by Jodee Redmond
When you are starting out as a freelancer, your focus is on getting work and building your business. That should always be your goal, but there will be times when you can’t take on any more work or you realize after learning more about the project that you aren’t the right person for the job.
You will need to learn how to say No.
The word No is very small but it’s a hard one to say for many of us. A toddler has no problem saying No to just about anyone and anything, but they soon learn that there a consequences to saying No to people who are bigger and more powerful than they are.
We learn as children (hopefully) that life is easier for us if we go along with what parents and teachers want us to do. This idea is reinforced by positive feedback from adults. The problem is that if we never learn how to say No effectively as children, it’s hard to do so when we are grown up and we should be saying it more often.
Before you say No, decide if that is really what you want to say. If the issue is timing and you would otherwise be interested in the project, you may want to offer an alternative. Sometimes a client does have a bit of flexibility as far as deadlines are concerned and it doesn’t hurt to explain that you are fully booked until X date but you would be happy to take the project if you can start after that point.
That way, you have indicated to the client that if it weren’t for scheduling difficulty, you would be interested in working with them. Then the client gets to decide whether they can wait for you to become available or find another writer instead. You have also kept the door open for future projects by saying “Not right now” instead of “No way” and slamming the door shut.
In a situation where you learn more about what the project entails and you realize that it’s not a good fit for you, tell the prospective client right away so they can look at other candidates instead. I’ve done it when I’ve realized that the client was looking for someone with specific marketing experience that I didn’t have at the time. I explained that I wasn’t the person he was looking for and I asked to be taken out of consideration. I did indicate that he could contact me about future projects and I would be happy to talk to him.
How do you handle saying No a client? What strategies work best for you?