Saying no is not as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to freelancing. Do you want to say no to potential income? Do you want to turn away clients? Of course not, especially if you’re just starting out. However, sooner or later, the jobs will start to pile up, and more and more clients will be coming in. There will be projects that you will not want to take on. Worse, there will be clients that you will hate working with. Therefore, the sooner you learn how to say no, the less stressed you will become from your daily balancing acts, the more you can spend time doing only projects that you enjoy, and the more productive and top-quality work you can deliver. The trick is in saying no without harboring the guilt, and in a positive way that will still keep your clients with you.
Set some ground rules
Before launching a career in freelancing, you have to set your ground rules. As much as you would like to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, in the realistic and practical sense, there’s only so much you can do. If it’s blog writing you want to focus on, great! Ghostwriting for e-books? Sounds awesome! Website design? Sounds even more wonderful. Decide on the type of projects you want to work on, determine the number of work hours you want to devote to them, and set your minimum rate per project to establish an income. Once you have done all these things, it will be easier for you to decide whether you want to accept a job.
Keep it short, sweet, and sincere
When saying no to a client, avoid hard and negative words like can’t or don’t. Start off by saying how you’d love to work on the project, but you are fully booked until such and such a date. Offer to talk with the client again after that period. Or say you’re sorry, that it sounds like a great opportunity, and that maybe you can work together shortly. Wish the client luck in finding the perfect freelancer and say that hopefully, your workload will be much lighter to take on more projects next time. Offer any assistance that you can extend by way of closing.
Let it go to voicemail
Better yet, reply by email. It’s harder to say no to a client over the phone in real-time. Let their calls go to voice mail. This way, you can weigh the pros and cons of the project before giving an answer. You can reply with a carefully worded email or a short message on their voice mail as well.
Provide a referral
If you don’t like a particular project but know someone who can do it, and do it well, don’t hesitate to give a referral. This action gives out a positive signal to you as a freelancer who is proactive and helpful, as well as earning the respect and the thankfulness of your colleagues. You don’t have to say yes to every project that comes along. Learning to say no is all about knowing your limits and valuing your time and other aspects of your life. When in doubt about a project, don’t do it, but always with graciousness and professionalism. The manner in which you say no to project weighs almost as much as you delivering your finished product, so always make it a positive no!