Just Say "No". Design advice for Good Designers.

In 15+ years of The Directive Collective we say “No” to 90% of potential clients and projects. Saying “Yes” selectively is a Good Designer’s greatest tool in their toolbox.

The more you say “No” the more you will get work that is well paid, interesting and with people who you respect.

Be a Good Designer. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the supportive message! With me the percentages are literally reversed.

I would asterisk No #2. Sometimes life pitches you curveballs and you need the cash. But, if that’s not the case, absolutely say No.

Was just gonna say something similar. However in the (rare) instances that this has happened, it didn’t end well, and the money wasn’t worth it.

After I had 10 years of experience, I started saying no. It’s a lot easier when you know the next client / job isn’t too much further away.

That’s a good point, too, Ray.

Riding out the uneven wave of work as a consultant is totally a lesson to be learned. I remember when I started (15+ years ago) I had a little bit of a lull after the first 6 months and started to panic. Wondering if I should get a job at Foot Locker or something if I didn’t find a new client after 3 weeks. Then I got a 5 year retainer project!

I learned quickly after that to enjoy the downtime. When you are busy you can’t spend the money you are making and don’t have the time to enjoy the fruits of your success. When you are not busy, it’s too easy to focus on business development and worrying about the next project to take the time off to recharge, or have some fun.

Balance is the hardest part of working as a consultant but if you can get it right (and do work you love when you are working), then work never feels like work!


All you guys running your own shops have my utmost sincere admiration.

Saying no by the second email response to a potential client (PC) from personal experience:
-avoid long convoluted and awkward explanation by the PC why they have so little budget
-prevent an indignant response from PC that our design fee is exorbitant and he’s received much smaller estimates from other designers, but won’t elaborate when I ask “who”
-no more utter silence, no response, after I’ve emailed PC a draft proposal (making one still takes a few hours)

I said no to a “secure” full time job. After 2 years of trying to steer the boat in a different (correct) direction I realized things were not going to change. I didn’t agree with the direction, employee turn over was high, I didn’t want to design something I wasn’t 100% behind. When people asked “why is this like that” I didn’t want to say “because xyz overseas asked for that”.
As a consultant I have said no plenty of times. No budget, weird project, sketchy client, etc. I learned not to cave to a lower proposal. Unfortunately, if the client asks for a lower cost either you or the client won’t be happy at the end. Usually the ones that want it cheaper are the ones that don’t understand and want the most for their money.
My favorite quote is “A job without profit is a favor with liability”!