Podcast: Say No with Grace

Do you have a hard time saying NO and setting boundaries? If so, this week’s Art Marketing Action podcast is for you. Listen now:


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How do you say No and set boundaries?


Saying No is a lesson in the upcoming Get Organized online class, which begins July 9. In the class, I give you the Best 10 Words you can use when you have a hard time saying No.


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6 comments to Podcast: Say No with Grace

  • It is especially hard to say “No” to art donation requests from charities whose work you believe in. But the number of requests can become ridiculous…as well as (due to the current tax laws) personally impoverishing. Thanks for modeling such a good response. I may write that one out 20 times so I remember it!

  • susan godwin

    In my former life as a therapist I taught to my clients the broken record technique- which I learned in school. And that is to respond using a minimum of words and repeat only those words as much as needed. Many times people believe providing an excuse (or new and better excuses) will get them off the hook but an agressive person will often persist. Best to just respond with the least words, such as,”Sorry I can’t”. Repeat as often as needed.

  • Mike

    I wonder why your response to the request to write an article for a magazine is not similar to the one given for the demonstration without compensation request? There are three kinds of requests for free services: 1. Charities: social services trying to raise funds for their programs to assist the community. 2. Non-profits: associations, organizations, support groups, etc. Not all non-profits specialize in social/community causes. 3. Cheapies: requests from companies and organizations who can and should pay for goods and services but are trying to save money or maximize profit by getting those goods and services for free. We as individuals need to evaluate whether we provide artwork or services for charity causes we believe in. But, we also need to make sure we’re not being taken advantage of in the process. Artists are always being asked to donate. There is a social good in donating a product (an art piece for an auction) or a service (design, photography, etc. to help promote an organization or cause) to an organization or cause you believe in and support. However, If you take a closer look at who’s requesting the donation (and maybe using the old line, “we’re a non-profit, you know”), you might find you’re the only one giving things away for free. Non-profit does not necessarily mean “we don’t have any money”, only that profits are not able to be distributed to “shareholders”. There are many non-profits out there paying their executives six-figure salaries. One question to ask yourself is “Is everyone getting paid but me?” You might find that organization staff are being paid, advertisers, caterers, designers, printers, the venue is being rented, etc. I don’t have any problem stating my fees when non-profits send requests for services and I often reduce my fees in those cases that merit it, but select my pro bono work carefully. Back to my original question about the magazine. Unless the request is coming at a bad time, a person shouldn’t be afraid to either ask about the rate the magazine pays for articles or to provide the rate you expect to be paid for such work. The magazine generates advertising revenue based upon readership of the articles within the covers. If a magazine asks you to write an article (or provide a photograph or illustration), your talent has value to them. Unless it is a charity publication (even then, perhaps), I would recommend reviewing the ability to pay before saying yes. Again, why would you want to be the only one not getting compensated for your time and talent?

  • Way back when I was a part time artist, full time Mom, I hadn’t really committed to my art being my priority. The first time I got a long distance call from a gallery asking if I could send them some art, I thought “No, I don’t think I can do that”–“I’m not worthy” or something– so I decided I would change from saying no to most things to saying yes and figuring out how I could do it. It worked brilliantly for years. Now I can figure out pretty quickly whether I want to say yes or no, but you might want to encourage beginning or emerging artists to say yes a lot. Although your examples, free demos, contribute to a charity function, write unpaid, were all stellar examples of when to say no! best, Lynne

  • Hi Alyson, You’ll be pleased to know I actually read each of the comments today (rather than just the first line) and listened to your Podcast- before launching my sails. -I liked Susan’s response and agree- ‘Less is more.’ And I have to add, I feel it’s far more gracious to just say, “No, I can’t” and leave it at that, rather than add a litany of reasons and excuses. Don’t we all prefer to hear a direct response to our requests? -Mike also brings up some excellent points of what we deal with as artist. Most of these things are presented as “It is your privilege and honor to donate your work…your time….” -Lynne makes a good point. You definitely need to look and listen before you say no, especially if an artist is just starting out. But sll that said, I also agree with you, Alyson, that these requests are not done with some devious intent. They just don’t think about it from the artist’s vantage point. So I come to-my opinion: A simple “No, but thank you” is always the most graceful response. Vikki

  • Another great post that has generated great comments! I have such a hard time saying no to clients. When it comes to clients why would someone want my fastest work instead of my best work? I have set up “fast delivery” as part of my business model and they love it, but I hate it. It is my job to fix that and find a graceful compromise. Alyson, I love how you have taken control of your e-mail. So often people not running an on-line business may get maybe 5 or 10 e-mails at the most per day. They can not really understand the position of someone that gets that many e-mails or more per hour.