This is one of my favorite topics to teach on. I’ve had the privilege of giving my signature talk, The Gentle No, at UNITED Conference, The Event with Justin & Mary, Creative At Heart Conference, and more. It is, simply put, something that sets my heart on fire!

The Gentle No by Abby Grace Photography

And I realize that may sounds strange, that I’m passionate about saying “no.” Just hear me out.

Small business owners often equate the word “no” with “negativity,” but let me be very clear: they are not the same thing.

“No” can mean boundaries, which result in freedom and the ability to love what you do even more! “Negativity” on the other hand, is a chronic lifestyle in which some people choose to live.

“No” can mean “I respect you, but I also respect myself and I know my own needs, so while I appreciate you asking, I need to decline.” And there’s nothing negative about that.

The Gentle No by Abby Grace Photography

I could wax on and on about the benefits of learning to implement the word “no” in your business on a regular basis, but when it comes down to it, it matters for three important reasons:

1) Because saying “yes” to everything can lead to exhaustion, bitterness and burnout. You’ve been there, haven’t you? You said “yes” to every single thing that landed in your inbox and now you’re overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid. That’s a dangerous place to be as an entrepreneur, my friend. And not only are you exhausted, but now that you’re so overbooked, you can’t even give your best attention to the clients and the projects you ARE really excited about! And that can lead to poor performance, less-than-enthusiastic referrals, and a slow decline.

2) Because confidence is crucial to the survival of any small business. Confident entrepreneurs don’t say “yes” to everything because they know they don’t need to. And I’m not just talking about turning away bookings when your calendar is full- I’m talking about knowing what your business STANDS FOR, and turning away opportunities that don’t align with that business vision.

3) This is the most important one: because you are more than just a business owner. Maybe you’re a mother, or a sister, or a spouse, a friend, a church volunteer, you name it. You are MORE than just what you do for a living- those roles outside of work, they matter. The people who need you, they matter. 

And if we’re constantly saying “yes” to business at the expense of the people and the things that make life worth living in the first place, we have missed the point.

Your job- it matters. But your roles outside of your job matter too, and for many of you, they matter MORE.

THIS why “no” is crucial.

Because we desire to run a business that enables a LIFE that we love, and not a life governed by my business’ needs.

The Gentle No by Abby Grace Photography

All photos by the ever-so-talented Sarah Bradshaw

The Gentle No

March 10, 2017

  1. Abby, THIS IS SO SPOT ON. Oh man, #1 sums up my life currently and it is a problem. Thank you for summing this up so clearly. I’m in the midst of the struggle between full time job + almost full time side hustle that I want to turn full time, so I really have a hard time saying no to anything because I need new clients! Do you have any suggestions for how to handle saying no when trying to grow a business/clients? It’s a tricky balance.

  2. Jean says:

    Love this!

  3. Heather says:

    I love these photos of you and your family!! They are so natural, so full of life and JOYFUL!

  4. Rosa says:

    I have such a HARD time saying no, especially when it means turning away business, but it all makes perfect sense. Thank you!!

  5. […] gentle no is something I learned from Abby Grace during Creative at Heart, and is one of the best ways to set […]

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