Those in the small business world can probably relate all too often to the uncomfortable feeling of being asked for something they may not be able to do. Sometimes it’s a service, product, or price that you can’t offer, sometimes it’s a volunteer opportunity during a hectic time in your life, sometimes it’s a sales rep trying to pitch a product or service that you are just not interested in, and so on. This strain is particularly difficult when the request is being made by a current client or potential customer.
Obviously, taking on customers is something that you strive for, plus there is the added concern of damaging your business reputation by turning down a project. However, there are times when taking on work is doing a disservice to yourself, your client, or both of you. Saying no is a difficult part of life- it’s not a good feeling, especially in a professional setting, however, sometimes it is the best way to save yourself and those interested in working with you time, money, and stress. Here are just a few reasons why it may be a good idea to (nicely) turn down a project request:
You are genuinely not the best person for the job.
This is ok. You do not have to be an expert in everything related to your field. I love web design, but for advanced logo design, I always refer clients to other professionals because I know I am not the best person to create a highly artistic logo. When I first started working as a web designer, I felt compelled to say yes to every request and do the best that I possibly could by myself. Needless to say, it was a pretty stressful time, but I came out of the process having learned a lot. When something arises that’s out of your wheelhouse, it’s good to have a network of professionals you trust to lean on and refer to. I am happy to be part of Social B Creative’s network, and I often lean on them when I find myself in need of a hand.
You do not have the time to devote to the project.
This one goes especially for folks in the creative arts and service industries. You may not have the time to do everything, and that is an important thing to recognize. Not only do you have to account for your professional projects, but you have to account for personal projects or events as well. (I’m getting married next week, I’ve definitely taken on less work than usual!) While having to tell a client or customer that you are not able to take on their project right away is uncomfortable for most small business owners, it is nothing compared to having to tell the same person their project will not be completed in a timely manner. This is not fair to your customer and it could absolutely damage your reputation.
You are not a good fit for the project or client.
There are a lot of reasons why you may not be a good fit for a particular client or customer. They may have expectations that you are unable to manage or maybe a project would present a conflict of interest- professionally or at a personal level. If you get the sense that you are not a good fit for the project, you may not be the best person for the job. Again, being able to refer to a professional who would better serve their needs is not a bad thing.
While being able to say yes to every project would be ideal, professional and personal constraints can sometimes negatively affect your ability to deliver the quality you would like. Knowing when to say no to something is an important part of managing your small business. While having to say it to a potential or current client is always a difficult choice, sometimes it genuinely is the best thing for you and for them.
Now that you know a bit more about what to consider when making the choice to turn down a project, stay tuned for part two for helpful tips on how best to say no in a way that is professional and helpful to your potential or current client.