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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

The power of… being told no?

Categories: office life


“It never hurts to ask,” they tell us.

“You never know unless you ask,” they say.

Although it’s advice that both men and women can benefit from, women especially are repeatedly reminded of the power of asking.  We’re urged to avoid letting our social training to “be nice” interfere with our success in the business world.  We should ask for what we’re worth or, at the very least, what we want.  Over and over again, we’re told stories of people who bravely asked and consequently received more than they could have imagined.  We hear these tales of courage and fortitude and being taken seriously, and we can’t help but think, “what’s the worst that could happen?  They say no?”

Yes, actually.  Sometimes they say no.

A client contacted me recently and asked what my maximum workload could be.  I told them that I was already doing as much work as I could possibly do for them, given our current fee agreement.  And then they asked me how much more I would need to be paid in order to make them a priority.

I choked on my tongue a little bit, and then I pulled out the spreadsheets and calculators and started to take a serious look at what they wanted.  How much of my time was I willing to devote to one client?  Were there other clients I was willing to lose in the process?  How much money would have to be involved in order to make that risk worth it?  How much was my time and talent worth if I was the one who got to set the price?

I came up with a number - a big one, granted - and I asked.

I received a very polite and professional, “thanks, but no thanks” in response.

I have to admit, that no stung a little.  My ego was a little bruised and I found myself feeling embarrassed for having the audacity to ask for more money.  I was also sad to see the potential opportunity disappear, because for a second I had allowed myself to imagine what business would be like if they said yes.  And business?  It would have been good.  But bruised ego and imaginary losses aside, I’m still glad I asked.

Now that I’ve asked, I know.

I know what I’m willing to ask for.  I know what I’m willing to work for.  I know, too, what this particular client is willing to pay me, which is valuable information to have when you’re looking at your time and trying to decide who gets the bulk of it.

From a more practical standpoint, asking also allowed me to protect my time and income.  I couldn’t afford to take on more work from this particular client without a rate increase, and asking allowed me to be honest with myself and my client about my limitations.  I also didn’t actually lose anything by asking for more.  Did I gain anything tangible?  No.  But I was satisfied with my situation before asking, and being told no to more doesn’t change that.

The bottom line is that asking isn’t the same as making a heartfelt wish to a fairy godmother.  It’s a request, and you may get told no.  In fact, chances are that you’ll get told no more often than you’ll get told yes.  That’s business, folks, and life.  Being told no is a real possibility.

Ask anyway.

Photo credit.

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4 comments so far...

  • Asking is always a good idea - I know that I have a hard time saying “No” so if someone has the audacity to ask, I’ll probably acquiesce!

    Avitable  |  July 7th, 2010 at 7:21 am

  • Speaking as a fellow freelancer, I think you did the right thing for 2 reasons: 1) you never want to put all of your client eggs in one basket, and had they paid your increase, they would’ve owned you. What happens if they go out of business? And 2) it’s never a bad thing to tally up your worth in the marketplace and ask for it because you’re a professional offering a valuable service. Better asking and hearing “no” than taking on the additional work without any additional compensation.

    Jeannie  |  July 8th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  • A big thing I’ve learned since starting my business a year ago is that a “no” (or even a “yes”, for that matter) can determine my personal value. If I hear no… so what? It doesn’t change who I am or what I’m worth. I can walk away knowing that I’m the same person and my work is still valuable.

    We, as women, tend to take everything personally. But no relationship, either personal or professional, can change me. This is an incredibly liberating revelation, and one that has allowed me to realize my true worth and not be afraid to ask for what I need.

    Rachel Heath  |  July 9th, 2010 at 11:50 am

  • I completely agree! It is very hard to ask, and I too struggle to gain that confidence to ask, but getting a “no” is better than never knowing. And if you do happen to get that “yes”, the feeling is so great! I read on a website called that 71% of women don’t ask for a raise. Whatever the reason that seems like a large amount of women who are not taking the chance to negotiate higher for their skill work…here is the link:

    It might be interesting to check out…

    Jackie  |  July 13th, 2010 at 4:32 pm