One of the best things we’ve learned this year is how to say no.
It sounds simple enough, but based on some of the feedback we’ve received on this blog so far I think it might be a problem that a lot of photographers are facing. I thought sharing some of our own experiences saying no might help other photographers in similar situations.
The Big No
Lauren and I made the decision at the beginning of this year to move away from wedding photography and in 2011 we’ll no longer be photographing weddings. From the start of our careers weddings have been our focus, so this was certainly a big deal.
However the reasoning was simple enough: we were tired of shooting them. That might sound blasphemous at first. After all, we’re wedding photographers! It’s a job that many people would love to do.
The thing is that if you don’t love what you’re doing, then what is the point? Without that fire and passion driving you, you won’t ever be able to reach your full potential. We’re thrilled with the weddings we get to shoot this year; after that we’ll move on.
You might think that saying no to interested wedding clients would be hard. You would be right. But it’s less difficult than dealing with the knowledge that we would have to spend another whole year doing work that we don’t absolutely love.
When deciding how to spend such a huge part of your life, choose carefully. Don’t be afraid to stop doing something that others expect you to do. Focus on making yourself happy, and you’ll make your clients happy as a result.
Other Places To Say No
If you’re just starting out, shooting a variety of work is essential. It helps get you experience in a variety of situations so you can determine strengths and weaknesses.
However if you’re an experienced professional then there’s no need to try shooting every odd job that comes your way.Focus on a specific type of work: weddings, portraits, sports, commercial, landscape – don’t try to do them all!
You will develop the strongest skill set by staying focused.
A healthy interest in all forms of photography is useful, of course. But think about it more from a business perspective: concentrating your efforts will maximize your returns.
Boudoir photography and pet photography are great examples of niches that are exploding because people are focusing more directly on them, and are able to excel as a result.
Replying to e-mails
This goes back to our post on e-mail management. Some clients expect that you respond to e-mails and phone calls in an unreasonable amount of time, and it can cause a fair bit of guilt to know there are messages sitting unanswered.
But it’s important to realize that you don’t need to reply to e-mails within the hour they are received!
You have a photography business right? Establish business hours! Respond to emails every morning, and then focus on other tasks. If you’re spending a lot of time responding right away to messages, you are destroying your productivity by allowing constant interruptions.
One of the toughest things about wedding photography is losing your weekends. It doesn’t take long until you start to deeply value them.
Setting boundaries and giving yourself personal time is critical. Without it, you’re on the road to burn out. However, when you’re just getting started it can create serious anxiety to be NOT working, especially when you’re fighting to get your legs under you. That makes it very very tough to say no to clients when their requests encroach on that personal time.
One of the best ways to create personal time is to charge more for weekend portrait sessions. People will magically find the time for a weekday session when it means they save money, and you can spend your Sunday hanging out with your loved ones, free from stress and work. It certainly makes Mondays much easier to handle!
From time to time we get clients who request we make changes to our contracts. When we were starting out we felt it wasn’t a big deal, we were just happy to be getting business.
Over time we’ve come to realize that the clients who request contract changes are some of the most difficult clients to work with. If they’re asking you to make changes to your contract what else are they going to ask you to go out of your way to do?
Not only does it take you time to amend your contract, but if it’s something as big as a wedding then you’re locked into a contract that isn’t totally to your benefit for a very long time. We have never regretted saying no to contract changes.
This isn’t to say that any client who asks for a contract change is automatically bad. Simply consider any contract changes carefully, and understand that it could be the first step down a difficult road.
This is another thing that’s hard to say no to when you’re first starting out. A client asks that you do something more than what was initially agreed upon.
Our knee jerk reaction was always just do it, in fear that if we said no, or asked for payment, they would be upset. One of the hardest things for new photographers to do is really value their time and talent.
You don’t necessarily have to say no here, but you should have a price that fairly takes into account the energy and time you’ll need to spend.
You many find that people you barely know (friends of friends of friends) start contacting you for photography, and they want a discount.
When we were starting out this was a larger problem for us – mainly because we didn’t realize the value of our skills ourselves (like many photographers I’m sure). The fact is that the discount cycle can be a difficult one to break out of. It seems innocent enough at first; do a session for free or at a discounted rate to get experience, and the next thing you know their friends want the same deal, and eventually your free/discounted work outnumbers your paid work.
We give our close friends (and I mean friends we’ve known for ten years or more) and immediate family discounts and draw the line there. For more discussion on discounts check out this article.
How to Say No
- Be Professional – Don’t give an explanation or apologize. That might seem counter intuitive at first, but when you defend your policies it opens the discussion to argument. Simply state that it is your business policy. If they are in strong enough disagreement with you you can refer them to another photographer – you won’t regret it!
- Be Polite – You’re just saying no, you’re not throwing punches. People are generally understanding if you simply state your policies, thank them for their time, and if necessary refer them to another photographer.
Obviously the beauty of all this is that you’re free to make any exception that you like – just make sure it’s the exception and not the rule.
Hopefully the next time something drops into your inbox that doesn’t please you you’ll remember you always have the option of saying no. It
will make for a happier and more stress-free business!
Have you said no to anything lately that’s made you or your photography business stronger?