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The Two Words That Built My Successful Business

When I first started freelancing, I’d accept any offer.

I admit it–I was even a “fiver” for a while–a person who writes $5-articles.

I was driven by my grandmother’s mantra “Every job that pays is a good job” and my natural inclination to be a Yes-person.

Could I watch videos and transcribe them into blog posts? Hell, yes!

Could I write 200-word emails with tips on winning the lottery? You bet!

Could I create a website for a green energy business? Yes!

Could I schedule social media posts for a queer night club in Houston? You got it!

Could I write LinkedIn summaries for an international corporation? Yes!

Could I write a cheesy fiction novel? Yes! Yes! Yes!

And I did it all.

brand strategy, social media, social media strategies, brand positioning, etsy shop, hand made shop, how to open an etsy shopUntil a day came that I didn’t want to work anymore–my dream job had turned into a nightmare of doing everything for everyone. That’s the day I decided to say “No”. It was hard, and I felt guilty, until I felt so relieved I was able to love my work again.

Today, I’m a bit of a No-person when it comes to work. But you shouldn’t be, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a successful business yet.

So, which is it–I hear you asking–should I say “Yes” or should I say “No”?

The moral of the story: both.

Start With a Yes

When you first start your career, no matter the industry, you want to say yes to everything (well, almost–I wouldn’t have written copy for poker websites, but we all have our limits).

At this stage, every opportunity counts. Every dollar counts as well, if we have to be honest.

Saying yes in the beginning does several important things for you:

  • Provides work;
  • Allows you to dip your toes in each pond without going deep (for example, I knew I’d never ever make another website for anyone else);
  • Gives you a better perspective of what the actual work really looks like (I thought I’d love being a social media manager but I hated it);
  • Gives you experience and understanding of the industry;
  • Enriches your professional viewpoint;
  • Teaches you what you like and what you don’t like;
  • Builds your expertise;
  • Creates a pool of leads that make entrepreneurship a little more secure;
  • Gives you an abundance of opportunities.

But there comes a time when saying yes doesn’t create more opportunities. Instead, it creates more frustration.

In my experience, saying yes only helps you grow your business or freelance career in the beginning. Then you hit a plateau of stress and dissatisfaction because you’re trying to sit on too many chairs at the same time (more grandma wisdom).

The first wave of firing my clients was one of the hardest things I’ve done. We had an emotional attachment! Or at least I had.

But it’s also one of the best things I did to grow my consulting business and later, my personal brand.

Grow With a No

When you first say no to a client or job opportunity, it does feel like you’re doing yourself a bad favor. You feel that you’ve made a mistake for days!

But then the calm and still of confidence comes: you can concentrate on the rest of your clients, give them more of your time, more of your skill, and more of your heart.

And when you start saying no one magical thing happens–clients start appreciating you more. I get way more inquiries now that I have to say no to 95% of them than I did before.

There’s another perk to saying no: you get to work ONLY with the people and businesses you choose and this gives you power and focus.

When you start saying no to every opportunity, you start saying yes to being an expert in your field and having a successful business. And this is where you start growing, even though it looks contra-intuitive.

People begin to see you as a go-to person for one specific thing. Everyone who’s had any kind of success would agree that focus is power.

Saying no to the people I don’t want to work with, or I don’t think are a good fit, has helped me grow as a professional. The more I work on the things that really excite me, the better I become. And my clients see this.

Keep Saying Yes Through A Filter

I can’t escape my nature–I’m still a Yes-person. My first response is to say yes to every request I get.

brand strategy, social media, social media strategies, brand positioning, etsy shop, hand made shop, how to open an etsy shopAnd sometimes I do. I still take more work than I should. But now I’m passionate about all of it. And make more money while working less.

Because everyone can write a $5-article. But I’m one of the few who know how to take a micro-business off the ground fast.

Now, I only help conscious solopreneurs and makers with a solid strategy to start their online business. That’s my filter. If you’re an agency, you’re out. If you need something written, you’re out. If I don’t like what you’re selling, you’re out.

I think there’s a positive side to a little bit of yes–I keep exploring opportunities and meeting amazing, inspiring people.

And I believe you should, too. Learn to say yes through a filter and no to everything that doesn’t go through it.

Yes and no, when used in the right time, in the right way, are the two words that helped me build my successful business. Yes allowed me to create an ocean of opportunities that I could fish from, and no–to choose the ones that resonate with me.

Next time, when you see an opportunity for your business, don’t mindlessly say yes or no but think about it. Ask yourself: are you still finding your niche or are you digging deep into it, and you’ll have your answer.
Let’s have some fun with this: the other day a maker asked me if I could create and manage her shop on Guess what I said in the comments!

Remember: I didn’t build my successful business by saying “yes” to everyone!


Antoniya “Tonka” Zorluer is the founder of SheHutlin’ and the Etsy Superstar Community. Read more of her insightful and brutally honest articles on handmade business, conscious marketing and pure happiness here.

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