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It’s true. To create the work life you want you’ll need to get comfortable with the word, no. It’s a short word and can often feel abrupt. As someone who loves to help and likes to please, it’s something that I’ve previously struggled to say. But as a newly acquainted flexible freelancer in a post-pandemic online community, I have learnt how to use it. And it serves me well. It’s empowering even. 

Experience has taught me the value of my time; I now know what I am good at and what I enjoy. I know I’d rather have less money and more time than more money and less time, and I’m ok with that. Of course, the aim is more money and more time, but you have to put in the groundwork to create the life you want; unfortunately, it’s not an overnight manifestation. 

We recently spoke to Maya Middlemiss about creating healthy working boundaries and being comfortable with saying the word no is a vital part of that. In a post on our small business support group, I wrote how I am solely working on collections for my jewellery business, Earth, Wind and Jewellery. I felt I had to communicate this as I’d had a few close friends come to me for a jewellery commission, and whilst I found it awkward saying no, it still had to be said. 

And here’s why; doing so allowed me the freedom to create a life I want. It means I’ve had to say no to paid work but have created space to do something else I love.

Here Podengo’s founder, speaks about how to spot the red flags and knowing when to say no:


“I said *no* to a project this morning. And I’m celebrating. Why did I say no? The initial cost request came from a client I have worked successfully with before. He outlined the project with clarity—all good. I like working with this client; he’s a nice guy. But overall, he respects the way I work. The cost was agreed. Project all good. Let’s go…

But then, another colleague of the client jumped in and asked:

– Can you reduce your cost? -Can you just do half of the project? We’ll do the first part ‘in-house’. And then you can pick up the remainder? The details we can’t do. We’ll have four weeks to do the project. But we’ll do the in-house bit for three weeks, and then you’ll have a week.

And the clincher: I know this is now a smaller project, but there will be a lot of back and forth, more so than on any other typical project.’ And, after ten years of running my business, the red flags outweigh any perceived benefits.

I would have previously ignored those red flags, taken on the project, been micro-managed by the client, and then worked doubly hard. And I would have sacrificed time to work on projects I love with clients I respect (and who respect me). Listen to your instincts. Pay attention to the red flags. It’s taken me years to learn this. I’m sharing this in the hopes that it helps others and saves you time in the future!

The word yes has been intrinsically ingrained within us, so well done if you have mastered the art of saying no. It’s not easy. But in the long run, it can save you from doing things that don’t align with your business and values.” 

-Gemma Stokes


Can you think of a time when you said yes and wished you hadn’t? It’s a learning curve and knowing how to spot the red flags comes with experience. Only then can we navigate what works and what doesn’t. So don’t be too hard on yourself, take the work, do the thing and if it’s not for you, remember that for next time.

Whilst we have you here, have you joined our small business support group, Eureka? If not, you can join our online community of small biz owners, sole traders, entrepreneurs, and side hustlers right here.

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