Last month I shared about how I have been dragged, kicking and screaming, toward thinking strategically about my business after reading Pamela Slim’s Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together. Since then, I’ve learned that acting strategically consists of at least two separate actions: saying “NO” to inappropriate offers and situations so that I can free myself up to say “YES” to appropriate offers and situations. In this blog post, I will share some examples of how I have learned to say “NO” to actions and opportunities that aren’t in my best interest (that is, they didn’t fit into my strategic plan). Saying “NO” actually frees me to say “YES” to more useful, lucrative, and fun opportunities. I said no to publishing my free newsletter: I have published a free newsletter for 15 years as a part of my marketing plan. Originally, I sent a paper version every quarter to about 400 clients and potential clients. Eventually, I migrated to a monthly digital newsletter and gradually built my mailing list to over 1,000 students, clients, and former clients. When I recently assessed how much new business had come to me that I could directly attribute to the newsletter, the ROI was dismal. I was actually relieved to know that, since producing the newsletter was just not fun—it was horribly fiddly and cost over $1,000 a year for my subscription and the cost of my editor. I felt empowered when I wrote to my readers to say that I was putting the newsletter on hold because I am developing e-learning to license to my clients. I was flattered to receive emails about two months later from two loyal readers who thought they had somehow fallen off the list (having not read my explanation). For one very short minute, I even thought about starting the newsletter up again—but of course, by that time, I was so relieved not to mess with an activity that took so much energy and brought in so little return. Instead, I’m saying “YES” to developing and polishing my training curriculum. I said no to a potentially prestigious editing contract: I received a flattering email from someone in the Ukraine, asking for a rate quote for editing for The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. However, I saw at least three problems waving red flags: first, I had no way to verify that this request was legitimate and that clicking on the attachments would be safe. Second, the request identified the original authors as Russian writers (the articles had been translated into English), and my experience is that I don’t usually receive American rates in these situations. Third, I feared that the Ukraine is sinking into civil war and might not get paid in the midst of chaos. I gracefully declined and almost immediately received new contracts from a former client, a Fortune 100 engineering firm. Acting strategically paid off! I said no to baking! (I know this isn’t a business example, but I can’t help sharing it.) Three years ago I gave up gluten for health reasons, and baking has never been the same. No matter what wheat flour substitutes I tried, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I finally dumped all my baking supplies in the trash and committed to buying sinfully good baked goods to take to social events. And now I have so much more room in the kitchen, not to mention room in my head! What business or personal activities could you give up or decline in order to free your energy and follow your strategic path? Let’s get a discussion going—I know that I’m not the only freelancer who struggles with saying “NO.” Elizabeth (Bette) Frick, PhD, ELS is president of The Text Doctor LLC in Boulder, CO.  She teaches technical writing in corporations and edits medical documents. Bette is an STC Fellow and has been independent for 23 years.
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