When to Say “No” To a Client

Freelancers find it incredibly difficult to refuse a client or a project. This is no surprise, as we depend very much on each job to pay the bills. Still, there are times that we are going to have to say “no” – whether it is for our sanity, our morals or our reputation.

One of the most important things to remember (certainly for me) is that agreeing to do every job that arises actually diminishes your ability to do each of them as well as if you had less on your plate. Quantity overrides quality. So, to maintain a trusted, positive reputation, you‘d be better off learning to prioritise and to refuse certain jobs.

Secondly, some clients just aren’t worth the stress that they cause. Whether they are micro-managers or late-payers, these types of clients can induce irrational bouts of mania (foaming and the mouth, nervous tics…) in you. No amount of money is worth that. Of course, everyone has their quirks and there is simply no such thing as the perfect client (or freelancer, for that matter). So, I am really referring to those clients that are bad. Really bad.

I have also said “no” to clients when I do not ethically agree with their product or service. For example, a clinic that offers abortions or a game lodge that invites tourists for the purposes of hunting animals. While I know that these are matters of choice, I personally do not want to be involved. Also, I know that I can’t give it the respect that the client requires. They are better off hiring someone that understands their products / services and can give them the attention that they deserve.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be rude. In fact, you should always be polite, no matter how strongly you feel about something. Keep it simple by saying something like:

  • I’d love to help, but I’m currently swamped with XYZ.
  • Unfortunately, I won’t be able to work on it until 12 XYZ 2012. Can it wait until then?
  • I will not be able to assist, but perhaps you could contact XYZ.

Like all things, saying “no” gets easier with practice. It is also made a little less stressful when you know that you are doing it for the right reasons. Happy writing!

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