In an industry where we are paid to make things, saying yes is what we are trained for and expected to do.
Never say no.
Always find a solution.
Never let them see you sweat.
Be a problem solver.
Saying “no” has consequences we are all familiar with, but saying “yes” has its own set of consequences and yes can be a disaster.
In this marketing and production landscape where we are delivering more for less, sometimes the answer is a flat out no and that needs to be accepted.
Would you say yes if asked to pay $100 for a snack? Would you say yes if asked to write a book in a day, or build a house in a week? Of course not, yet we say yes to ludicrous asks all the time, and I mean all the time. I especially love the ones where it is phrased as a compliment — “I know you will figure it out,” or “You’re the best.”
Here’s what really happens.
You say yes and then end up failing, and it reflects poorly on you alone. Clients will never remember they had a small budget, they will only remember wanting more and being disappointed. Creative will always lament what should have happened, and they won’t care that you had two cents — they won’t — they just won’t use you again.
It sounds harsh, right? It is harsh.
More importantly, saying “yes” propagates a culture of fear; if you don’t say yes, you’re not resourceful enough. If you don’t say yes, no one will call you again. If you don’t say yes, you’ll be replaced.
This is detrimental to the health of our industry and leads to a culture of undercutting. At the end of the day, we all have to pay our bills. While we always want to be fair, there are hard costs to doing business that cannot be avoided. After all, no viable business can operate for free. This isn’t about accommodating ludicrous expense reports or lavish perks. It’s about being able to provide a space where creative people flourish and problem solvers thrive. It’s about supporting healthy business and industry where talent can grow and in turn will benefit clients.
We have to ask, “Do we have the courage to say no in this industry?” We should because “yes” is not working. Saying yes is exhausting, stressful and simply not smart business.
Saying “yes” is overpromising, then under-delivering, when we’re taught to do the opposite. Saying “yes” is like giving you a butter knife when what you need is a scalpel. You can still do the job, it just makes it a whole lot tougher.
So lets smarten up and say “No” for the health of our industry.