How do I decide when to say no to a potential client or project?
In a dream world we wouldn’t have to accept jobs we don’t want to do. But most of us have bills to pay so we don’t always have the luxury of saying no to jobs that don’t suit us.
If you’re a working artist there will be times when you need to say yes to any job that comes along, and it’s quite common to do this especially if you’re at the beginning of your career.
There may come a time, though, when you’re offered an opportunity and you hesitate to accept. It could just be bad timing. But it could also be a sign that it’s not a good fit and you should consider saying no, as hard as that is. We all have so many hours a day and we need to choose wisely what we spend them on.
Our Allies have all struggled with whether or not they should say no to clients or jobs, too, and they’ve shared some of their experiences below.
It’s kind of pooling those different factors together — interest in the subject, overall budget and it’s kind of a vibe thing. It’s asking yourself, Is this going to totally suck or is this going to be pretty fun?
I’ve done a couple of shoots where I’ve been able to go to places I really wanted to go which got me to Pakistan and Nepal and Afghanistan. So I was like, Okay, I can drop everything and do this, maybe work out a payment deal on the back end if it does end up making money. But almost treat it as a creative vacation. I can’t do too many of those because I think that was the one time I started to worry about my financial situation. I was like, I just did all these back-to-back trips basically for free and it’s probably not very tenable.
It’s not always about money. Even though this is what I do for a living now, it’s still— I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’m painting and just chasing a paycheck, because I’m going to be miserable. A lot of this is fun and it’s supposed to be enjoyable. So it’s important to paint things you’re interested in or that are exciting to paint, whether it’s something that’s new and challenging or something that you can feel comfortable with and can just nail out of the park. What a client wants painted plays a big, big role in whether or not I do it, regardless of the budget.
Jon: At a certain point I was taking any design job no matter how stupid it may have been, doing essentially every creative project that came my way. Saying yes until I had the ability and the time to say no to certain projects. But always being cognizant of trying to grow multiple revenue streams because I never knew when one was going to dry up.
Lindz: [And to be aware of] the concept of “no” as an artist.
For me, I see a no as closer to a yes. And statistically we have to have nos to get yeses. So while we don’t necessarily rejoice when we get a no, I know that when we hear a no that we are one step closer to a yes somewhere else.
Knowing what your boundaries are, knowing who you want to work with and who you don’t. Knowing that you have the power to say no and that saying no may open doors to other opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
When I was first starting, I took almost everything, but now I’m like, I know what it takes to make this happen for so little [compensation]. And what is it worth? It depends. If it’s going to be detrimental to my health or my well-being, then it’s harder for me to do it. Feature films are crazy because the hours are so long. Like that Damsel shoot. I was working 12 to 14 hours a day. It was a lot of work. When I did a little bit of work for a Steven Soderbergh project, Mosaic, his mentality and their production, they usually don’t go over 10 hours. It’s, like, 8 to 10. So that’s way more doable.
I’m more inclined to do the commission where it’s like, Hey, this is a present for so-and-so, or, I want to give this to my husband for our anniversary. Those commissions are fun and feel better than, Hey, will you draw this for my logo? Because it’s kind of scary when someone takes your art and is like, This now reps my company.
I kind of feel it out and say, Yeah, I’m down, or No, I’m not. It just feels better when I get commissions where I’m like, You want [a drawing of] your kids riding a motorcycle? I’m down.