How to say no

Jun 10, 2022

I want to talk to you about how to say no. 

It's something that we come up against quite a lot because, as bookkeepers, we don't want to seem like we're not being nice.  

You could say this is a female thing, and I think it probably is more prevalent in females, but it's not only females. 

We often find ourselves saying yes to things which we really don't have the time or the capacity, or even the desire, let's face it, to do. But because somebody has asked us, we feel obligated.  

So a couple of things around this; it's fine to say yes to these things if it’s something that's important to you and you've got the time to do it. Obviously. That's not what I'm talking about here.  

What I am talking about is when you say yes to things that you really should have said no to.  

It could be that you’ve got a full calendar already, or maybe it's not something or someone that's your ideal work or your ideal client.  

Saying yes to that kind of thing is usually not a good idea. 

So how do you say no nicely without feeling like a bitch? 

The first thing is that you have always got to go back to "do I have capacity for this?" before you say yes or no. 

And if you say yes to this and you don't have capacity for it, what am you going to have to sacrifice in order to meet this deadline or to meet this agreement? 

This is the real crux of the matter, because if you've already got a full calendar and you say yes to something else, something's got to give and it's either going to be your sleep or your family time, or your exercise time, your self-care time, and ultimately, potentially, your sanity. 

So how do you say no if you really don't want to take something on? 

One way is to price the work so that the other person deselects themselves, or to price it in a way so that if they did say yes, you feel okay about it.  

Or you can say defer the work.  

I used to think that I had to fit someone in within the next week or else I was not offering a good service, or I’d be letting someone down. 

But the reality is that if this is not work that you’ve scheduled, and now it’s urgent now it’s likely due to someone else's lack of planning and is their emergency, not yours. 

This is all about managing expectations with your clients or potential clients.  

So, you could say something like, “I'd love to help you, but I don't have the capacity for that right now,” 

or "I'm fully booked at the moment but I can help you in 4 weeks 

Or “I don't have the capacity for that right now, but I can refer you onto someone else.” 

Or “Unfortunately, I'm going to have to say no to that because we won't be able to deliver that in a way that's going to meet your satisfaction.“ 

Or “Yes, I can do that for you, but I don't have space in my schedule until four weeks from now, is that okay?” (assuming you have time in your calendar four weeks from now, of course.)  

Your potential client is going to appreciate your honesty because they don't want you to take something on and then really struggle to deliver it. That's just disappointing all round. 

The other thing that you can say is, let me look at my calendar and I'll get back to you. That gives you a little bit of breathing room. 

I find that telling someone that they have to wait two weeks for something is not a bad thing. They are quite happy to wait, and it helps you to manage expectations. 

Oftentimes they will say, “ah, okay. Yeah, well that's okay. It's waited this long, it can wait another two weeks. I appreciate you telling me that” 

Being honest about your timeframes lets them know that a), you’re in demand, and b) you can do it for them, just not right now. 

That is communication. 

That is being honest and authentic about what the likelihood is of meeting the deadline. 

It also helps you to honour your word and honour your integrity with your other clients and with the other people in your life.

PS: Get in touch if you need help setting boundaries so that you can build a successful bookkeeping business and create a life you love.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates written for bookkeepers just like you.
(Don't worry, your information will not be shared.)


Enter your details below to receive the latest from the blog with relevant news, marketing and business tips.