Rose Almond, Rose Almond Design Services, Toronto, ON

You should never turn away a paying client, right?

When a potential customer comes and offers you money for your product or service it can be a really tough and emotionally stressful experience making the decision to turn them down; but there are good reasons that sometimes this can be good for your business.

Working in a creative field I regularly have to turn away potential clients, and these are some of the reasons I choose to do so:

They don’t know what they want
If after taking the time to try to understand their needs I’m still bamboozled about what their end goal is, I know taking on that project is going to be an unnecessary headache. How can I deliver a quality service if I don’t know what my goal is? There is the off chance that I might hit the nail on the head, but if I don’t, then chances are the working relationship will get fraught and that’s bad for business and my sanity.

Not compromising personal ethics
Sometimes there’s the lure of ‘justifying’ doing something you feel uncomfortable about for the sake of your business; but as hard as it is to turn down the work, the emotional stress of actually doing something that feels wrong will always be worse. I recently refused a project that would create a copy-cat product that has past history of causing severe injuries, particularly to small children and animals, when used improperly. My conscience wouldn’t rest easy if I helped contribute to that market.

I don’t do that
I know my core competencies, my strengths and my weaknesses. While some projects might stretch me and push me to improve my weaker skills, thus adding value to me and my business; some projects are just too distant from my key skills for me to be confident in delivering a high quality service, on time and in budget.

Sanity Retention Planning
Sanity is sometimes undervalued, especially in the first few months of a new start up. Taking on too much work all at once means that you put yourself in the position where you may not be able to give everything the time and attention it deserves, which is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. Take a deep breath and let clients know that your schedule is full currently and when it will be clear next. If your businesses value proposition is good they’ll be willing to wait and they’ll appreciate that your planning ahead will ultimately provide them with a better service than if you are stretched too thin.

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