The Art of Saying “Yes” as a Freelancer

You always hear that saying “no” can be one of your best career options, but what if saying “yes” instead is the better choice? While there is no way to say yes to every idea, concept or request, you probably should make it a bigger part of your strategy.

As a freelancer, saying yes can open up more opportunities and help you connect with clients. Particularly as a young freelancer, having doors opened to you – rather than closed – is an important step in building your creative business. So here are a few reasons why you should change your mindset and instinctly think “yes” when asked about a project, rather than no.

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“Yes” Starts Conversations


You’ll be amazed at the conversations a single word can start. Yes is the springboard for a great bit of brainstorming, even when you say yes to something that on its face is likely unworkable.

Consider this: A client asks you to make a website that does [insert something silly here]. You can say no that won’t work and end the conversation, or you can say yes and counter with some ideas to help make it work. It might not look exactly like the original idea, but could turn in to a workable concept.

What’s nice about this method of starting conversations is that it will help you and clients learn to better communicate. It’s true that creative freelancers don’t always speak the same language as they people they work with (and vice versa). This conversation can provide insight for both parties on the project and opportunities and limitations within the design.

You’ll Learn Something New


Sometimes you’ll be inclined to say no to an idea because it is not something you know how to do. While I would never advocate taking on a project you can’t handle, I will pose this question: Could you learn or recruit help to complete this portion of a project?

Start small with yesses in this category. If you only build websites, don’t take on a full-fledged print campaign. But if you have never used full-screen video in a website design, this might be the opportunity to learn one new thing in the site design process.

You’ll Meet Someone New


This “yes” is for all those invitations to networking events after hours or lunches with potential clients. Get out of your pajamas and go shake some hands. (If you decline all those invites, you’ll never meet anyone new.)

Say yes to networking opportunities to grow your client base and connect with other creative professionals in your area. Tour a co-working space – and maybe rent a desk – and try to involve yourself with the small business and entrepreneurial community around you. This newfound network of people might just be the group that helps you expand your business, serve as a referral network or helps you learn something new.

Saying “Yes” Will Take You Out of Your Comfort Zone


You need to fell a little uncomfortable from time to time and often saying yes will put you in that very position. The important thing to consider is the balance between uncomfortable and unproductive. Don’t say yes to projects that violate ethics or standard practices; don’t say yes to projects that are asking something of you that you can’t provide.

But it is OK to say yes to projects that aren’t what you would normally take on. They key to getting outside of your comfort zone as a freelancer is part of your professional growth and development.

Think of it from a design standpoint: A client wants a website design and has no real artwork to work with. There just aren’t any images that work and they are fine with that. You have not done any sites with this type of framework before and will need to create something using a different type of dominant visual. Push back the urge to force the client to find an image and think about the project from a different angle – how can you design without images in a way that will work effectively?

Earn a Favorable Reputation


Clients like to work with freelancers that are easy to approach and work with. Saying yes is a big part of that. If you have a negative response to every idea that comes your way, clients will eventually turn to someone who is more willing to collaborate.

Sometimes the issue is more what you say than what you do. Personally, I know plenty of designers who are very collaborative when it comes to projects and they have great successes with clients. But I’ve also heard clients say these same designers are hard to work with because they say no a lot, often as an initial response before changing course to more of an actual yes.

Remember that first response when talking about a project is the first impression a client has for you when it comes to that job. Try to think positively about things you can do and articulate them using “yes” words from the start. Your clients will thank you.

You’ll Have Fewer Regrets


Do you ever look back on your career and have thoughts “what if I had done that differently?” or “what if I had taken on the project?” Saying yes, will help you have fewer what-ifs when it comes to missed opportunities.

Part of what’s great – and scary – about saying yes more is that you will end up taking more professional risks. You might take on jobs or projects or clients that you would not have. You might meet people or learn skills that you never imagined.

I look at my own career – I started as a print designer at a newspaper. What if I never said yes? I would not have learned web design, I surely would not be taking on freelance projects and I might not even be writing for this blog today. Saying yes opens the world of opportunity.


Here’s my best nugget of advice about saying yes. Make “yes” the starting point of any answer. Be willing to try. Be willing to think about things differently. Sometimes they might not work out and ideas will change and evolve – you might even end up saying no somewhere down the line – but you have to start with the mindset that you can do it. That’s what’s good for clients, your business and you personally.

Freelancing 101 is an occasional series to help the increasing number of freelancers in the market. Whether you are a designer, writer, developer or wear multiple hats, we will share tips, resources and ideas to help you make the most of your small business. Is there something in particular you want to know? Let me know at [email protected].

Featured photo courtesy of Creative Market.