As I enter 2018, I can’t help but remember where I was a year ago. I was learning to say no as a new business owner, and to accept the consequences that go along with that powerful, scary word.

Status Quo or Something New?

In July 2016, I left a stable job to start a writing consulting business. I was a Senior Technical Writer at a Fortune 100 company, and I had colleagues that treated me like a family member. I could no longer deny that I wanted something new and different with more variety.

My work hadn’t fulfilled my desire to help people for several years. Many people asked, “Why would you walk away from a good salary, benefits and coworkers that respect you?”

Committing to a Change

By leaving my job, I said “no” to comfort and stability, and “yes” to ambiguity and flexibility. When I explained that I wanted to use my writing skills to help jobseekers and business owners, and be more available to my family, most people looked at me like — or blatantly told me — I was crazy.

I tried to ignore their negativity, and my own feelings of self-doubt. Between advertising, networking and learning how to operate a business, I often felt overwhelmed, but I haven’t even touched on my biggest problem as a new entrepreneur yet – cash flow.

Making Difficult Choices

Cash flow is a common concern for new business owners. From July to December 2016, I accepted projects that did not fulfill my business direction. I had a large group of contacts from my previous position, and experienced technical writers are tough to find, especially for projects with tight deadlines. These projects helped support my family, but they limited my ability to write documents for jobseekers and business owners.

By the end of 2016, I knew that my biggest mistake as a new entrepreneur was accepting assignments that did not support the direction of my business. Something had to change. In January 2017, I started saying “no.” The first time I said it, my voice was barely audible, and my hands shook as I gripped the phone. Every time I turned down an opportunity, I felt badly for disappointing someone; I worried that I would not have enough work to replace the income of a large project. What happened next surprised me.

Finding my Voice

My contacts were incredibly supportive of my desire to change my focus; they even referred me to family members and friends. My client base grew immensely. In 2017, I helped 67 clients find new jobs, and several new businesses with website content, editing and writing documents.

I am incredibly grateful for the lessons (especially the toughest one) that I learned in 2017. Saying no helped me realize that I really can stay true to my vision for my business. Reading “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek this spring helped me reaffirm why I do what I do.

Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you courage to commit to tough decisions, grace to forgive yourself when you fall and self-awareness to understand what you need to move forward.