No, is a full sentence.

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Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.

Brené Brown

I wrote an article in 2016 and got over 21,000 hits on my website in one day. It was the first time this simple city girl got that much online attention, ever. The article, Hello 2016, Goodbye Smash Cake, evoked emotions on both sides of the fence. And, just like with the boundaries we set in our personal lives people got angry and felt they needed to defend themselves. Who was I to say “No,” to a trend that many folks love?

Now, here I sit three years later and can tell you as successful businesswomen, ‘No’, is the single best thing I can say sometimes. When I was a newbie photographer, I wanted to say, yes, to everything, every chance I got. Over the years I have come to learn that not all business is good.

The antithesis of no, ‘yes‘, comes with responsibility. It means you are showing up with all you got. It means you have to be your best self with your best effort. Don’t say ‘yes’, unless you mean it.

What does not work for me and when I say, “no, thank you”.

You know that client that has already cost you more than you will make and you are still just in the booking phase. If I get to a point with a client and I have exchanged 20 emails, 3 phone calls and 8 text messages and I still have not booked the session, I move on and tell them I am not the photographer for them. After all that, my ROI has been killed. This might be an argument to raise my rates – but really these are not the folks I want to be dealing with at the end of the day. Am I alone on this?

The school fundraiser. Just no. Especially my kid’s school. I am known by many at my kid’s school as a photographer. I get hit up regularly to photograph events there. Every time without hesitation, I say, ‘no, thank you’. Why you may ask? These are all parents in my community, they are a captive audience, they are in or around my demographic. This is easy advertising! Right!

Wrong. I made this mistake early on at my kids preschool, I donated a family photography session to the silent auction. I stipulated on the advert for the session that it could only be booked January-August. The auction winner called me in October and wanted it that same weekend. Right now, every family photographer reading this is shaking their heads, thinking oh hell no. I was booked solid as it is my busiest time of year. I could not help them. They went straight to the preschool and complained, then wrote a bad review about me online, told all the other parents I was terrible. Giving away your services for free is never good, especially in your own community which could open your good intentions up to scrutiny.

I no longer donate my sessions to anyone, anywhere. I simply say no. If you love a cause and want to donate something, donate your time or your money but not your talent as a photographer. When people get something for free they will never appreciate it as a client who has paid. It’s just not how humans work. We do not place value on things that are given to us.

The Pinterest client. I have a Pinterest account. I get it. I do and I love it! But when a client comes me with their Pinterest board and tells me to recreate it I say, “no, thank you”. I explain to them all the hard work those artists have put into their creative process and reproducing another person’s hard work is not what I am good at, nor do I feel right about. I ask the client what about my website, my gallery provoked them to call me and try to redirect. If they don’t relent, I know I am not the photographer for them. My favorite part of my job is my creative process. Letting go of that would be letting go of my values.

There will be blowback.

My only two bad reviews online are from clients I have said: “no thank you, I am not the right photographer for you”. True story, I clearly said, no, to the right folks, huh. If they are those kinds of people, they are not folks I want to be working with. Go with your gut, it is right!

You are the captain and commander of your business life. What you are not changing about your business practices you are choosing. Feel empowered to say ‘no’.

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Brené Brown, Rising Strong


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