5 reasons why it's hard to say "NO" to a client
5 reasons why it’s hard to say “NO” to a client
(And why you should get over many of them)
I’ll admit it, I have a hard time saying no to my clients. And they know it too. They are very good at pushing all the right buttons. Given the onslaught of extra work in the run-up to a few days off, I’ve added “working on getting better about this” to my list of things to ponder while lazing about.
These are my 5 reasons why I have a hard time saying, singing, NO NO NO!
I’m sure you have yours, so please add them in the comments section and maybe, together, we can get over some of this silliness.
1. A great professional and personal relationship
It is harder to say no to faithful clients with whom you have a terrific professional and personal relationship. Call it loyalty, call it interdependence, call it a partnership – whatever – you’re involved in these projects together, you know the company inside out and how *this* project fits into the bigger picture.
It’s no struggle for me to say no to prospects or previously one-shot clients with whom I’ve not shared anguish over a turn of phrase or met in the flesh. But clients I like and have been in the trenches with? It pushes my guilt button.
2. Interesting and rewarding projects
As luck would have it, isn’t it often the case that the juiciest, most interesting projects show up in your lap just when you have no or little availability?
It’s easier to walk away from a run-of-the-mill project where the added value you can bring is limited (such as a quick translation for information) than something more challenging and rewarding, such as adapting a text for publication or writing a speech.
So what can you do?
- Burn the midnight oil? That’s risky – if you’re tired, the quality of your work suffers (and you are only as good as the last project you hand in).
- Sacrifice your week-end? Seems like I’ve done that a lot lately (it was my choice, so no regrets or frustration).
- Get help on the non-critical project from a colleague, with your client’s blessing of course? That’s a good option too, provided you have time to go over the entire job with a microscope.
3. Client insistence, making you feel like they don’t want anyone else to do it
Sometimes clients really don’t want to hand over the job to somebody else. They know your work and how you work. It gives them peace of mind and saves them time. In this too, you provide value.
So you explain why it would be unprofessional for you to take on their project because X, Y and Z, or that you’d have to charge them double time to get it done (knowing full well they do not want to spend even more).
When the client strives to tweak his calendar to suit yours, it really is tough to say no.
4. The “grab the job in case tomorrow’s a rainy day” argument
Freelancing can be unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s feast or famine. Taking on more than you can reasonably handle is a panic response, and not a sound business decision most of the time (the “you are only as good as your last project” argument again).
Some freelancers fear turning down a client will mean losing them.
Get serious: clients are not stupid.
If you’re really good and at the peak of your learning curve with this client, he may take on someone else in a pinch, but he’s not going to start over from scratch building a relationship with a new service provider. He’d be taking a risk and having to invest time all over again. That’s not a sound business decision.
Ask yourself one question before taking on that extra “rainy day” project: is it tied to anything else?
In other words, does it contain the seeds for upselling? Is it the first phase of something larger? What visibility, inside the company and publicly, might you derive from taking it on? Or is it just a one-shot, stand-alone number that is not terribly critical?
The value of a project to the service provider is not simply how much it may earn you.
5. Believing you CAN fit that extra bit into your schedule
If you are like me, you make sure your schedule has buffer time. In case a project turns out to be more difficult than you thought. In case your Internet connection goes down. In case your computer crashes. Or simply because you refuse to work under the kind of stress that can damage your work.
So, yes, sometimes I’ll take on that extra bit because I do have wiggle room and I like being able to do a favor for a client in a pinch.
That often turns out to be a dumb decision.
- Giving up my wiggle room is not good for my Zen
- Giving up my wiggle room is not good for my creativity
- Projects often take longer than you think (optimistically)
- If others are involved in the outcome, you don’t control their schedule. A slight delay on their end could put you in a real jam.
Cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people. Public transport is filled with commuters on the verge of burn out. I think I can manage to overcome points 3, 4 and 5 by putting a greater priority on my overall well being on the one hand and signaling a much firmer “No” on the other hand.
Points 1 and 2? Ouch. They are intimately tied to why I love being an independent professional (choosing clients and professional relationships) and am passionate about the work I do.
What about you? When and how is it hard for you to say no to clients?