Learning to say “no” to people is tough, and can make you feel like a jerk in the moment; but it is oh-so-necessary, in both business and your personal life. If you say “yes” to every project or favor that comes your way, you can set yourself — and anyone you’re working with — on a path toward potential disappointment.
I’ve gotten much better at saying “no” in my personal life. Professionally, I’ve been trying to focus more on the creative projects I want to work on. That means I need to withdraw from tasks that don’t fit into my time table or wheelhouse… which is easier said than done. Walking away is especially challenging when you are short on change and could simply use a few extra bucks. And when a project falls into your lap… why not take advantage of it? Seems quick and easy, right?
Lessons I learned from my most recent project:
- It is never quick and easy. Never ever.
- The client inquiring about your services needs to understand what you provide. For me, I need to point them to my portfolio and make sure that they know what my artistic style is — I don’t do soft charcoals or life-like sketches. On the flipside, maybe ask for some examples of what they like. This helps make sure everybody’s on the same page, and can save time and energy later.
- Be aware of the subject matter. This project was for a religious blog and in this particular case meant detail work. My style tends to be rather simplistic and cutesy — robed Jesus is neither of these, and it was not a natural fit.
- Custom work will always take longer than you think it will. Illustrations will take four times longer than the client thinks they will. I need to charge appropriately for the time involved, even when it scares someone away. My time is worth more money than what I’m usually charging, and I could use that time to do something more personally fulfilling (which could in turn lead to a better paying, more Rachel-appropriate project down the road).
The gentleman I worked with on this project was an absolute pleasure to correspond with, and I believe all parties were pleased in the end. Unfortunately, I now have a final product that will not go into my portfolio, because it is not a style I’d like to do again in the future. Now I know I need to better probe potential clients for what they’re looking for, make sure it fits into what I do, and be brave enough to say “no thanks” if we aren’t both going to benefit from working together.