Rachel Linder and her husband are a photography team from Raleigh, NC. Her expertise in her craft, as well as, her savvy business practices makes her the perfect person to tackle such a sensitive subject. The School of Styling works with Rachel often, and we can't think of a better person to share advice on this topic.
Saying "no" can be easier than you think. First, ask yourself why you would want to say "yes" to a potential collaboration. Is it for the experience? For the sake of strengthening your skills? For publication and exposure? To show your clients the work you can provide? To connect with other vendors? My reasons for collaborating are usually a combination of all of these factors. So when accepting collaboration invitations or extending my own, I seek to work with other creatives who will help me achieve all of these things. If you don’t see these things happening for you during a potential collaboration, chances are, you might need to graciously decline. Below are some tips for doing so:
Express gratitude for the opportunity. If your mom taught you how to say “No, thank you,” she knew what she was doing. As hard as it is to say “no” at times, saying “no” with kindness goes a long way. Anyone could have been asked to work on this potential collaboration. Whether you’re competing in a market that’s over saturated or you stand with only a handful of others in the same field, you are the one being requested out of all the rest. Your unique talents and gifts were chosen above others’. That’s a huge compliment, so be sure to thank them for the honor and consideration.
Suggest an alternative. Saying no to one opportunity now doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t ever work together in the future. It’s amazing what can happen when creative minds work together, so be open to exploring different avenues of collaboration in the future. If you know of another vendor or two that might be better suited, offer those references as recommendations.
Communicate your reason(s) for declining. While it’s not necessary to do this, giving clear feedback will be helpful to others and they will appreciate the explanation. Extend kindness to others and let know why you are declining this collaboration.
Reason: It doesn’t fit your brand. It’s important to know all of the details pertaining to the potential collaboration and how those details will speak to the industry about what you do and how you do it. Will the details bring value to your brand, or remove value? Will the details send the right message? If you’re spending your resources on something that isn’t going to portray your business how you want, then you won’t reach your target market. Only accept collaborations that will send the right message about your brand and what you can offer so that you’re always working towards finding your ideal client.
Reason: It doesn’t fit your budget. One of the best things a mentor ever told me was “Work smart, not hard.” As easy as it is to say “Yes!” to any and all exciting opportunities, remember that your business is just that - a business. A simple way to work smarter, not harder, is to set measureable guidelines in place that will help you quickly determine whether a potential collaboration will be worth the investment. For example, one guideline I often see is businesses that only accept collaboration requests if the feature is guaranteed to be published. Collaborations always have a monetary investment, so if the return on your investment isn’t going to bring you the profit you need, then you should decline the offer and spend your valuable resources elsewhere.
Reason: It doesn’t fit your schedule. Speaking of valuable resources, your time is one of your most valuable. When considering whether or not to accept a collaboration, you need to know your limits. Are you able to take on a collaboration while still having time to meet the needs of your paying clients, and time to meet that friend for coffee or to fold that pile of laundry? You’re going to see a return wherever you invest your time, just like you see a return on your money, so take that into consideration as you weigh your options and balance your schedule.
Reason: You’ve already done something similar. Potential collaborations are a wonderful avenue to inspire others with your talents, push the limits of your abilities, and test your creative eye. If you don’t have the freedom to explore new ideas, or strengthen your skills, chances are the potential collaboration is not for you. Accept projects that will challenge you and keep you growing as a creative.