“No” Is Not Failure

overhead image of creamy summer berry popsicles over ice, surrounded with strawberries and blueberries.

Here’s a little industry secret: “no” is not failure.

We’ve all been there. You pitch your services to a potential client and they say “no, we aren’t looking for any new partnerships at the moment”. Or you send along a project quote and they respond with a “sorry, it’s out of our budget”. It would be easy enough to see “no” as defeat. However, when negotiating with clients, the word “no” is not failure.

The thing is, there is a lot to be learned from the word “no”. Understanding the thought process behind “no” can teach you a ton about your clients and business.

Your Styles Don’t Match Up

It’s entirely possible that your work isn’t what the client is looking for. If you’re portfolio is dark and moody and the client’s upcoming campaign is light and bright, they may not see you as a good fit. It’s nothing personal, and it certainly doesn’t reflect on the quality of your photography, it just means that your style isn’t what they’re looking for. It’s impossible to be everything for everyone. In this case, take “no” as a case of incompatibility.

Pro Tip: If you are a food photographer that does work with various styles, I highly suggest including a little bit of everything in your portfolio. By highlighting your versatility, this type of “no” may be avoided.

Out Of Budget

Even after many promising emails between you and a brand, they may say “no” when money enters the conversation. Pricing your services as a food photographer can be incredibly difficult as we rarely know a brand’s budget when going into negotiations.

When a brand rejects a proposal, use “no” as the beginning of the conversation. Start by asking them for their budget. It may be possible to decrease the requested deliverables in order to meet their price point, or if the budget falls below your bottom line, they may simply not be able to afford your services. Remember that your services are priced according to your business costs, wages, licensing and talent – NOT according to a client’s budget. In this case, “no” is a two way street. The client is choosing to stay firm with their budget and you are choosing to respect your cost of operations. If you aren’t sure how to calculate pricing, be sure to check out my Ultimate Pricing Guide for Food Photographers.

Bad Timing

Sometimes, “no” actually means “not now”. It isn’t uncommon for brands to plan their calendars several months or even a full year ahead of time. They may not have a budget available to work with yet. They may be waiting on new campaigns to launch. There are a ton of reasons why “no” doesn’t mean “never”. Pitch to them again the following quarter or prior to a season when they usually run campaigns (like the holidays, for example). Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged.

Chase The “Nos”

Statistically speaking, if you receive enough “nos” you’ll eventually run into a “yes”. Don’t be afraid to put your services out there, learn from every experience, and remember that every “no” gets you that much closer to “yes”.

If you’re unsure how to send a killer pitch, I highly recommend purchasing Foodtography School’s Brand Pitch Guide or if you’re looking for an all-in-one kit, check out the Brand Pitching Bundle by Mikyla and Rosslyn.

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Hey there! I’m Jennifer, the human behind Cashmere & Cocktails. I’m a food, product and travel photographer from New-Brunswick, Canada. For business inquiries, please email me at: cashmereandcocktailsblog@gmail.com

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