As a business coach, I’m usually guiding clients on how to gain work, rather than the other way around. However, there are times when you definitely need to knock back and reject work. There is also a right and wrong way to do it.
Find out Why Businesses Fail.
When you should be rejecting work, new clients or new projects:
If you are so busy that you cannot look after a new client or take on a new project, then be realistic and don’t. I am not talking about stopping quoting or stopping marketing, because of the lag effect, you may be busy now, but when that work comes to fruition, you may actually want and need it. I am talking about work to be done now and you know you just can’t do a great job without either burning yourself out, giving sleep a miss for several weeks/months or allowing your standard to drop and gain a reputation for providing a less than satisfactory service.
It’s going to be messy.
Sometimes jobs are just going to be a mess. Maybe someone is asking you to do something outside your scope of expertise, or perhaps it’s an unusual request or something really which should not be done. You have to seriously weigh up whether this is an opportunity to provide a service in demand (because it’s a bit hard) or whether it’s just going to get messy, you’re unlikely to achieve a satisfactory outcome or will possibly lose money on the project. If it’s the latter, maybe the smart thing is to walk away.
You suspect (strongly) you won’t get paid.
Unless you are a charity, you don’t work for free. Far better to stay in bed or go for a surf than to work hard for several weeks and not be paid. If you have doubts, consider a large deposit (and frequent progress claims) or simply walk away. If you walk away from this one, you allow yourself to possibly accept a better job or opportunity.
They are not your ideal client.
Now this might be that they are simply not the type of client you are seeking. Perhaps you’re aiming for larger clients, or clients in a certain region, or who seek a certain type or level of expertise. The other aspect is that perhaps the prospective client is already proving painful. They keep rescheduling, don’t complete necessary paperwork, or not returning phone calls – and you haven’t even started working with them. The writing is on the wall!
So, you’ve ascertained that there is a client you don’t want to take on. The right way to not take them on is:
A business owner said to me “just take your time and avoid them”. No, this is not good. Be professional and prompt and advise them you are busy and cannot take them on whilst still providing them and all your clients with a high level of service. Do it now and allow them to move on without feeling annoyed you wasted their time.
Nothing is gained by being rude, or saying to them they are painful and you don’t want to work with them. Honesty may be the best policy but tact is priceless. Nothing is achieved by being rude and burning bridges.
Offer to help.
When advising you cannot help them, if you know others in the industry, perhaps offer to connect them to someone else. If it’s a case of genuine busyness, then connect them to a quality associate (aka strategic alliance) who may return the favour when they are busy.
The purpose of the above strategies is that you maintain your good reputation, do the right thing and not burn bridges. By not returning their call, avoiding them or coming across as slack, you will only annoy them and they may well badmouth you to friends and associates.
Need more business coaching tips? Call me on 0411 622 666.