As a professional speaker, I am sometimes involved in conversations that go something like this:
"Hi, we’d like you to speak on creatives charging what they’re worth."
"Okay, my fee is $X."
"Oh, we’re not paying speakers."
Entrepreneurs in every creative field run into similar situations: they are asked to plan a destination wedding for publicity, or produce an event for charity, or to design and provide stationery goods for a conference. At times it makes sense to say yes to working for free.
Other times, you need to say no.
Where we get tripped up – and I see this across cultures – is that we (or the people asking) tend to view saying "no" as us being ungrateful for the opportunity.
Saying no does not make you ungrateful.
Saying no does not make you disloyal.
Saying no does not make you arrogant.
Saying no does not mean you are not generous.
Saying no does not mean you don't value community.
Saying no does not mean you don’t consider it an honor to be asked.
Saying no simply means the opportunity doesn’t fit with your priorities in this season.
You can say no to press opportunities that don’t position your brand in a positive way (ex: reality television shows that make you look crazy and your clients bitchy).
You can say no to events that cause you to miss a family member’s birthday or milestone celebration.
You can say no to opportunities that don’t help you contribute financially to your family’s goals.
You can say no to projects that will suck the life out of yourself and your team.
"No" is a complete sentence. If you want your business to grow and be better, learn how to remove any shame either yourself or others try to attach to you saying no.