How To Say No: Three Tips to Help

A big challenge a lot of small business owners face is “how do I say no to a project?” Often we feel like we have to do everything not only to gain exposure and self-market, but to people please. I’m guilty of that. Anyone else?! For a long time I said yes to every styled shoot and every client who came my way. I would offer discounts to hook people in without really thinking about what it was costing me to take on the project in the first place. If the end results of a client/shoot/product results in work that you can’t showcase because it doesn’t fit with your brand then why are you doing it? I never really asked myself that. I figured more money = good thing and more projects = more friends and networking, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Wanting to help other creatives, make friends, network, and make money are all good things, but you don’t need to do everything. Didn’t some wise person once say:

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

I’m a BIG fan of that quote. It’s so true! Any project you do should result in work that will somehow produce more work for you (and work that you like!) For example, I recently turned down contributing to a styled shoot. Don’t get me wrong..it sounded fabulous and it would have been for a friend from my Tuesdays Together group, but the style of the shoot just didn’t fit my brand. I started thinking “how would I use these pictures?” I couldn’t come up with anything. They were most likely going to be too bold for me. It was hard for me to say no, but I did and she respected that. Another reason I said no was because I had just wrapped up working on several other shoots and needed a break/time to work on my branding clients. So..how can you say no to people and should you?

1. Decide if the end product will produce a brand-worthy result
Maybe the result is beautiful images for your portfolio or maybe it’s the chance to work with a planner who has clients you’d LOVE to work with as a photographer.

2. Be honest
If a fellow creative asks you to work with them on something and it’s just not brand-worthy than be honest and let them know you love and respect their own work, but the style of the project just isn’t in line with your brand. They’ll respect that and if they don’t you don’t want to work with them. If you need to say no to a potential client who just gives you red flags explain that you don’t think your styles would be a good fit, but offer them a solution by providing some other vendors they can go to. If you don’t feel right about sending a particular client to anyone post in a forum like the Rising Tide to see if anyone is interested and let them know of the red flags. Someone will still probably want to do it. That way you’ve left the potential client with positive feelings about you and a solution for them.

3. Is it worth it?
If the project/client is going to cost you and arm and a leg and a million hours of work? Is it going to take away from family time? Your sanity? Just say no! Sometimes we can foresee how much effort/resources we will need to bring in and if it’s too much just be honest and let the client/vendor know that before you get yourself in too deep. If you’ve already committed to something buckle down and see it through. I’m not a quitter and if I commit to something I’ll do it.

Katie Durski

Edit Form Data Hi! I'm Katie Durski, the graphic designer and boss lady behind the artisan branding studio for creatives and couples called Ribbon & Ink. I have always been an artist. Whether painting, playing piano, filming a wedding, writing a story, or designing on a computer, I love to create art. I especially love using my art to help people create new beginnings. Anything I can do to help better someone’s life is worth doing. My mission is twofold. I empower creative business owners to reach for their dreams by creating innovative brands that inspire confidence. I also help engaged couples bring their wedding vision to life in the form of personalized wedding branding and print products.

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