This is Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/80]
For the past ten years, Mark Johnson has invited me to speak to his advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA on business practices.
One of the tips I always share with the class is to Learn To Say YES.
I learned how to say yes from my friend Tony Messano, a creative director and a voice-over talent. This tip had a significant impact on my life in many ways.
Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you agree to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that you ethically disagree with doing.
Tony advocated that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses rather than becoming a problem.
The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here, can you do _______? Tony helped me see how to take this request and not only meet the demand but also make more money.
I learned how to price for the project, and then when this type of request came up, I could say “Yes.” Yes, I can make that happen; however, since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it, I need to charge XYZ for the additional work.
I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then responded with a “NO.”
What Tony helped me understand was that when I was saying no, I wasn’t helping the client at all. If they still needed it done, they would find someone who could make it happen, and often then, I would usually no longer be used for future projects.
Why do I want to say no?
Before I could say yes, I learned I needed to know why I wanted to say no.
When I was in a staff job, I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer, I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.
Had I learned this tip earlier in my career, I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone asked me to do something, I would now say how I want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.
Yes, I can make that happen for you if you tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.
As a freelancer, I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have, or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.
Let the client say NO
Tony said my goal is to say yes as much as possible and to be sure the client is the one saying no, not me.
As a freelancer, the client asks me to do something, and my response is I would love to help you. The additional cost to make this happen is XYZ. Just sign right here to the changes on the contract, and I will make it happen.
The client will then respond great or no; we cannot afford to do that. If they have to have this done, then you are not the reason it gets done; they don’t have the resources to make it happen, or maybe the request then no longer necessary.
As a staff person, I am not asking for more money. I am taking the burden of what is on my plate and the difficulties of making it happen back onto their plate.
My boss asked me to take photos of their event; in the past, I would have said no, I am already booked. I now say I am already covering another event at the same time. I am more than willing to cover this event if you need me to. Which event do you want me to cover, and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot hide?
Saying No makes you a problem–Saying Yes Makes you a problem solver.
When you say no, the person requesting your help will have to find someone else. Had you said yes, their problem is solved.
Today when I get a request for something, and I am already booked, I always offer to find someone for them. One of the best ways to keep those clients returning is to handle the booking of the photographer and have the photographer work as a subcontractor for you. This way, they show up to shoot the project, and you handle the billing. This way, they continue to come back to you.
Another tip I share with the students is about how to network. I tell them to act like a first-year student and not a senior. Here is a previous blog post that I did explaining this tip for you.
A side note about speaking to the class is I get to spend time with Mark Johnson. Every time I go, I have lunch with Mark, and I learn much each time.
This time I listened and watched how Mark worked hard to present content to the students in a positive manner. He doesn’t speak down to the students. He challenges them so that he is also communicating that he knows they can do whatever he asks of them.
It is a joy to visit UGA and spend time with the students and Mark.