On Saying No to Clients

On Saying No to Clients

On Saying No to Clients

This week has not been a great one at my day job. (I was going to say 9-5, but I work 8-5.) And it has been almost entirely due to one customer making sudden paperwork demands that I have been required to meet.

Is there any benefit to me in meeting this customer’s demands? Not at all. I don’t get any bonuses or commissions. Yes, the company has a better chance of retaining this customer, and appreciates my efforts, but it has been a whole lot of stress for nothing.

This situation has really made me long for the days where I can be in control of my own business, and choose which client requests I will meet, and how much I will charge them for my extra work.

I’m not a person who naturally says no to people (though I am better at it than some people I know). But saying no to clients is a crucial part of any functional business. Otherwise, you will be overrun, overworked, and underpaid, as revisions and requests eat up valuable time and energy.

However, how do you combine saying no to clients with being a great team player and an asset to your client’s company? With boundaries and expectations.

A clear onboarding process and/or contract is vital to making sure your clients don’t ruin your life and business. Outline exactly what you will do for them, and set limits. If they want to exceed those limits, set a price tag. Because most of the time, you would be completely happy with the additional requests if they made you additional money. It’s not telling your client no, it’s saying, “Yes, if . . .”

Build an escape hatch. Imagine your worse possible client. How would you protect yourself if you had to work with these types of companies? First, you should build something that would make it so you won’t have to – a vetting process to screen out the truly incompatible, a non-refundable deposit to prevent clients that don’t pay, and a time limit so WIP projects don’t keep going for years.

Next, go through your workflow process (don’t have one yet? Write down all the steps you take for each type of project, and continue to edit and refine – it will be super helpful, I promise!) and think of how a terrible client could ruin each step. What could you do ahead of time so that won’t happen? Build it into your contract.

Yes, you will know more about how to set up strong contracts after you’ve dealt with a few difficult clients. But you can relate your other experiences to your business to think of possible scenarios your contract can prevent. Like with my experiences with my day job’s difficult customers. If a client makes a request that will cost me time and effort outside of the scope of their project, I want to be able to refuse it or charge them a fee.

Obviously, you are not going to want to nickel and dime your clients with constant fees. So one thing to do is build some buffer time into any contract, because there will always be unknown things that happen. If it helps, track that “extra” time, because little things can add up, and it will help you budget that in future contracts.

What is the worse experience you’ve had with a customer or client?

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Digital Nomad Obstacles

Digital Nomad Obstacles

Digital Nomad Obstacles

It’s really easy to get discouraged when you are pursuing a dream – especially when you don’t have a clear picture of what that dream is and what steps you need to take to reach it.

I have loved the idea of moving to Europe and/or becoming a digital nomad with frequent stays in Europe for years now. But it always seemed impossible. And wouldn’t I find the guy of my dreams sometime soon? Better not make any concrete plans, since Prince Charming would find me soon and we’d travel the world together.

Well, Charming is still MIA, and I realized I could do this travel thing myself. I also realized two weeks of vacation a year is not nearly enough for all the travel I want to do, and I was spending 25-30% of my budget just getting to Europe, plus the days of jet lag. So I started taking courses to up my digital skills to help make a nomad life possible.

But I still have many obstacles in my way.


I know I will need a solid buffer of cash before I will feel comfortable leaving my fulltime job. But I am also making far less than I’m worth at the company, and a discussion about salary hasn’t happened 2 months after requesting it. Coupled with depleting my savings to help my sister buy a car (she’ll pay me back eventually), my upcoming 2-week trip to Europe, and spending money on training, and my finances, while not terrible, should be healthier. Once my trip happens in early September, I can start putting aside that money for a much longer trip!

Housing and Belongings

I just signed a year lease. My sister and I moved to a new place so that a good friend could move in with us (and we could potentially add a 4th person later on). That makes my rent actually quite reasonable, but still something I would have to pay, even if I’m not here. At the end of the lease I would still need somewhere to put my stuff if I wasn’t living here. I can see getting rid of some things, but I don’t think I can pare down my 75ish boxes and furniture to a couple boxes in someone’s basement. Having a home base here in the States wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it would drain my money faster.


One of the reasons why I can see myself keeping a home base here is that most of my family is in the area. I have 8 younger siblings, and my parents and all but two are in the area – and it would be especially hard to leave my two nieces. So I can see myself splitting my time between here and Europe – coming home for a month or two at a time would be much nicer if I had my own place. But still, money – for keeping a room in an apartment and plane tickets back and forth.


Depending on where I want to live in Europe, it may be impossible to work there legally. Most digital nomads aren’t in one place for long enough to worry about that, and just stay on tourist visas (but moving from place to place can be a lot more expensive). I was thinking this would kill my dream outright, until I found out about a freelancer work visa in Germany that is difficult, but not impossible to get. While living in the UK or Ireland would have been preferable (hello, English language!), Germany is a great alternate choice for me, for several reasons. One, since most of my ancestry is German (various branches of my family immigrated to North America between 1700 and 1900), I’ve always been interested in the country and culture. Two, due to this, I’ve actually been studying German, so this would help both my comfort level in the country and improve my skills with the language. Three, it is very centrally located for exploring the rest of Europe. Four, I love castles, and Germany has many beautiful ones to visit!

Current Job

I’ve been with my company for three years now and my skills have improved greatly during that time. I also have a casual dress code, short commute, and great coworkers. While my salary and vacation time is lacking, this job does give me more time and emotional freedom to pursue freelancing on the side that a stressful new job with a longer commute would not. It would be great to work for my company remotely in the future, and they have approved my trip to Europe, so I am reluctant to leave, even for a job that may pay a bit better and help me save money.

Business Under Construction

I have not officially launched my freelance business and have therefore earned $0 with my new skills. Will I be able to make a living as a freelancer? The last freelance money I earned was writing for a magazine 4+ years ago, and that was just a couple hundred extra a month. I will want to be fully established with several clients before I can even think of moving it to fulltime, not to mention the needed money buffer.


All of this points to it being at least a year until I make the leap to digital nomad. But here are some steps I will be taking:

  1. Launch my business so I can start earning money and paying myself from it
  2. Start saving more every month
  3. Get rid of more stuff
  4. Use my trip to evaluate where I would want to live in Europe

What obstacles to becoming a digital nomad do you face?

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Unreachable Dreams

Unreachable Dreams

Unreachable Dreams

It’s been one of those days.

A day where everything seems to go wrong, but not badly enough that you have excuse to hide away or rage at the world. A day filled with pointlessly doing and undoing and redoing. A day connected to so many inefficient systems that make you want to scream at the committee who came up with them. A day where you’ve felt overlooked and unappreciated and stuck.

On a day like today, my dream of having the freedom to travel the world and create seems impossibly far away.

At this moment, I’ve not made a penny with the new skills I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to learn. How can I possibly build a business that will let me leave my day job? And if I do, will it be so stressful and full of repetition and angry clients that I will beg my old boss to take me back?

Yes, I’ve made my dream trip to the UK happen, and I’m going to Europe again this fall. But two weeks abroad every two years is just a taste of the life I want, with no time to befriend locals and fellow travelers, experience the culture, or to just be. And every day I’m just one step further in a lifetime of waiting for my real life to start.

Sometimes I wonder what my real life is supposed to look like. I surely thought there would be a significant other by now, but he hasn’t shown up, or if he has, he’s doing a great job of being a barely-there casual friend. I thought we would travel the world together, but instead I’ll be going to Paris alone. I thought I would be a mom, but every day my chances for that lessen and I can barely support myself alone – my cash for travel and online learning comes from living with roommates. I thought I would be a writer, but I’ve reviewed enough novels to know that mine are half-baked and not fit for public consumption. I thought I would have a tight-knit group of friends, but almost all are married and off living their own lives.

I really hope tomorrow isn’t one of those days.

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