When a client asks for a certain caliber of shoot within a certain budget and timeline …
I work really hard to never have to say “No” — which means I have to get creative to manage expectations. I’ll reply with an answer explaining that if you want X, then it may change Y: the number of shots, the overall budget, and so forth. There’s a cause and effect. But sometimes, what the client really needs is to hear me say no — because, saying “No” means they can fully trust my “Yes.” It means I’m not taking advantage of the trust that I’ve built. And most important, it means I’ll always be able to deliver on what I promise.
Establish your habits
For those of you that don’t know, I was a production assistant (PA) prior to starting Grey House. I knew I wanted to be a producer, and I knew I needed the work experience to get me there. But even when I began to garner some of that experience, many people still only saw me as a PA. I felt stuck. One of my really good friends at the time told me that I’d just have to start saying no to PA work, because otherwise everyone would continue to see me only as a PA. But remember, I was freelancing. I was terrified to say no to anything! But I had to, in order for people to take me more seriously. And eventually, there was a shift.
Trust your gut
Earlier this year, a photographer and I were bidding an out of town job on a very small budget. We were up against four other bids, and the client’s strategy was to promise a lot for very little. My gut told me that our approach was potentially dangerous — I was lucky to have a great rapport and history with this photographer, so I told him my concerns straight from the start. “If that means you want a new producer,” I said, “I give you full reign to reach out to someone else, but this is hard line I won’t cross.” It was scary for me to say that, because I always strive to be a Yes person. So instead of ending the conversation with “We can’t do this,” I challenged myself to come up with a different response, and asked that he give me 10 hrs to find a “No, but what if we…” approach. Ultimately, we shifted 180 degrees from where we started, in terms of approach, scale and team. And even though we pitched a new idea super-late in the game, the client loved our new strategy — and the agency wasn’t shy in letting us know we won the job because of the unique approach.
Protect your spirit
Saying no shouldn’t be reserved for extreme scenarios. It’s good practice to say no to the projects you don’t love, so you can say yes to the stuff you actually want. Maybe you’re contacted for a lucrative project, but you don’t enjoy the people. Say no. Then, you’re available to something that feeds your spirit as much as your bottom line. It’s OK to say no to non-work asks, too. Most people are shocked to learn that I’m an introvert, since I’m a “professional” extrovert on the job. But sometimes, laying low and saying no to events (or similar) is the best choice to make. It saves my energy to be better for my clients, my team, and my spouse — because that matters, too! Even if you know you’d enjoy something, if you’re running on empty, that’s not fair to yourself or the host. Saying no protects yourself in more ways than are obvious.