Scale or Say No

New York Times Building

There’s a growing symphony of voices from our more well known friends that publicly demands cash for time, whether that be for a call, a lunch or a day. The underlying tone of these statements is anger towards frequent requests for time from their communities. But in reality, this problem should not be pushed back onto the community. Instead, social media “stars” should learn to scale or just say no.

Friends, let me say as another person who is just inundated with requests for free and paid uses of my time, I empathize. But let’s not allow success to become an excuse for the poor-mes or brash statements.

Allowing oneself to feel victimized by success is not really an accurate way to look at things. There are no victims in this, only volunteers. We have blogged, checked-in, and tweeted ourselves into this position, one we wanted from the outset.

Really, these are opportunities, great choices on how to spend our time. Building intelligent systems to scale our work, or to better select the opportunities we really want and say no to the rest is the great entrepreneurial challenge here.

Ways to Mindfully Say No

Teaching one to scale a business takes years of operational and management experience. Book smarts will only get you so far, much less a blog post. However, it is easier to talk about mindfully saying no.

Brash statements about wasting one’s time generally hurt the larger conversation and can violate community trust vested in someone who they thought wanted a relationship. In essence, what may be a statement of frustration or an attempt at a boundary becomes a brick wall.

Now I am not a master at the art of saying no gracefully. I have gotten better over time, and I have learned methods at knowing when to do it. Here are some that I use:


One aspect of building value online is the requests it creates, the source of tension that has inspired this post. These are leads and opportunities, some to help, some to network, some to speak (free and paid), and some for tangible business opportunities.

Like a good salesperson, I qualify time opportunities. How much time does it require? If a lot, where will that time come from? Is this important for my family or community? Will it benefit Zoetica? If it’s at the cost of my personal well being, family or business, I usually say no.

Saying no really means saying no. For example, I am sorry, due to workload we cannot respond to this RFP. Or, I am sorry, I am expecting a baby this fall, and have decided not to travel for the remainder of the year.

People are not necessarily going to be happy about a no. However, again prioritizing time expenditures — my most valuable resource — is crucial. Offering replacements or other suggestions can help, but again, I’ve learned to try to be as polite as possible, and accept that someone may be disappointed.

Setting Expectations in Social Media

I try to set expectations on social networks. When on Facebook or Twitter, if you correspond with me publicly I will respond no matter what. I am not on Twitter during the weekends and most nights, but can be found on Facebook periodically during off hours. In addition, I remain committed to blog four or five times a week.

I have no commitment to be present at any time on my other social networks, intentionally. I show when I can or feel like it. A choice to do well in some social networks versus others.

The remaining time belongs to family and business. Another choice.

Off Social Network Access

Online I do not publish my phone number anymore, this is strictly a client or existing relationship contact method. So this means almost all in-bound opportunities come electronically. I appreciate that there are people who have larger communities than me who respond to almost every email.

I have stopped doing this. In fact, I just started using AwayFind as an autoresponder to all in-bound emails. It’s my intent to set a polite expectation that I won’t respond to every contact. It’s important for me, someone who receives hundreds of emails everyday, to reallocate email response time to actual client work, book writing, and most importantly, family.

My bacon account response (geoffliving [at] for PR people, pitches and social network contacts is set for a daily response. That daily responder says:

“Thanks for contacting me. I’m only able to check email a few times each day. Because of the high frequency of pitches and requests I receive, I am unable to respond to every email. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

My work/client email responds once a month, and swaps out some of the language for a statement that offers a phone number for timely situations.

My friends, I only have my experience in this matter. But let us not cry foul about an overabundance of opportunities to be of service to others – paid or unpaid. Instead, let us be grateful for quality problems, the kind that when approached mindfully yield rewarding personal and/or financial results. Just my $0.02.