Dec 6, 2021

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5 Easy & Effective Ways To Say No To Clients


Dawn Bradley stands in front of a pink background wearing blue jeans and a leather jacket. Her mouth is open in shock and her hand is outstretched with the palm open. The text overlay reads "5 easy & effective ways to say no to clients"

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“Your lack of boundaries is not a form of excellent customer service”. 

There’s no denying that setting boundaries with clients can be overwhelming (especially if you’ve never had any boundaries before). 

I’m going to walk you through the 5 easy and effective ways to say “no” to your clients (without any sweaty pits!)

Keep reading and you’ll walk away with knowing:

  1. How to say “no” when there is a scheduling conflict

  2. How to say “no” when you’re not a good match for what your client wants

  3. That “no” is a full sentence.

P.S I have something very exciting in the works and I am spilling the beans… The Build Your Business Bootcamp is coming up in just a few short weeks in January! The Build Your Business Bootcamp is a 5-day FREE challenge to help you attract clients you love, set boundaries, get organized and set your prices properly. I will be personally guiding you through all the good stuff. You in? Join the FREE challenge Facebook group RIGHT HERE. (Don’t be like me and say you’ll do it later, cause you’ll forget, so go ahead and request to join right now.) I won’t be opening the group until mid-January but this will ensure you’re in when we start. This is gonna be SO good!

There was a time that I used to think that the only answer to a question was “yes”. I would always feel obligated to say “yes” to everything. I thought it was the “nice” and “polite” thing to do, especially when it came to business. 

I remember reading a customer service book of my dad’s from the 80s. There was a section about “excellent customer service” and it said: “if you’re at dinner with your family on a holiday and a customer wants you to come into the store, you go.”

It was very clear that they believed that excellent customer service came with having zero boundaries. 

You might have seen this post on my Instagram before, but I’m gonna say it again here because it’s very relevant. 

“Your lack of boundaries is not a form of excellent customer service.”

Business has shifted and changed since the 80s, and we’re moving past “the customer’s always right” mentality. But that’s not to say we don’t still have our struggles. 

Oftentimes the scarcity mindset takes over and we worry that saying “no” will lose us business. In fact, sometimes saying no loses a customer, but in the long run it’ll gain you business and respect. 

Instead of thinking of the short-term loss, think about the long-term gain. 

So let’s dive into…

The 5 Ways to Say No to a Client

Please feel free to adapt these and adjust the wording to fit your unique situation

#1: When You’re Not the Right Fit

“Your hair goals sound awesome and I would so love to be involved and be a part of this, unfortunately, I can’t give your hair the attention that it deserves right now. I’d be doing you a disservice because you wouldn’t be getting the quality that you’re used to getting from me. I’m really excited to see how it turns out because I know it’s ging to look so awesome. So, let me know, I’d love to be able to give you a referral. Unfortunately, I can’t be involved at this time because I cannot give you or your hair the attention you deserve.”

By telling them you think it would be awesome and that you’re excited shows them you truly wish that you could be involved with the process. Letting them know that it’s not blatantly “I don’t want to do this”.

This is a great response when people want to get squeezed in last-minute and you don’t have the time. 

#2: When You Really Want To, But You Just Can’t

“My heart wants to say yes. I really wanna say yes to this so badly, but the reality is with my current workload I have to say no. And I’m bummed! I don’t want to have to say no right now. Thank you so much for thinking of me. It really means the world that you want me to do this for you.”

See how simple that can be? I used to stress out about thinking that if I say “no” then they’ll think I don’t like them or I simply don’t want to do it. 

Somewhere along the lines, we’ve made assumptions about how someone will react and respond when we say “no”.

My therapist recently blew my mind with this statement: “stop having conversations in your head and not allow the other party to get to play their part, it’s really unfair.”

I want you to think about how often you assume that your client will be upset or “they’ll say this”. Oftentimes when you’ve known someone long enough you assume that you have a pretty good idea of how they’ll respond and you’ll come to conclusions that make sense based on past interactions but remember that people can surprise you. 

Like my client who declined a chai tea latte for 2 years, and then one day when I asked her if she wanted one to drink, she said yes. 

We have to stop assuming we even think we know how another person may react. Instead, start inquiring, start being honest. Remember, we can only control ourselves. 

#3: When You’re in a Busy Season

“I am so honoured that you thought of me and are asking me. Right now I’m in a pretty full season and I have to say no. But I want you to know how hard it is for me to say no, yet so necessary right now. I want you to know that I’m so grateful that our relationship allows me to be honest with you about where I’m at right now.”

Being empathetic with knowing how much it sucks that you can’t say yes to them can really help show them that you’re not doing this to them or at them, but for them. 

It’s okay to be honest with the fact that things are hard and uncomfortable right now for you. 

I want you to stop trying to put on a front of having it all together. Stop thinking that you know how they’ll respond and react. And stop trying to mold yourself to what you think they want you to be. 

Be fully who you are. You gotta stop trying to be someone for someone else. 

When you try to become what you think someone wants you to be, you water yourself down and you become flat. Being you is going to cause friction and friction is okay. 

Remember that it’s not a requirement to be physically and mentally exhausted during the busy seasons. You are not required to take care of everyone else. 

One of the biggest lessons I ever learned was to stop finding my worth and value in external places. I used to pride myself on how much I loved making people feel good about themselves. Until I realized I wasn’t necessarily doing it for them. 

Although I loved seeing people feel confident and taken care of, I realized it was actually a selfish pursuit because what I really loved was when they told me how great I was, or how much I made their day. It filled up my empty self-confidence cup inside of me. I just didn’t realize there wasn’t a bottom on that cup, so it all just ran through. 

I want to remind you that your worth and value does not lie in the hands of others. 

#4: When Someone DMs You

“Thank you so much for your message. I know what it takes to ask those requests, so kudos. I get so many requests that unfortunately this is a commitment I can’t make right now. But thank you again so much for thinking of me.”

By starting the conversation off with gratitude and appreciation it shows the client that you’re genuinely grateful that they sent you a message, even if you have to decline the request. 

Doing it with kindness, compassion and empathy will help show them that you’re not doing something to them or at them, but you’re doing it for them. 

#5: An Answer for All Situations


Or if you’d like to soften it a bit: “No, thank you.”

It really can be that simple. You don’t owe anyone a justification or an explanation. You owe it to yourself to honour yourself and your boundaries. 

You owe it to yourself to be taken care of. You owe yourself a yes. 

It’s time to stop trying to seek external validation to fill up that self-worth/self-value cup because when it comes from the outside it just falls out of the bottom. 

If you learn how to fill up that cup with your own abilities, not only will it stay full, but you’ll also stop trying to seek external validation anymore. 

Remember that there’s more than one answer to a question and it doesn’t always have to be “yes” (even though I felt that way for a loooong time)

Usually, those of us who struggle to say “no” is because we always ask questions that we feel the answer should be “yes” to. 

But I want to remind you that there’s no harm in asking, and you always have the choice to say “no.”

I hope you’re walking away knowing that it’s okay to say no and that it’s sometimes the best thing for both you and your client. 

If you’re feeling nervous or anxious about having these conversations, don’t stress, I’m bringing you another post with the 5 touchpoints to successfully communicate change. 

Did this post leave you with a lightbulb or an “aha” moment? I wanna hear from you! Shoot me a DM over on Instagram @dawnbradleyhair.

Let’s be besties?

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I am just a small-town, Canadian gal from the prairies who teaches thousands of creatives around the globe how to earn 6-figures stress-free!

Hey, I’m Dawn!

“Rock Your Business” Course Creator, Host of “The Anxious Creative” Podcast. Named by Salon Magazine as Canada’s #1 women of influence.

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