The situation was becoming clear: we had a client who wanted to work with us but didn’t want to let us do our thing...

saying no is badass branding in brooklyn

They needed to separate themselves from competitors, but they weren’t willing to focus on one detail of their business. Like I said in Part 1, “they wanted to be everything for everyone.”

So, this Brandup was going to be a lot of back and forth, just trying to make something they like, and then them looking to us to tell them it’s good.

“No, it’s not good, but it’s what you’re forcing us to make…”

It was a shitty situation with a client that I’d turned into a bad client.

Face a shitty situation head-on

We prepped anyway, and we made some great looking designs that were both in-line with what they wanted and modern. (Seriously, anything would have been better than the site they’d currently had.) We also wrote some generic copy they wanted, attempting to make it unique and different.

All prepared, Steve and I walked to the client’s office early to start the first day, both kind of dreading this project.

Why dreading it? Because we were going to charge them our fee to do something we didn’t believe in. Even if they were ultimately going to be happy, they shouldn’t be paying a premium rate for this. If they wanted a designer to just make something that looks nice according to them, there are waaaay cheaper options.

And me? I was going to have to manage the entire thing, simultaneously trying to please them and convince them that the generic fluff they were forcing me to write was actually going to work? (Not like they needed much convincing anyway.)

That’s when we turned down $10,000 the morning of a project, even though we had done all the prep work and could have easily just done it and made them happy.

Best “No” we ever said.

Don’t sever ties

Of course, Steve and I called the client up and apologized. I explained why: I didn’t think they were going to let us provide the service they were paying us to provide, and I couldn’t charge them for the work we were going to do. I said we would just give them all the prep work anyway, and that they could take these awesome designs and find someone cheap to implement them if they wanted. I figured they basically got some great design work without having to pay for it, and that that would make them happy.

They understood, no hard feelings. They were happy to receive the designs for free, and Steve and I danced down the street excited to have escaped this nightmare couple of days.

Be who you are

This experience solidified it: we were for service businesses only. Now, we knew we wouldn’t even entertain products because it just wasn’t worth it. There are plenty of service businesses in need of our Brandups, and we know we can crush it every time. The value of what we are selling is highest for those types of clients. 

And that’s the main point of saying no in the first place: to create time for the clients you love—to work with the clients you can do your best for.