.


If this is where you often find yourself – stop and do as follows:

  1. Make a list of your hard skills: graphic design, photography, videography, copywriting, research, etc.
  2. Make a list of your soft skills: communication, negotiation, listening, storytelling, adaptability, resourcefulness, delegation, decision making, enthusiasm, etc.
  3. Make a list of those talents you know are valuable for your career that you still may be insecure about…

Now let that remind you of your value. You are capable of doing so many things that you certainly don’t need constant validation.

It’s all about confidence now. Are you a “fake it til ya make it” type of person? Most days, I am too! Whatever the trick is for you, just make yourself believe it.

You. Are. Qualified. You. Are. Valuable.

The next time a project comes up that you are wavering on, take yourself through this process. Align your priorities from the start and instead of saying yes, kindly decline.

Now, how exactly does one say no? This is the tricky part of a lot of us, as we haven’t practiced what it means to politely decline. Here are a few recommended steps to saying no.

  1. If you haven’t already had a meeting or a conversation about the project and the client has been pushing for it, set something up! You don’t want to waste your time or theirs, but you should allow them the same attention as any other person.
  2. Challenge yourself by building your confidence and telling them no during the meeting. Kindly say the project does not quite fit in the scope of your services, or you’re close to/at capacity on projects.
  3. If you don’t feel equipped with the confidence, you can kindly decline via email or a phone call. [I would urge you to decline in person if at all possible. There is so much more to learn with face-to-face interaction!]
  4. Make sure they leave feeling great! Thank them for considering your agency and offer to connect them with one of your contacts who may truly enjoy the project or have more to offer.

And with that, you are onto search for your next inspired, well-paid and meaningful project – because that is what you are doing this all for, right?

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Dog mom, golfer and trivia-addict, this Westmont Alumna is constantly searching for what she can learn next. Erin is a hard worker who believes you should never want to be a master of just one thing, but able to be a worthy participant in just about everything. That may explain why she always has her hands on so many projects at once. Currently, Erin is the Director of Communications at a small design agency in Santa Barbara. On the side she produces content [graphics, photo, video and copywriting] for a startup in town as well as for a few of her close friends who are pursuing their own entrepreneurial endeavors. Community, challenge and generosity are some of the pillars of Erin’s life. She finds herself restless in the “bottom-line” world and is seeking out partners striving for the double-bottom-line. While patiently scanning the DBL landscape, Erin is building content for her blog platform ‘Soft Pretzels & Sarcasm’ and is pursuing web programming and development as the next addition to her arsenal.


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