Why Being Picky and Turning Down Clients Can Help You Succeed

being picky and turning down clients

Avoid this situation: learn how and when to turn down bad clients.

Turning Down Clients To Grow Your Business? What?!

Today, I turned down a client. I knew that I had to, because the relationship wouldn’t have worked for either my company, nor for the client, and that by accepting the work, I’d hurt my business down the road.

I realize it sounds counter-intuitive, but saying no to certain clients can ensure your business succeeds.

Many small business owners are reluctant to ever turn down a client, especially when it can take so much time and effort to land new clients. And in lean times, we are more likely to take whatever work comes our way.

Yet, being picky with the work you choose to do and turning down certain clients, is often the best thing you can do for your business. Learning to say no, and picking your clients wisely, helps establish your reputation, earns you respect, and can help you succeed.

Reasons to Turn Down a Client

So when is a client not a good client? When should you walk away? I’ve established three key reasons that I use as a guide, when determining when to say no to a client. Let me know what you think about these reasons–and if you have your own!

1. They don’t want to pay your rate

You’ll get a client who tells you “so and so did this service for less” or “I only have this much.” I once had a client tell me that someone with my experience was charging 1/3 of my fees…and when I inquired about who this person was, it was a 22 year old right out of college with no business experience. I have 18 years of experience. If a client can’t recognize the value my skills and expertise bring to the relationship–and understand why that makes me more expensive–then it’s not going to be a good relationship.

If you want to be perceived at delivering a higher value, then you fundamentally know that your ideal client recognizes quality.

  • Your instinct: Lower your rate.
  • Why you shouldn’t do that: If you do this for a new client, you’ll never be able to charge more for that client or referrals from that client. You should be charging a fair and reasonable rate for the value you deliver. You need to feel comfortable with that rate, which means defending it. If YOU can’t defend your rate, nobody is going to want to pay it.
  • What you should do instead: Ask the client what their budget is, and tell them what you can provide for that amount. Or, offer the client a package or project rate. That might sound like lowering your rate, but it’s more of a loyalty plan. As a consultant or small business owner, it costs time and money to find new clients and work. If an existing client is willing to have a retainer (for example, 3 months at 100 hours a month), that’s a total of 300 hours you don’t need to pitch somewhere else.

2.They want the Ritz Carlton at Motel 6 Prices

Or, they’ll ask you to add things unto the service. My favorite is the “well can’t you just combine x and y and z and a for the price of a?” Nope.

This is similar to the rate issue, but it usually happens with clients who may value your work and your time, but they want to feel like they are getting extra. Most of these clients want unlimited revisions, and they tend to be high-maintenance in terms of calls and emails. So what might seem like a decent gig or client at first, ends up being so time consuming that you lose time (for most small business owners, time is money!)

  • Your instinct: Agree to the extra demands out of fear of losing the client.
  • Why you shouldn’t do that: You will spend much, more time trying to please them than you can predict. And they still won’t be happy.
  • What you should do instead: Politely decline and reiterate the cost/service structure of your offerings.

3. They don’t need the services commensurate with your skills and experience:

This is the reason I turned down my client today. They were looking for, and I quote, “the dog food any dog will eat” and a website that is “good enough.” Nope. That’s not what I do. I’m the girl you call when you’re serious about your company and want to take it to the next level. If you engage me for website strategy, I will scope out the minimum hours to do the job WELL, by my standards, which are high.  The value I deliver is based off my many (18) years of experience, plus my unique skillset. But if you’re just starting out and have no money…or if you don’t care about performance, I’m not the right person to call.

As a small business owner, you know where you shine, and what your niche is. you need your clients to respect the level of experience that you have for your carved-out space.

  • Your instinct: Give the basic work or lower your standards.
  • Why you shouldn’t do that: The second you downgrade your own work, you are perceived as more junior than you are. And you risk the reputation of your business if you take projects on that you simply cannot give time to–because other clients who pay your full rate have active work with you.
  • What you should do instead: Tell the client that you would love to work with them but you feel that the services they want do not require the level of expertise or service that you deliver. My standard line is “Based off what you are looking for, I think you’d be best served by a junior team. I’d be happy to help when the services you require are commiserate with my level of experience.”

So, those are my 3 reasons for turning down clients.

What are yours?

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