As I enter into 2019, I’ve begun to have to turn away some clients. While I still say “Yes” to a majority of my clients, with my busy schedule, I’ve had to say “No” a few times.

It’s undoubtedly something every photographer will have to say at some point in their career, often multiple times if you’re doing it right. Saying “No” isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it shows progress and maturity in your photographic career.

When it’s OK to say “No”

The most common time I say “No” is when I’m already booked for something. This happens in the busy months of August, September and October for me, more than any other times of the year. While clients certainly understand when you’re already booked, it’s also disappointing if the client you have to say “No” to is one who’s paying you more, or that you enjoy photographing more!

It’s also OK to say “No” when you don’t think the job is a good fit. Last year, I had a potential client come to me and ask me to setup a photoshoot. There was miscommunication between the two of us, and I was having a difficult time getting models, location, etc. sourced in a very small period of time. I ultimately walked away from the job.

Finally, I’ve started saying “No” to those clients who don’t suit my budget. As I begin to get more in-demand, I know I need to put my time where it best pays off. Not only financially, but in terms of my creativity, enjoyment and career goals, too.

Alternatives to saying “No”

As I had an inquiry from a non-profit in December, I stumbled a bit. I had photographed their event last year and had given them a good discount on my services. It ended up being much more work than I anticipated. When the client contacted me for their 2019 event, I was interested, but not at the same rate.

So after talking to a few fellow Photofocus authors, I decided to offer two options to the client.

The first option was to have me photograph the event for more money. There was still a discount present, just not as high of one. I explained that I was not in the position to give a discount of the same amount for the event as I did last year.

The second option was a bit more creative. Tracie Maglosky recommended I offer the services of a junior photographer. It had been something I’ve been investigating anyway, so I wouldn’t have to say “No” to clients I really wanted to book when I was already busy with another photoshoot. I would train the person in my style, and make sure they were ready to go and just as professional and prepared as I would be. I could offer the same rate as last year’s event, while still offering some great quality photographs.

What this also allowed me to do is expand my availability. If I had two clients come to me on the same day and say “I’d like to hire you,” I could have the option of keeping the client relationship open by sending my junior photographer. It would also give me a secondary income source, allowing me to capitalize on the added work. In essence, this allows you to grow your business without having to be in two places at one time — or without having to raise your rates.

When it’s not OK to say “No”

There’s really only one situation when it’s NOT OK to say “No” to a client. And that’s when you are approached by another client after the original client has hired you. They might offer you more money, they might be more fun to work with and offer you a photoshoot you really want to take part in. But it’s never OK to turn down a client you’ve already committed to — period.

This publishes on Christmas eve, so Merry Christmas everyone!

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.