10 Tips on How to Say No to a Client

Saying no is an art. We should know when to say no and when to not. Till this point, the subject is technical. When you add "how to say no," then it becomes an art. It is cardinal knowledge for a freelancer. It stands between you and converting a usual client to a repeat client.

A freelancer lives a life on the edge. Being a freelancer is an adventure, the opposite of the 9 to 5 boredom. Many moments feel like standing on a cliff and ready to jump off without a parachute.

"Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best." - John C. Maxwell

One moment that repeats infinitely is your client asking for a job, and you are not equipped to do that. Now you need to say no! You can read the article to learn to glide like an experienced falcon through this situation.

Is it ok to say no to a client?

Yes. Refrain from grabbing onto everything. Accept only what you can deliver. As a freelancer, you may be idle sometime. That is natural. When you have a project, you will say no easily. When you are inactive, and something comes your way, you will try to grab onto it.

This is when you have to be careful. Even if you have the slightest amount of doubt, say no.

No is for the work and not for the client.

If you do not say no, you may eventually lose the client. The majority of a freelancer's revenue comes from repeat work. If you say no and wait, in the future, the client may come back to you for another job that you may be able to deliver.

How To Say No To A Client

You should politely reject the work and not the client. I listed ten tips for you with example situations. This will help you to say no gracefully and save the client and the case.

  1. Be attentive and listen entirely.
  2. Be honest and transparent.
  3. Use positive language but express no.
  4. Be sincere, and show that you care.
  5. Clarify the situation in detail.
  6. Suggest alternative options.
  7. Help with referrals.
  8. Be careful when you thank.
  9. Do not quote policies.
  10. Go back when you can help.

1. Be attentive and listen entirely

Listening is synonymous with sincerity. Sometimes when the client begins the conversation, you may know this will not work for you even before they delve into details. But, you got to listen carefully till the end. You can jump in early and show enthusiasm if your response is positive. Since you will say no, you should listen carefully until they complete. Please be careful, ask questions, and show that you care. The client should get convinced that your no is not a knee-jerk reaction. It would help if you sincerely listened to the entire conversation and then took the decision.

2. Be honest and transparent

This is the most important tip. When you share something that you feel is the truth, then you are real. But that is not enough for the client. What you see as the truth and what the client sees may differ. So, you reflect what you know as it is and be transparent. The client will take the fact from it. Honesty and transparency are the essential virtues of life.

There will be a reason why you want to say no. You should be open and let the client know about it.

Do not try to be soft or makeup things.

Do not think that the client will get hurt, or he may think wrong about you. No! These may happen only if you tend to hide things. If you open up, the client will sense that you are being honest, and they will reward you for that. He will come back again if there is a need for them.

3. Use positive language but express no

The language you use is critical. That is why good communication is vital for a freelancer. It would help if you said no when you have to. There is not an inch of doubt. But, you have to say it in a positive manner and tone, as politely as possible. Think of a moment when you are going to accept a new project. You should be at the same level of humility when you say no to a client. It would help if you did not sound excited. Play it as softly as possible with concern. Positively phrase your language.

4. Be sincere, and show that you care

It is not that you will say no and carry on with your own business. You have to be sincere. It would help if you considered your client's business your own. It would be best if you cared for it. A freelancer's relationship with a client is to be thought of as eternal. It is not for one transaction alone. You are going to continue the relationship with the client forever. Be in that frame of mind and be sincere. When you say no, that will affect your client's business.

Your client should be healthy and wealthy for you to be happy.

It is not just saying no and proceeding with your work. It would help if you thought about what happens next for your client. You should genuinely care. With all this in your mind, the no should come out of your mouth.

5. Clarify the situation in detail

You have a reason to say no. Sometimes there may be might be multiple reasons too. You need to explain that situation in detail to the client. Even if the cause is trivial, you should give extra care and present, in fact, as much as possible. It would help if you did not take it for granted and should spend that required time. You should request the client, make him sit, and listen to your reason.

When explaining the reason to the client, you should put all the effort into making him understand. Try to bring the client on a call and explain it over the phone or in person. If you are working remotely, it's better to get him via video call to explain the situation instead of emailing him.

6. Suggest alternative options

You should take the client's problem as your own. If you are not taking it, you will tell the reason for not accepting and move forward. But if you get the client's problem as your own, you will think about what to do next.

Think about the alternate options to solve the problem. Imagine yourself in the client's shoes, and you'll get solutions. In addition to saying no, giving the client alternate options will make them feel good, resulting in business continuity.

Do not worry about the alternate options you suggest about whether they will add value. You never know what will be beneficial and what will not be. Just assimilate all the ideas you think of and broadcast them to the client.

7. Help with referrals

If you are saying no to a job request, you can help your client by giving some references. Providing references is a risky thing in a couple of aspects. The person you have referred to do the job may not execute it well. Then that might result in dissatisfaction for the client. So when you make a referral, be transparent about their skills. Do not excite by giving excellent credentials. You do not know what the result will be.

Another thing that may happen is you are overloaded and give a reference for the job you are good at. The person you have referred has done the job to the maximum satisfaction of your client.

Then your client can go directly to your referral the next time when they need similar work done.

It might result in a job loss for you. You need to account for all these things and then make the reference.

8. Be careful when you thank

The situation is pessimistic. Your client has a requirement and approaching you. But, you are not in a position to accept the work and help them out. So the climate is not conducive for you to thank the client. If you do so, it might be understood by the client in the wrong sense. Show empathy but do not thank me at this moment. The client may take it as if you are not attentive and understand the situation. It will sound as if you are careless about the event.

9. Do not quote policies

Never quote that it is not your policy. Even if you have a policy and the client's request is against that, do not say so. Find a good reason to display your no and attribute it to it. This is not a situation to be transparent. If you do so, it will irk the client.

Let us consider a real-life example. You do not work on gambling websites. A client of yours gives the regular job to you. As a freelancer, you are hanging to that client. The client comes to you with a request to work on a gambling website. But it is not your policy to work on it. Quoting that your policy does not allow you to work on it may sound too rigid to your client. So you may say that you are already booked on work and occupied. You are trying to refuse the work with a soft no politely.

10. Go back when you can help

You have told a no, and the client has gone his way. After a while, you become available when there is a change in a situation. Now get back to the client and say you are ready to help. Just check with them for the availability of the work. Just ask, "Is it available yet?". Even if it is not available, that may make an excellent positive mark on you to the client.

You must have good freelance management software to do this. So that you can have all the leads entered, a good CRM tool to keep track of these requests. The tool may even remind you automatically. On the reminder from the software, you can connect with the client. Use automation to be efficient, and it will impress the client to win you more jobs.

About Joe Kulandy

Joe Kulandy

Joe is the founder of cazny.com. He loves web application development and is a full-time freelancer. He has a passion for web UI UX design. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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