How to Say No

Let's say you're amazing at handmade cards. You have made them for every life event over the last five years. Your friends and family love them, always commenting on how cute they are and how well you make them.

You've made so many cards and received so many compliments that you decide to open your own card-making business. You set-up an Etsy store and had a booth at the local farmer's market a few times. It's starting to take off - you smile and think: "I'm a real business!"

You tell all your family and friends that you started your business. Smile every time you tell them about a new sale and ask them to visit and share your web site/social media page. They smile back and happily oblige because they are excited too.

You continue to make cards for life events (birthdays, Christmas, weddings) but your friends and family are still asking you to make cards for their events too. For free. 

You happily didn't charge when it was a hobby because you just liked to do it, but now, you are a business. You've told them. So, why do they assume you will still ‘do them a favour’ and make one for free?

I get that it's easier to say yes - just this one time. All entrepreneurs have said yes when they really should have said no. For many, they happily oblige and help family and friends whenever they can without charging them. Many think - "it will help me build my portfolio" or "they can see my work first-hand, so they'll help promote me" or "of course, they're family".

You want the support of your family and friends but you cannot afford to lose precious time and opportunities to build your business.

Consider setting out some rules of how you will operate your business and how you will balance your time moving forward.

Here are some questions to consider before taking on an unpaid project:

  • How much time will this project take?
  • What activities or other projects will you miss by taking on this unpaid project?
  • How will this unpaid project help you?
  • Can you refer this project to someone else?
  • What will be the repercussions if you say no to this family member or friend?

Also, consider the following:

  • Tell a family member or friend that you are happy to help them – this once – but in the future, you will have to charge them.
  • Discuss the opportunity to barter (resume for laundry or web site for a week’s worth of dinners).
  • Offer a family and friend discount.
  • Explain to family and friends that you cannot take on any unpaid projects without notice (ex. 3 weeks before the project is due).
  • Simply say no.

My recommended suggestion is to be politely bold: clearly ask your friends and family to support you as your business starts and grows. You appreciate, and are thankful for, their previous support but moving forward, you will need to charge a fee for new projects.

Your friends and family are your first fans - you want to keep their support, maintain mutual respect and (hopefully) continued referrals. Show your appreciation and say thank you: take them out for dinner, buy them a gift card, have a thank you page on your web site, etc.
Little things go a long way!

Thanks for spending a few minutes with us - if you have any questions, please email us at


Twitter @Jodi_WorkSmart
Instagram jodi_worksmart
Facebook /worksmarttrainsmart

*Thanks to Miriam M. from Burlington, ON for the question.

How to Know if a Business Idea is Viable

Alternative Title: How to know that growing snails in your bedroom is not a great idea!

I don't want to live in your bedroom ...

I don't want to live in your bedroom ...

There are some absolutely, amazing ideas out there today. Many of these ideas have led to the invention and availability of products that improve our daily lives from medicine to grocery deliver services to vehicles to the Shake Weight©.

In addition, there are millions of ideas that tried to make it and didn't. I bet if this question was part of a trivia game, you would able to list (at least) three companies or products that started and had a miserable, public death.

As a potential or existing entrepreneur, your goal is to end up on the right side because you did the research, you asked the right questions, you sought out help to start and grow your business, as well as you and your business were organized.

If this doesn't sound like you, I have given you a gift. Now, take it and don't squander it. (Plus, there is no return policy!)

Starting a business has steps and takes time. If you rush into starting a business, many mistakes will be made - you will learn from all but only some will you be able to come back from. 

Your first step, and most important, is doing the research. 

I know that market research can be time consuming, tedious, overwhelming, and even boring - but just do it!

Hey friend! I'm just looking for a little company ...

Hey friend! I'm just looking for a little company ...

  • If you don't research your industry, you won't know where the trends are taking you.
  • If you don't research and understand your customer, you won't know if they will pay for your product/service, where they prefer to buy from, where you can find them, or what they will pay/can afford.
  • If you don't research your location, you will end up with an Instagram account full of pictures showing your beautiful store, products on shelves, selfies with you and the price gun BUT no sales. Either because customers don't know you're open, they can't find you, or they choose not to drive 15 km to a location that was just in the news for a gang-related shooting or because John Candy's ghost keeps showing up.
  • If you don't research your competitors, you will make the same mistakes they did. Go and talk to them - the worse thing that will happen is that they don't want to talk to you. So find alternative ways to learn about them - their sales, their customers, their successes, and their failures.

Do the research and find out if other people are as excited about your idea as you!

Here are few starting points:

  1. Canada Business - or call 1-888-576-4444 to ask about their 'Secondary Market Research' tool - let them help you do the research!
  2. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) @
  3. Entrepreneur magazine @

Starting a business can be the most amazing experience in the world - but it can also be the death of your soul and confidence if it doesn't work.

Be excited but also be an expert in your field. Know your business inside and out. This knowledge will not only positively influence how you run your business, but it will also leave a wonderful impression with the people you meet while on your entrepreneurial journey.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with us - if you have any questions, please email us at


Twitter @Jodi_WorkSmart
Instagram jodi_worksmart
Facebook /worksmarttrainsmart

How to Get Help when Starting a Business

Small Business

You’ve been thinking of starting your own business for a while now. You’ve made the decision – “Yes! I want to start my own business.” Great! Now what? 

Many entrepreneurs are faced with the same brick wall. They take that leap but are unsure of how to proceed. Let me help you by removing that wall – brick by brick.

One of the first things you need to know is that there are specialists in your community that can help you get your business started. They are located at your local small business centre. These consultants are there to help you understand what steps are needed to start and run your business.

Small business centres around Ontario can help you:

  • Register your business name with the Province of Ontario ($60 fee)
  • Review your business idea by meeting one-on-one with a business consultant
  • Learn how to write a business plan
  • Develop business skills through training such as workshops
  • Identify key networking opportunities in your community
  • Understand if you qualify for grants and loans
  • Learn more about small business resources available

Most of the services offered through small business centres are FREE.

To learn more about how small business centres can help you, visit Service Ontario today!