If you are in your 7th stage of the freelance cycle, ‘all is perfectly well’, you are already used to declining work. However, if you are earlier in your freelance career, check out these 5 situations when to say NO to a new client and why.
#1 When the new client has a bad reputation
It doesn’t matter if they have bad reviews on freelance job boards or you have heard from fellow freelancers bad things about the way they conduct business. If their reputation is bad, stay away from them! Even if they seem nice at first, you don’t want to find out first hand that they were just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Check out these two posts to improve your client filtering process:
#2 When you don’t like the personality of your prospect
As the years went by, I learned to trust my intuition. I don’t know if all freelancers stick to this advice but now I do. Let me elaborate.
I had a couple of clients whom I didn’t quite like when starting to work with them. They were nice, treated me professionally, had good communication skills, answered questions promptly, and so on. And yet, there was something I didn’t quite like about them; I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I thought it is because of my mood or something else, unrelated to the client per se. So I started working with them, only to find out eventually that we don’t work well together for some reason. Let’s say ‘personal incompatibility’.
The takeaway here is not to ignore your intuition. Trust your gut and decline work from clients you have second thoughts about. You don’t need to justify your decision with anyone when you say NO.
#3 When you don’t feel well
Whether you have the flu or just feel under the weather because you miss your best friend, not feeling well predisposes you to making mistakes. Unless the client can’t wait to discuss project details and award the project to someone, refrain from entering contracts when you are sick or worried about something.
#4 When the client is insecure or needy
If a prospect comes across as insecure or needy, they probably are in one of the following situations:
- They are looking for a freelancer for a long time and for some reason, nobody wants to work with them.
- They are looking for a freelancer for a long time and they never seem to find anyone who meets all of their requirements and criteria.
- They are used to always getting what they want, here and now.
- They don’t accept NO for an answer and when you say NO to them, they just feel more motivated to have you on their team, just because…
- They are desperate.
Whatever the reason for their behavior, the decision to work with you is probably based on the wrong reasons. Entering a contract for the wrong reasons can only bring trouble down the road. It is better for your peace of mind and business profits if you just stay away from insecure and needy clients.
#5 When you are too busy with work on current projects
In the beginning of the post, I mentioned the freelance cycle. One of its stages is having too much work and working crazy hours to keep your deadlines. When you find yourself at that stage, it is wise to say NO to new clients. Check out this post to see how to say NO to new clients when you are busy and still keep them as future clients.
There are three reasons I do not take on new clients.
1. Highly technical topics of which I know nothing.
2. When my work volume with existing clients is high and a new client will diminish my work for existing clients and a new client.
3. When the bad reputation of the client precedes them
But, in #1I offer to refer them to a colleague who is experienced in the topic and explain that I am not.
In #2 I explain that I am full and ask if the job can wait a few days. If not I offer them a referral as well.
#3 gets a polite refusal and I will refer them to a writing service.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Alan – I see your reasons overlap with mine! For your writing related #1 reason (the highly technical topics that you no nothing about) I have a marketing equivalent – when I don’t understand the product, I too decline to market it… 😀
Jeannette Paladino says
Diana — all good reasons for leaving a client. I’d add to what Alan said and that is not to get involved in projects where you don’t have the skills or experience, particularly on highly technical topics. For example, I’m asked occasionally to write a speech. I decline because while I could write a speech, I feel other consultants who specialize in speech writing are better at inserting “a turn of phrase” or injecting the client’s personality into the speech.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Jeannette – a quick note: these reasons are not to leave a client but not to get involved with one. I think it’s an important differentiation…
The rest of your comment – I totally agree with – thanks fo adding it to the conversation 😀
This is refreshing… especially in that I feel freelancers will take anybody! Speaking from a client perspective, I’d much rather work with a freelancer who can invest the same kind of passion for the project as I have, and demonstrates expertise in the subject. I have much more respect for the person who says no if they don’t feel that they can give it 100 per cent!
I am curious as to why you feel that freelancers will take anybody! On other forums I participate in, there are often debates over ethics. In addition, many writers, just joining the field and those working for a long time, will pose a question to the forum on whether to take a job or not – they are conflicted as to ethical dilemmas such as feeling that the potential client provides goods or services that are scams, high-interest loans and such.
My own feeling, even though I use a pen name on byline articles is that if Mom would object to the subject I won’t write it. Also, I never write on a topic I do not understand, even though I could, the amount of research brings my rate far too late.
I am sorry that you have had bad experiences with members of my profession.
Diana Marinova says
Hi, guys – Jacquie, I am too curious why do you think freelancers would take anybody? I am one of those freelancers who have their principles and won’t take a client who makes me comprise with any of them but I don’t think I an exception. I believe that every successful freelancer knows how to say NO to unsuitable clients and does it on a fairly regular basis.
I think that writers new to the profession may take absurdly complex assignments for pennies for word – in the belief that writing on the cheap will build a client base that ultimately will pay well. While this practice really does not help, it does make professional freelance writing more difficult for others. Perhaps this is what Jacquie is referring to?
Seasons Greeting All
Hello there. I don’t belong here but I guess I’m exactly the guy being talked about here. I’m the freelancer who’d take anybody.
I mostly do HTML/PHP/JS/CSS work and I work for dirt cheap! I don’t know what you guys charge but I charge $8-10/hr and maximum for a job I’ve gotten is $200.
I send out bids and proposals on freelance websites and make huge promises to whoever shows interest just to get them to hire me. I’m usually only able to complete less than 1 in 10 jobs I take.
My clients are usually suckers looking to buy cheap code monkeys. I’m what they get. I have no idea how many of their sites I’ve ended up butchering and in what ways just to make what they wanted a “quick fix” for.
So yeah, I take on anybody willing to hire me.
Diana Marinova says
oh, boy – I don’t even know how to respond to this 😀 For everyone’s sake, I hope it is a joke but if it isn’t, then I can only wish you good luck – what matters is that you are happy with what you do and how you do it, right?
Thanks so much Diana for useful tips.
I have recently had experience of a client who had bad reputation but was very nice with words so I got deceived 🙁
For the future, I will always consider my insticts and definitely the reputation of the client.
Diana Marinova says
Too many people have paid a high price for ignoring their gut feeling. As a freelancer, you have what many consider a luxury – to actually trust your intuition and say NO to a client only because you feel like it, so to speak. More power to you, Unaiza! 😀
Your words are truly motivating Diana!
Thanks once again. Freelancing truly is a luxury once we know how to act the right way