I have heard it so many times from fellow creatives “I have such a hard time saying no!” These same people are often over-stressed, over-worked - and I hate to say it, but under-paid.
Now, saying no is not easy, and we could and will talk about saying no, but for this post I wanted to turn things around a bit and look at some things that can happen when we say too many yes’s.
Are you someone who always says “yes” to everything? You may actually be doing your self and your business more harm than good. Here are some points that you may want to consider the next time that an opportunity comes your way.
Be realistic about your schedule
You get an inquiry or request to be part of a project. You look at your already too-full calendar and think that you can squeeze it in, so you commit to it. But do you really have that time? Sure you can do it, but at what cost? Will it mean working for the fifth weekend in a row? Staying up until 2am? Not doing your best work because you had to rush through a project (I have been guilty of this).
Working hard and even working long hours is to be expected when you are starting a business, but it is important to be honest with yourself about how much you have the capacity to take on and where you are at in terms of your workload.
It can take time to find your rhythm as far as the amount of work that you can take on and how long those projects will take. Also, we are all more than business owners, but also have a life outside of our work that takes our time. I would encourage you to be as realistic as possible and not try to fit in every single opportunity that comes along because you just cannot do everything.
Rushed work is rarely our best work
When you stretch yourself too thin and over commit your time, you inevitably will end up rushing to meet your deadlines. I don’t know about you, but I do not do my best creative work with a ticking clock running in my mind. Do you?
I know that when I am rushed to complete a job or a project, I am not doing my best work, I am very rarely being creatively fulfilled, and - and this may be the worst of all - I am more likely to make mistakes or to miss something.
Remember that for many reasons things very often take longer than we think that they will. Rarely do you find yourself finished with everything ahead of schedule and with all of this extra time to fit in extra work.
If you are looking at your calendar and you have a little window in which to fit that rush client or that last minute styled shoot, remember that there is a good chance that another taks will end up taking longer than scheduled and that window will be gone. This will most likely leave you having to rush and rarely does a rush produce your best work.
You will dilute your brand
If you are saying yes to everything, it means that you are not taking a good look at the project and considering whether or not that project aligns with your brand. If your brand is laid back, bohemian and you accept a shoot that is formal and old world, how is that project going to help you achieve your objectives in growing your brand?
Having a clear direction for your brand and building that aesthetic is so important. When you are producing and showcasing work that is all over the place, it will dilute that brand. This will make it more difficult for you to reach your ideal client and to stand out in a crowded market.
It is much better to accept fewer projects that really fit with the brand that you are creating than to have so many clients and shoots that are all over the place.
Of course, in the beginning you may accept some client jobs that are not 100% your ideal aesthetic, but you do not have to post every single job that you do. Just make sure that those projects are paying your what you are worth.
Not trusting your gut
Have you ever gotten an inquiry from a client or for a collaboration and you think “ I don’t want to do that!” only to say yes anyway? I know that I have. Whatever the reason, whether it was that I thought that I needed the money, or that I did not want to miss out on a chance to work with a certain vendor, I have said yes to things that I really did not want to do, and you know what? I was never creatively fulfilled with my work for those projects. They ended up being more stress than they were worth and I looked back and wondered why I did not trust my first instinct.
This does not mean that it was a bad client or a bad project, perhaps it was just not a good fit for me style wise, budget wise, or timewise. Whatever the reason, if your initial reaction is that you do not want to do something - say no.
It can lead to burnout
If you are constantly saying yes to all of the things that come your way, then chances are that you are working very long days in order to get everything done. Although everyone is able to handle different workloads and levels of stress (do not compare yourself to what someone else can handle by the way!) if you are just automatically accepting each job or shoot that come your way, you will not be leaving enough time for yourself to recharge your creative well - which we all need to do as creatives.
Also, it is unlikely that all of these things that you are saying yes to are a perfect fit for your business and your brand. If you are always saying yes, it is very likely that you are working on projects that are not in line with your aesthetic and that are not particularly creatively inspiring for you.
All of this will very likely eventually lead to burnout. As creatives, we all need that downtime to recharge ourselves and to find new inspiration and if you are constantly working on anything that comes your way regardless of whether it inspires and challenges you, your creative well is going to run dry.
Even though all of these points may seem obvious, there are still so many of us who find ourselves saying yes to too many things, or things that are not a good fit for us and our brands.
I hope that the next time that you have an opportunity arise that some of these points may be helpful in making it a bit easier to say no.
Do you struggle with saying “yes” too often? Do you struggle with how to say no? I am working on a piece all about saying no that will come out next week. In the meantime, you should take a look at Design House Prep School's course, The Art of Saying No, that goes even more in depth on this topic including how to graciously say no to any opportunity that you need to decline.