Learning My No-No and Yeah-Yeah Projects

My 17-month-old kiddo Nina has a great book we read together called “No No, Yes Yes.” In the book are pages of a kiddo doing no-no things on the left, and yes-yes things on the right. For example, no-no spilling your food all over your head. Yes-yes, picking up your food with a fork, and putting it in your mouth.

Nina then goes throughout her day singing “No-no, yeah-yeah!” which is not only adorable, but also very inspiring. Got me to thinking, what are my No-no clients and projects, and what are my Yeah-yeah dream gigs?

I took a few projects in 2018 that, in my gut, I felt I should have said “no” to. Little projects that ended up fizzling out. The projects that were only supposed to be a few hours, but took a lot longer. These projects tend to create friction between me and my clients, which I don’t like.

What a Yeah-Yeah Project Is
Letitia Wright is the actress who plays Shuri in Black Panther. Her character is amazing; she’s incredibly intelligent, and Wright portrays the character with great spirit and inspiration. In an article Wright talked about how she made decisions to find the right acting roles to get her the gigs she wanted. “For me, anything I attach myself to needs to have a purpose. And if it feels like a red light in any way, I don’t do it.”

Wright’s formula of work + “is it the right fit?” is similar to how I’ve been approaching the work that’s been coming to me. Here’s the process I went through to understand no projects, versus yes projects.

The Designers Plague
Being an independent business owner, particularly in the field of graphic design, there is a trend for designers to take any and all projects to get the experience, pay the bills. Jill Anderson of Jill Lynn Design calls this a plague for business owners.

Dream Gigs
I took two really big projects in 2018 that were exceptional. Dream clients, purpose-driven work, and sustainable budgets. Reflecting on the little projects that fizzled out, and the bigger projects that fed my creativity and business, got me to truly understand what a no project is, and what a yeah! project is.

Client paying out of her pocketClients paying out of their marketing or design budget
Projects with family or friendsProjects with agencies and organizations
Clients who don’t invest in the transformative nature of designClients who trust that design is an important tool in getting a message across
No clear mission for the end productProjects with a mission, whatever that might be: serve a community; give the gift of joy; allow someone to succeed; engage an audience; provide pause; just look damn good
One-off projects that don’t create longer-lasting relationshipsClients who work with me on a few projects a year, investing in our relationship

Saying Yeah-Yeah Helps Everyone
The goal of Nina’s No No, Yes Yes book is to guide her towards making better decisions. Same for my yeah-yeah list of project criteria. I want to make decisions for my business that helps me grow the right relationships with the right clients: for us to be in partnership to serve their mission. Are you in need of design help with a project that falls into my “yeah yeah” category? Reach out. I want to hear about it. It’s very likely to be a good fit!