When saying no is the way to go

One of the best decisions made last year was firmly deciding to say “no” to a project. It was a big digital project for a really great documentary film. There were lots of positives. A great mission with a wide audience that could potentially make an impact on some important environmental issues. But in the end, the vibe around the work that needed to be done just felt off.

Before the project potential came in, current workloads were already close to full with time and energy stretched thin. But it was still doable. What made it not doable was being asked if it was possible by email, replying yes it was but we’d really need to get moving, and hearing nothing for weeks. The deadline was aggressive, and when the conversation was picked up weeks later it hadn’t changed at all. The client was just now ready to move.

The requirements were also big, and too ambiguous. Lots of “what if this and that” and “can you do this?” Which can be great starting points, but unfortunately, there seemed to be an alarming lack of clarity of what this urgent thing was needing to be. 

Finally, the opportunity cost was too high. When it came down to it, the decision was made to not risk the quality or timeliness of the projects that were currently in design and development. 

At the time, I felt terrible about saying no because I knew the project could be great. But in the end, declining was the right decision. It’s very important to know how long a project takes to do well and how you want to feel about the clients on the other side you’re going to be working with. And when things don’t add up, don’t be afraid to gracefully bow out. Usually that also means you’ll be ready for the next project that is the right fit.