No, this isn’t a post on how to encourage more responsible behavior among the youth of our generation but telling them drugs are bad for them. This is part 2 of my short series on “Getting to No.” When we left off, I was discussing that there are times in business when it’s better for you to decline a job, rather than take it. Now, I’d like to briefly discuss some strategies you can use to make saying “no” easier. These are by no means exhaustive, and I am definitely not an expert at saying no. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things for me to do. Not because I always want the business, but because I’m one of those people who always wants to help out (if I can) when people ask. I tend to feel guilty when I tell people no. That’s a big problem I have to over come. But, when I have had the strength to say no in business, some of these reasons below have helped.
- Choose an area focus: for the first five years of our business, our focus was on high end wedding and personal event work. We took a small number of personal event video jobs per year at a higher rate. Any commercial work we did was totally referral based and represented about 1/3 of our business. As our rates raised to well beyond twice the average cost in our area, it naturally became more challenging to sell our services. I wanted to take the company to a new level, so last year we switched our focus to commercial work and it has really opened the world for us. We get a much more diverse range of projects to do. We still do wedding and event work, but it’s a lot easier to say no to those clients who I know may be more difficult to work with because it’s no longer our bread and butter. Commercial work now makes up more than 80% of our business.
- Specialize: I know this sounds similar to my first point about focusing, but there’s a slight difference. Here I’m talking about specializing in a particular area. For our company, we focus on commercial work, and we specialize in serving the pro photography community—photographers and companies that serve photographers. We also do a lot of work for non-profit groups looking to raise funds. If you become a specialist in an area, you can typically charge more, and you’ll find you’ll be busier since most clients in that area of expertise will turn to you. More business means it will be easier to say no to jobs you don’t want.
- Develop additional revenue streams: let’s face it, the easiest way to say “no” is to be bringing in enough money where you can afford to turn down work. If your main service isn’t at a level to do that, then look at carefully and strategically expanding your business to bring in other sources of revenue. It could be anything from selling a product to getting a part time job, doing contract work for others in your field, or relying on the spouse to balance out the budget.
- Believe in yourself and your worth: one of my favorite soap boxes to stand on is “getting paid what you’re worth.” For my event videography brethren out there, this is often a very difficult challenge to over come, particularly in the wedding world. Often times the videographer is one of the last vendors booked when the budget is almost used up. It’s hard to feel a high sense of self worth when you know a bride is paying more for her center pieces or her chair covers than she is for you, the one vendor who can capture both imagery and audio. But, it’s imperative for you to embrace your self worth, recognize the value you bring to the table, and stick to your guns when putting a price on your services. Don’t negotiate yourself down to the equivalent of minimum wage just because you want to get a gig. If you want to make three, four, five thousand or more per job, then don’t take the $2,000 jobs. It’ll be hard at first, but be resolute and work on marketing to and finding those clients willing to pay you what you’re worth.
- Set clear boundaries: sometimes saying “no” isn’t necessarily about turning down a job. It may be about what kind of hours you set, or how and when you meet potential clients. If you have a spouse and kids and you don’t want to meet clients after 5:30, then don’t. If they really want to hire you, they’ll find a way to get off work to come see you. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in situations where you will have to make family or personal sacrifices you don’t want to make. Publish your policies and stick to them. This could even work to your advantage. You’ll find that many potential clients will respect you more and be that more intrigued by you if you stand firm on such policies.
As I said, this list is by no means complete. But I think they are some of the best for getting your business to a point where you feel comfortable turning down work. Good luck out there and remember, “no” is not a four letter word. 🙂