,

The Power of Saying No


We all dream of saying it to the client one day…

I’m a ad man, or should I say a former ad man.

When I used to work in agencies, I seldom had the opportunity to say “No”. Usually, there were suits that managed us creatives. This is was very clever. Chances are if you let a creative run the show, they’d probably say “No” to the client so many times, the agency would most likely be fired or bankrupt.

Usually, the only person that had the power to say “No” was the client.

There are many reasons why a client would say “No”

  • “It’s a great idea… but it’s a bit too ‘out-there’”
  • “We absolutely love it… but our research shows some people just don’t get it.”
  • “It ticks all the boxes in the brief… but we simply don’t have the budget.”
  • “We want to go for it… but we have to get approval from legal.”
  • “It’s pretty much signed off… but let me run it past my kids just in case.”

As the person coming up with the idea, it can be soul-crushing to have the fruits of your labour chipped away bit by bit, until so little of it is remains so that you lose belief in it completely. This has happened to me more times than I’d like. Sometimes you feel frustrated. Other times you wonder where you went wrong, what you could of done to prevent the client saying “No”.

I believe all agency people yearn for “Yes”. There’s nothing that lifts the spirits of over-worked, over-substanced and under-appreciated ad people like the glorious and holy sound of a resounding “Yes” from a client. When we hear it, it’s as if the heavens have parted and a holy choir is singing. We work countless hours into the night, throughout the weekend, and then a little bit more, just so we can hear that simple word — “Yes”.

What I’m advocating, is for more creative professionals to start saying “No”.

Did you ever have times like these?


  • When you feel like the project is simply going no where
  • The client just doesn’t make sense, no matter what angle you look at it
  • You wish you can die so you didn’t have to think about that bloody brief
  • You dream of quitting and setting up a coffee truck by the beach
  • It’s close to midnight, and you look at the office cleaner with longing and envy. That lucky son-of-a-bitch.

If you truly believe in your craft, your passion and aspirations. Then perhaps it’s time you considered to start saying “No”. It’s not going to be easy, in fact, saying “No” often means it’s going to cost you your next paycheque. It could cost you your next promotion. It could even cost you your job.

But, saying “No” means taking a stand for what you believe in.

Saying “No” means listening to your gut and not giving in.

Saying “No” means prioritising what you want to say “Yes” to.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve learnt to do, but also the best thing I’ve done.


And that is the power of saying “No”.

Title Photo Credit: flickr

Photo Credit: flickr

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.