Any creative worth their salt, will quickly find out that ‘no’ is a very important word to get to grips with. For starters it probably gets flung at you quote a lot; no you can’t do that idea, no you’ve got it wrong, no the client will never buy that, no it’s been done before. There’s nothing easier than saying no to a creative idea after all.
A lot of course depends on how you respond to that simplest of words. Do you a) take it as a command, shrug your shoulders and give up, or do you b) hear what they have to say, shrug your shoulders and treat it as a polite request for more information, which you’ll happily provide them with again, and again, and again, until you wear them down and a little ‘yes’ ultimately pops out?
I’d argue that those in the b) camp are probably the more successful creatives.
The last thing I’d try to argue is that just because you won’t take no for an answer means you somehow become blessed with super-human creative powers, but if you’re not prepared to stand up for your own ideas then it’s unlikely anyone else will do on your behalf. If nothing else being prepared to keep pushing, to keep going back, will maybe force you to re-look at your own work and maybe just maybe you’ll improve things a little bit along the way, and that ‘no’ might turn into a ‘yes’ a little bit more often.
Of course it’s not just about being on the receiving end of a ‘no’ that is important as a creative. Saying ‘no’ to others is an even more important tool to have at your disposal. Knowing what you’re good at and what work is going to suit you best is, probably the single most important thing you can be honest with yourself about in your creative career.
Focus really is everything, and whilst it might be difficult to walk away from potential projects and opportunities, what you say ‘no’ to will in many ways define you more than what you say ‘yes’ to.
It’s that focus which is going to become ever more important through all of the work we do. As it becomes not only easier, but essential to learn how to collaborate more with the best talent for each task rather than try to do everything in-house. Always work with others better than yourself, is a good rule of thumb.
So whilst saying no a bit more often might get you a bit of a reputation as a grumpy old creative director of old, hopefully you’ll find you’re happier in your work and it might even mean the creative gets that little bit better along the way. And who knows, as the digital side of our industry continues to mature perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the angst ridden traditional lot who make sure they work with best people they can on every job.
There is still just one small final problem, which is that us Brits do have tendency to say ‘maybe’ when we really mean ‘no’, and this doesn’t really help anybody when you’re trying to get some work signed off. So take it from me, get past that British reserve and give it a try, perhaps you could even practice saying no in the mirror a few times. Go on, just say no.