Marketing Mondays: In a Word

If you are reading this in Google Reader, please click here to go to my blogsite, where  you will find more than just this article. Thank you.

Screen Grab from Google

I've talked about this topic before. And like many such duplicated topics, I try to approach the second time (or the third) in a different way. Today's word is No. If you wish to be more polite about it, you may say “No, thank you” or “I’m sorry, I’m unable to accommodate your request at this time.” If you’ve tossed politeness to the wind you may have a stronger negative response. But if you don't learn to use it, you're going to feel like this doormat:

I’m talking, of course, about requests for donations of art, for invitations to teach or demonstrate that come with no payment or with an honorarium that doesn't honor your abilities in any way, or for requests from non artists to give up hard-won studio time. No is particularly important when your artwork would otherwise be devalued in donation (typically it sells for lower than market rate) and when your time is viewed as so worthless that you should be expected to give it to everyone who requests it (“We’ll, it’s not like you have to leave work”).

You don’t have to say No to everything—indeed it feels good to give, and it’s important to be able to support good causes—but you want to do so on your own terms, in a way that feels right to you.

When the “be-nice” person inside you is saying should, should, should, even though every muscle in your body is poised to run in the other direction, that’s when to say No.

Over to you: Do you have difficulty saying No? Or have you learned to be negative in a positive way? Please share your stories and advice.

Related posts:

Don't say No: If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar.)


Anonymous said...

I have found that saying "no" some of the time and saying "yes " some other times, all to the same organizations , makes the "yes precious. For the record, I have had more GOOD things happen in my career by saying "Yes", than by saying "No."

Milisa Galazzi said...

Joanne, thank you for your important teaching via this blog. Your topics are always educative and timely...

I have struggled with saying "no" in my life and this year, I finally determine the nature of my consternation...Connection to other people is very important to many aspects of my life. I wrongly assumed that when I said "no" to someone,I was dis-connecting with them which felt horrible to me. I have learned over time, that a nicely poised "no" with explanation can actually create MORE connection, more understanding, more opportunity for future engagement which is more beneficial or timely or appropriate. Sometimes "no" is really, "not now" or "not in this way." When we say "no thank you, not like this" we are claiming our personal power. Ultimately this allows us to continue to direct our own destiny and lead a life of our own creation.

Anonymous said...

I have difficulty saying no. I also have difficulty saying yes. I tend to obsess about whatever is penciled in on the calendar, for weeks in advance, which distracts me from painting. So, to protect my studio time and lessen stress around non-painting activities, I am both learning to say no and also learning to bunch my yeses together. For example if a friend wants to have lunch and I have some errands I'll line those up on the same day. Or if I'm spending time with relatives and I know I won't be able to paint during a given week (such as over the holidays) I will still make time to do non-painting studio work, like framing and preparing canvases. This way I feel active, productive, and forward-moving, not like a doormat (with no "real job").

I have read elsewhere that some artists plan their non-studio activities for one specific day a week. So, every week Friday is errand day, appointment day, lunch with a friend day. Then if someone asks you to drop everything and do something with them, you can say, "Not this week, but how about next Friday?" instead of just saying no. Your friends and family gradually come to know that day as a time you will be available, and they (usually!) leave you alone the rest of the time.

Sounds good on paper, might be hard to put into practice?

Lisa Call said...


I say No with ease, but try to do so gracefully. My time and resources are too valuable to squander it.

When I say yes I can then commit myself without conflict as it will be for something I care deeply about.

Anonymous said...

I like to say "yes" but it has to be a worthwhile cause. A few years ago I donated to a cause for abused children and it was a worthy cause. But I went to an art symposium in our state and that charity had staff memebers checked into a 4 star hotel, room service, top restaurants. It was NOT out of state! Maybe a 30 minute drive at most. I was unable to afford to stay at a hotel and eat out so why was I giving my art to support the (Many) administrators? Then I quit donating to them.

Last year I was contacted by a group of young attorneys who do pro bono work for artists. I'm not sure what they do, but I doubt that they will bail me out of the slammer for disorderly or such but I thought "it sounds good, I like it", so I donated. I also like to buy at fundraisers/art auctions, you can get a great deal and I attended the art auction. Unfortunately, they had it outdoors at a restaurant and misters turned on (to cool outdoor dining a bit in the desert) but they were sprinkling the artwork. I did NOT make a new work of art (most of which was student donations, honestly, so that it could stay under the misters and get warped/wet). When I complained to one of the attorney organizers he got pretty huffy. I will never give as much as an inch of canvas to them again. So "how will they display the art and what kind of art will it be with" are of primary importance.

I will always donate to one of my earlier artists cooperatives. These are wonderful learning experiences for young artists and donations are by artists I know and respect. I'll always support them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joanne, it's always a good reminder to conserve your resources! This is what I say, short, sweet and non-judgmental:

I am so sorry, but I will not be able to donate to your auction. It looks like a very worthy cause, but I am asked for many, many donations for charities each year and I have to be very selective with the ones I support. It takes many weeks to complete a painting and they are in limited supply.
I am sure you understand.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work,

robertsloan2art said...

One of the problems many artists have with saying No is that they actually care about the causes.

There is a way to manage time and donations that can work if that's your problem. Judeo-Christian traditions talked about tithing - so if you add up the amount of donating you do, treat it as a budget of 10% of your studio time/materials.

You can spend it wisely by doing works that are created fast rather than slow pieces. You can plan it well and put your efforts where they'll do the most good. But that gives you a cutoff point. You will be asked for so much time and donations that if you said yes to everyone 75% of your time might go to donated art and speaking engagements, but if you have a set level of donations that fits your life, then it can still be the right thing to do and warm your heart.

If you're doing better financially and want to do more, great - but sit down and budget it as a percentage anyway. Maybe you're prosperous enough to do 20% of your time on charity causes. If so, kudos to you- but you can't make so many commitments that you can't keep them all or it does no good even for those causes.

Everyone has to say no eventually.

robertsloan2art said...

One way to manage too many donations when you care about the causes is to manage your time. Look at how much time you can budget to donations and plan it in advance, then get choosy about where it goes - to the ones you care the most about.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all talk about tithing to charity. It may be more cost effective if you do this with your time and work than with actual cash from your budget - but that comes to the same thing. Setting a percentage lets you see how much time you can devote to these things and plan it so that it goes to the ones you care the most about.

Maybe you are doing well enough you can afford to be more generous. But no matter how well off you are, there will come a point with time and work where it'll cut into your own subsistence needs and your career. Setting a percentage, working out the hours you can spend on charitable work and then planning where to spend it wisely is the best way to keep it in check. Because there is more need in the world than any one person can fill, you could wind up doing 100% of your work for charity and still have to say no to some people.

So don't feel bad when you're overbooked and another one asks. It's fair to them to just say no instead of taking on more commitments than you can keep.

Anonymous said...

An artist friend of mine donates a gift certificate towards a painting or commission... Usually it is enough to get a very small painting for free, but it gets the buyer to her studio, and she befriends a new collector.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine donates a gift certificate instead of the actual art. It's enough to get a small print, but many times the buyer puts the gift towards an original. It gets them to the studio and the artist makes a new friend.

RedMercury said...

very unpleasant when all the time and refuses to say no. leaving no hope.

Unknown said...

Thank you for educating artists and taking and important stand in your blog.
There is a movement among the artists, and gallery owners in my area to stop the devaluing of our work because of auctions. One popular artist donated over 30 pieces to charitable auctions, in one year!

Allen C. Smith said...

Here's another NO for this column. This morning at our Friday coffee klatsch, Art Cafe, we listened to an appeal from one of our members. They have a friend who has recently taken over a nice little cafe in our small city. The cafe owners want to invite regional artists to display their artworks.

In the past I have shown my work in restaurants, because there are very few venues in our community. I have never sold any artworks from these placements. Admittedly, my minimalist abstractions are not for what this conservative audience yearns. But, I have to say that my work does add to the ambiance of these establishments.

If my work adds value to the dining experience, then I feel I should be rewarded. Simple "exposure" does not satisfy my needs. Lunch and dinner would help, but even that is not offered. (Nor is insurance, but that's another argument.)

Therefore, I have decided to say no. And, I feel that it's my responsibility to myself and future artists to explain why.

I have been sharing this message with fund-raising groups who invite my contribution: artists deserve a good percentage of the auction sales. There are many local "collectors" who only buy art through charity auctions. That means they do not directly support artists or galleries. Our regional arts council has been helpful in this regard. They agree. Make it a 50/50 split. If the artist has the wherewithal to contribute their cut, then all the better.

Thanks Joanne!

Joanne Mattera said...

I totally agree about saying no to restaurants. They may think they're doing aritsts a favor, but the fact is that people go to eat, not to buy art. And if someone were interested in the work, who's going to talk to them about it? The Maitre d'?
Students and new artists seem eager to put their work in coffee shops, too,. You know what they're going to end up with? Coff-smelling art that will be difficult to show (and thus sell) elsewhere.

The only donations I make are to Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, on Cape Cod ( It's an organization founded by artists, run by artists, frequented by artists. So everyone who benefits from my donation are . . . ARTISTS!

Vickie said...

After receiving a request from a very exclusive private school in Atlanta for a donation - I started telling people who requests I only donate to charities I'm involved in - or a collector of mine is involved with. - I recently received a request from an organization that builds pharmacies in Kenya - and believe it or not - they are going to give me 10-15 feet of wall space and take only 20% of the sale!!!! I'm also going to do a piece to donate to a charity in Cincinnati that a collector of mine is involved in - and now they want to use it in all their promotional items - so I'm not sorry I agreed to do that one!

Ben Stansfield said...

I have no problem saying no. In the beginning, I thought it would be fun being a part of something donating my work, getting to see it up on the wall....with 300 other 12"x12" pieces, that had most emphatically NOT been curated. Hmm.
Artists here in Toronto get deluged with requests all the time, and many of my painter friends are so thrilled to hang stuff in restaurants, coffee shops, give it away or receive a pittance, usually not even a tax deduction, in return.
Locally, my stance on donation seems to perplex my fellow painters. I mean, EVERYone is doing it! Why won't YOU??? ;-)