FAQs: How do I say “no” to a client that’s not right for me?


(Image via Daniel Lobo)

That’s a great question.

It’s funny because when we meet new clients, it’s always about trying to get them to say, “yes” but sometimes we meet someone that just isn’t right for us.

Before you say no, I want you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really understand what the clients wants? First impressions can be deceiving. Some clients might not be good at communicating what they want, or maybe they’re nervous or too shy to open up. Make sure you know what you’re turning down before you turn it down.
  • WHY do I want to say no? Examine your instincts. Do you want to say no because personalities don’t match or because you’re scared or worried you’re not good enough for the job? If you take this extra step to think about your role in this, you might see that you want to run away because it seems daunting. And maybe, what you really need to do is step up to the challenge.
  • Am I saying no because the budgets don’t match my price? Sometimes we have to say no because a client can’t afford us. This goes back to my first point. Make sure you understand what your client really wants. They might have unrealistic expectations of what things cost. If you sit them down and talk about each aspect line by line, they may be willing to up their budget. (It doesn’t hurt to try, right?)
  • Last, do I have someone else I can recommend to this client? You want to make sure your prospective client doesn’t leave your office empty handed. This is a great way to maintain good relationships with others in the industry, and help your client find someone right for them.

After you’ve asked yourself these questions, if things still point to “no,” make sure you approach your client as gently and professionally as possible. No one likes being rejected.

As I mentioned above, it will help to have someone to recommend to them. This will soften the blow and keep them moving forward on their search.

What was the hardest client you ever said, “No” too? Why did you have to say no? How did they react?