Day 18: Saying No In Business

For the sake of being transparent, I want to start by saying we are photographers for so many reasons that are near and dear to our hearts. The path that brought us to our passion is personal and a huge part of our lives. But, for today, we are solely talking about being in business, and a cut and dry purpose of being in business is to shoot and get paid for it, right? So saying no to any opportunity seems counter productive to this main business goal. This is where the question can be a bit difficult to answer: When do I say no?

To answer that question I usually ask myself a few questions:

  1. Is it something I WANT to do?
  2. Will this lead to more business? If the answer is yes, then is that a guarantee or merely a promise of exposure?
  3. If the person is asking me to shoot for free, is it for a cause I am passionate about?
  4. By saying yes to this, will I be saying no to something else? This can be time with my son, other jobs, a day off at home, etc.
  5. Is this likely to lead to more requests for special discounts or accommodations later?

Answering these questions will help me determine if I want to say no to a specific job or request. I already know I don’t have the time to shoot every event, so I need to stick to ones I’m very passionate about to begin with. I also know that it’s not worth it to put myself into a situation where someone is going to negotiate with me at every turn, so I shouldn’t say yes to those requests. And I know that by saying yes to one thing, I am saying no to something else. If that something else is time with my son who is already twelve, then I know the request has to return some value to make up for the time I’m spending away from him. Once you’ve defined what you’re willing to say yes to and what you’re willing to say no to, you can focus on the how.

The how requires a lot of finesse, but once you’ve had some practice at saying no gracefully, you’ll realize it’s not as intimidating as it seems. Luckily, I’ve made a point over the last several years to take note of impressive No’s I’ve heard from people who I believe are much more socially graceful than myself.

  1. A request for shooting a catalog of products.

Thank you for thinking of me for this project! After some thought, I’m going to have to pass. It’s my goal this year to spend more time with my family so I’m trying to make that happen. Thank you again and good luck to you! 

The photographer thanked the requester for thinking of her, made a point to say she thought about it, and gave a solid reason for not being able to accommodate the request. She didn’t say no to the person, just the request. Easy, simple, no hard feelings.

  1. A request to open an extra spot at a workshop:

Thanks so much for your email! At this time I prefer to keep it to 20 per class. This ensures each student receives the time they deserve to get the most out of the class. I would encourage you to check out upcoming dates that might work for you and I hope to see you at a class soon!

The photographer, again, thanked the requester for the email, and then stated their preference. This can be worded any way you need. “I prefer to keep the billing in three payments.” “I prefer to keep Saturdays open for weddings.” Then they provided an alternative option of another date to make sure the person didn’t feel a personal rejection.

  1. A request to discount products or services.

Thank you for reaching out to me about your concerns. I understand budgets, especially when it comes to planning a large event! In order to meet my own  financial needs however, and to make sure each couple is receiving the same services across the board, I am not able to discount my collections. Please let me know if you’re able to reallocate your budget because I would love to work with you!

Start with a thank you, always. Budgets can be a bit of a difficult conversation to navigate so being graceful in this subject also helps build trust so they know they can talk to you openly and honestly. Giving a reasonable reason for saying no also helps because you don’t want them to think you simply said “NOPE!” There was thought and reason behind it and that makes all the difference.

What are your thoughts? Do you have anything to add to this from your own experiences? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you tomorrow for Day 19: Do you do this full time? How to answer that question without sounding inexperienced.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

denise karis photography blog 100 posts in 100 days for photographers