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Important business skills you didn’t know you needed

Self-employment is one of those things that there isn’t a guide for… until now! Sussex’s premier networking and social club for women in business, Co-Women, is here to help. Today, Co-founder and personal trainer, Becky, shares two of the things she’s had to learn exactly when to say…

“Yes” and “no” have got to be some of the first words we ever learn. Certainly in terms of understanding when they’re used against us, if not using them when we need to. And that’s actually where the problem begins.

So many of us – particularly women – say “yes” far too often in our working lives. We accept the request for additional tasks to complete, or to stay later, or perhaps work on our day off in order to help the organisation we work for. We may cover a colleague’s absence, or find ourselves somehow in charge of a non-mandatory social event. We don’t always remember the moment we say yes, partly because things then just become a habit – you give an inch, and suddenly they’ve taken a mile.

This can very easily translate to self-employment too, particularly in the early days. Business is hard to come by, and so you feel pressured to accept any offer of paid work. At a time that’s inconvenient to you? That’s cool, it’s still a yes. Client not the type of person you want to work with? You’ll take anyone’s money at this point, so it’s a yes. Location of the job going to cost you more in travel than you’ll earn? Income’s income, of course you’ll do it!

For many of us, we’ll start grinding through these less-ideal scenarios and building our way towards ones which suit us better. Gradually, the non-dreamy clients fall by the wayside – because, remember, if they’re not right for you, odds on you’re not right for them either – and you slowly pick up ones who are a good fit.

As you get busier, the question of whether to say “yes” becomes slightly different. Financially you can afford to be choosier, and your time is more precious than it was, so that yes is harder won. Does it mean it’s easier to say “no”? Well… no. Because – and here comes the brain-melting part – a lot of the time, we don’t actually say “yes”; it’s also the fact that we don’t say “no” either.

One of my biggest lessons in over two years of self-employment so far has been how important it is to say yes AND no. At the right time.

Truthfully, I’m still practicing. I tend to say yes when I’m feeling a bit worried – my boundaries stand up less well when I’m vulnerable – or when I’m excited. Because it’s about my social life too. And the fact that I take on opportunities to study. Or help my friends. And on it goes until, suddenly, I can feel that I’m very much in need of a few early nights and several days of not speaking to another human. Oops.

That’s the reminder to use the no. To turn down the client who you know, deep down, isn’t the perfect fit. To politely decline the umpteenth social invitation (WHY does everyone want to do things on the same day?!). To tell the acquaintance who asks for help, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the capacity to take on any voluntary work at the moment”. And to give yourself as much rest as you do everything else.

However… all rules are made to be broken, and sometimes it’s a case of your gut saying “no thanks” and your heart whispering back “please try”. It’s not black and white. Just because we’re feeling tired, doesn’t mean that every social invitation is an automatic no. Some things light us up, rather than draining us, so we have to pay attention to those things that will rejuvenate us, and be ready to go for them.

At Co-Women, we aim to support you in these various needs: ready and waiting to mop up tears of frustration after a hard day (or week!), and also willing to sweep you along in our party train when we think you could do with letting your hair down.

Learning to use “yes” and “no” in the right places is one of the big keys to succeeding in business. If you’d like some more top tips from other women who get what you’re going through, come and join us.

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