Many new freelancers are constantly on the lookout for more work, new clients and exciting opportunities, so when we are offered something it is often in our nature to grab on with both hands and never let go. But not every potential client and opportunity will be good for you or your career, so learning to say no when things don’t line up with your own goals and work preferences is a skill that’s difficult yet important to master.
Saying no to a paid opportunity can seem counter-intuitive to everything that you’ve been aiming for, but before you jump in and agree to anything and everything, take pause and think about these reasons for saying “thanks, but no thanks”.
When they won’t agree to your prices
You probably have an hourly or daily rate for your services, or perhaps rates for specific projects, but you’re willing to negotiate a little for the right client. If, however, you find yourself negotiating way under your asking price, then you may have a case of ‘I’ll agree to anything that gets them to sign on the dotted line’. If your goal is simply to get the client at any cost then this is fine (examples could be doing it for experience or because they are a company that you admire and their testimonial will look great on your portfolio), but if you are negotiating out of a fear of losing out on potentially paid work, then you should probably take a time out from the negotiations to regroup and decide what you really need to get out of this deal. Agreeing to a much smaller budget than you had hoped means that you cannot take on other jobs that could pay more, so you have to decide if it’s really worth taking a payment that you consider to be less than you are worth.
Don’t feel bad about turning down a job that doesn’t pay what you think it should; even if they tell you that your prices are too high and they can find someone else to do it, you don’t have to bend. This is your decision, and there’s always the possibility that the client will come back to you and agree to your initial prices, so stick to your guns if it doesn’t feel right.
When your morals don’t match up
Sometimes you’ll find a company that’s a match made in heaven for you, their morals perfectly aligning with yours, and sometimes you’ll be offered a job by a company that isn’t quite what you had in mind. This could be anything from the products they make not being the best quality (and therefore you may not want to put your name to the project), or the materials they use don’t match your ethos, or the way they handle their freelancers and staff doesn’t sit quite right with you.
Whatever it is, don’t feel awkward or embarrassed about telling them that the job doesn’t fit with your preferences, and recommending them someone else instead. You are not obliged to take on a job just because they ask you to, and depending on the project you could find yourself in a contract with them for months, even years, so if it doesn’t feel right, there’s no shame in turning it down before you get tied into a situation you don’t want to be in.
When you’re already too busy
Your time is precious no matter what job you do, and while it can feel strange to say no to a paying client because your calendar is full, at the end of the day there is absolutely no point in spreading yourself too thin and not having the time, energy or creative juices left to put your best foot forward for every client you work with. If your schedule is jam-packed with paying clients then you may need to politely decline their offer on account of your week/month being packed full for the foreseeable future.
This doesn’t make you look unprofessional, in fact, it can make you even more sought after because a full calendar means you are in demand. Let them know that you would be interested in working with them in future once you have more time, and keep in touch with them so that they don’t forget you in the meantime – try sending them useful contacts for their project, or resources that may be helpful, to keep you in mind.
When you get a bad vibe
Have you ever had a bad feeling in your gut about someone or something? First impressions aren’t always correct, but other times they absolutely are, and if you see any red flags in your very first meeting with a client then you may need to do some serious evaluating before getting into bed with the wrong company.
Getting a generally negative vibe from someone doesn’t mean that you are being paranoid or overthinking things, it can mean that the client is going to be extremely difficult to work with in some way, and you may be better off without them. Never be embarrassed to turn down work or refer it to someone else, and remember that you don’t need to give a reason if you don’t want to.
This is your business, and how you feel about a client initially is very important. They will become your temporary colleagues for the next few days, weeks or months, so feeling positive and excited about working with them is so important.
Have you ever turned down a client? Let us know what you look for before signing up to work with someone!