It's Okay to Say No

By guest contributor Maddy Hague. Photo by Breanna Rose.

In today's post, we're going to tackle something that can be difficult for everyone: knowing when to say no, and when to walk away.

Saying No from the Get Go

Saying no to a project before anything gets started may seem like a missed opportunity, but sometimes it's for the best. Leaving in the middle can certainly seem less professional, but it also runs the risk of burning bridges with those you have teamed up with. Here are some tips for determining whether to accept or (politely and professionally) reject a collaboration:

1) If you're approached with a potential collaboration, ask a lot of questions
What is the scope of the project? What am I assigned to do? Where will this be published or promoted? How will this help my blog or business? Knowing what's expected of you from the beginning will help you decide if the opportunity is really worth it.

2) Don't be afraid of being on the fence and letting them know why you're undecided
Maybe the amount of work you're putting in doesn't seem to equal what you'll be getting out of it. If you're excited about the concept of the project, or who you're working with, don't be afraid to ask if the pot can be sweetened a bit. For example: if you're working on a shoot for a blog and they're not compensating you for it, ask if they'd be open to promote content from the shoot that is exclusive to your site. I've been in many situations where I, or one of my collaborators, have asked to submit the shoots we're working on to multiple non-competing publications.

3) If you say no, be polite and explain why you're turning down the offer
Let the person approaching you understand what part of their pitch needed work so they can rethink their strategy. If you're interested in working with them in the future, but this project in particular is not a great fit or the timing doesn't work for you, let them know. This will help prevent you from being passed over in the future.

Walking Away Later

Coming to conclusion to leave a project is never easy. Here are some tips on walking away:

1) Know when to leave
Have you lost the love you once felt for what you're working on? Do you feel like you're not being appreciated or trusted? Is the project causing too much stress for you, or taking up a lot more time than it was originally supposed to? In most cases, when the potential benefit from the project outweighs the temporary inconvenience, you can just deal with it (and maybe treat yourself to a massage or chocolate indulgence later). It's important, however, that you never get to the point where you're miserable. When you get to the point where anything you gain from the experience is outweighed by the negativity of the experience, it's time to walk away.

2) Don't feel bad about your decision
At the end of the day, your collaborators and readers will understand if you're honest about it. They'd rather work with/follow someone who clearly is passionate about what he or she is working on.

3) If you're second guessing yourself, consult with someone who would understand your position
If you have blogger or creative friends you speak with regularly, ask them what they would do. It's sometimes easier to see the path you need to take when your emotions aren't involved. Soliciting advice from some friends who aren't involved with your project will provide some sound insight and help inform your decision.

4) Be honest and express your feelings sooner rather than later
The conversation I had with my Nonpareil partner was terrifying. I was afraid to even bring up the subject. I wasn't sure if what I was feeling was mutual, but I knew we were both under the same stresses. It ended up being a surprisingly easy conversation once I got everything off my chest. It was important to me to voice how much I enjoyed the experience of working with my partner, even if the experience on the project overall wasn't as positive. This helped keep both of us more receptive to the idea of a clean break. To this day we are great friends, and have bonded over our experience on the project.

5) Don't make it personal
Yes, honesty is important. However, if you're not working well with one or more partners, don't start calling them out on it. It's simply not professional. Instead, try a simple, "I don't think this is the right fit for me." If your team wants specifics, try to find a more political way of saying what you're feeling. "You're being a diva and are trying to control everything" is obviously a lot more inflammatory than, "I feel like I'm not being trusted to make decisions I was tasked to oversee." Reputation management is very important in these instances. You don't know who is networked with whom, and the last thing you want is to have a bad reputation with potential future partners.

6) Feel free to recommend some replacements
Your now former teammates may not take your suggestions, but it shows you're considerate and still value the success of the project.