When it comes to client work, I have only recently gotten more comfortable with saying no. Itâ€™s always been hard because I have a bit of a guilt complex. The last thing Iâ€™d want to do is hurt a potential clientâ€™s feelings. Email should make it easier and in some ways, it does. But thereâ€™s still a human on the other side, reaching out.
Itâ€™s only been in the last two years where I even felt comfortable turning down projects. Up until that point, I took on everything I could get my hands on because I needed the real world experience, the income and I knew that each project would teach me something new. I took on the good, the bad and the questionable in a thirst for knowledge. A few projects landed me long-term clients that I still work with over at Branch and filled out my personal portfolio at a time when I spent my days working at agencies on large corporate projects.
Looking back, I wouldnâ€™t trade any of those experiences because they not only taught me a lot about working with different types of clients but they taught me a lot about myself. I learned what I wanted more of. I learned that the sweet spot of Branch was creative small to medium-sized businesses.
Where is all this leading? By now, it should be easier to say no. A few weeks ago, even when I looked at the Branch schedule which was booked solid for at least a month out, I found myself cringing inside as I told my project manager to turn down about five jobs. Saying no still stings but Iâ€™ve learned that it is better to be honest.
Sometimes, itâ€™s a matter of timelines. If a client needs something faster than you can offer it to them, be upfront about it. Thereâ€™s no point in disappointing yourself and them when you canâ€™t keep up. Other times, itâ€™s in an industry you donâ€™t know much about or feel comfortable diving into. Thatâ€™s okay, too. Take the time to offer some great referrals to other designers you feel would be a better fit. And in some instances, itâ€™s a clash of communication styles â€” youâ€™re going to be spending a lot of time with clients, even if youâ€™re working remotely so itâ€™s imperative that you mesh well right from the beginning.
If youâ€™re saying no for the right reasons, you should never feel guilty. Every single person who contacts you deserves the absolute best service and outcome of their project. If you canâ€™t make that happen for any reason, be honest. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for potential clients. Itâ€™s nothing personal; itâ€™s a matter of being comfortable enough with who you are to know what you excel at…and what you donâ€™t.
Saying no doesnâ€™t always have to be viewed as a negative â€” instead, it can be viewed as empowering, honest and straightforward. Donâ€™t just focus on whatâ€™s best for you but also whatâ€™s best for your potential clients.
Your turn: What are your tips for making saying No sting less?