Before I say yes to a creative job, I ask myself these simple questions.

I used to think that I had to say yes to every project, especially as an artist that’s just starting out. This mindset definitely comes from my upbringing where my Asian immigrant parents would share stories of how they had nothing coming here to the US and that you should be grateful for any and every opportunity. And if you didn’t take on everything, the guilt and shame would take over. But this type of scarcity mindset can be toxic and the truth is, we can’t do everything. And we shouldn’t.

Working late night on a commission that I was really excited about. This piece helped bring closure for a grieving family and was a big honor for me.

Here are some questions I ask myself before I take on new work:

  • Does the project excite me?
  • Am I willing to have midnight meetings about this project? (This has happened.)
  • Am I willing to work on the project at odd hours? (I ask this because sometimes projects excite me so much that I’m willing to work on them at 1am. But this shouldn’t be the norm.)
  • Will I learn a lot from this project?
  • Does this project align with my values?
  • Does this project align with my style? (This one can be tricky. It’s great to diversify but if someone is asking me for a specific Italian design for example, I might not be the best person for the job.)
  • Do I respect the client and vice versa?
  • Does the client respect my work and time?
  • Does the client keep asking for discounts?

The last few questions are critical. If the client keeps asking for discounts, he/she does not respect the work you do or your time. Say no and save yourself the bigger headaches that will inevitably happen downstream.

Also, know that it’s okay to say no. Saying no actually frees up time for us to do the things we love. In fact, saying yes to everything means we’re saying no to the things we want to be doing.

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