Say No More Often.

Earlier in my career, I found it very hard to say no to anyone who asked me to do anything for them. I was just happy that people were using what I built, and I wanted to do whatever it took to keep them using my products. If a customer asked for a feature, I’d most likely trip over myself to add it.

Lately, I’ve been saying no more often, both to existing customers who ask for things that are outside of the direction that I have in mind for my products, and to potential new customers who ask for me to do things that I’m not comfortable with (recently a potential new customer asked me to sign an NDA for them to start a trial of my SaaS app, and I said no).

I think that the root cause of my inability to say no in the past was that I didn’t really have a defined audience or direction for my products. It’s pretty hard to be able to say no to things if you don’t know who you want as a customer. So I took some time to define my ideal customers. Since I know who they are now, I also know who doesn’t fit into that group, and it’s easy to tell them no when they ask for things outside of that. I’ve also found it easier to say no once I realized that even if I did what they wanted me to do or added the feature that they wanted me to add, it wouldn’t be something that I would really care about, so the app would suffer overall from lack of focus, and they’d probably leave eventually anyway because I wouldn’t be fully invested in making that feature better over time, leaving me with a feature that literally no one wants.

So, take some time and figure out who your ideal customers are, and what your longer-term vision for your product is. It doesn’t even need to be super long-term, just your vision for the next couple of months is fine. Taking time out from the daily grind of writing code or marketing your app to define who you want for your app to serve will pay off dividends for years to come, and your app (and your life) will be much better because of it.