Twenty Five.

Saying NO. How to turn down work from ‘red flag’ clients.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a CORKER of a question from ‘Detective Harper MacCleod’ aka Anonymous. S/he says:

“Can we have the ‘turning-down work’ conversation?

I’ve reached the stage where I can (to some extent) pick and choose my work. However, I’m a people pleaser and still find it difficult to say no.

For argument’s sake, let’s just say my job involves drawing things. Mostly houses. (But I’m happy to be a ‘detective’ if you insist).

Even when you’re desperate for work, let’s face it, there are projects that are more trouble than they’re worth. Even worse, some projects could end up costing you money or be professionally disastrous.

I’ll give you a recent scenario. I was speaking to a potential client on the phone and all these red flags were popping up. The project was ultra boring and would eat into my capacity for more interesting projects. The client was awkward, querying the relevance of my questions etc. I was trying to suggest that another professional would be better suited to their project. Then they dropped the bombshell… ‘But you’re doing work for my friend, aren’t you?” As it turns out, yes I am doing work for their friend. But their friend is lovely and their project is really interesting.

So here’s the question: When you get an enquiry and you just get a bad feeling about the work or the client… how do you turn down the project without damaging your reputation?

I’m loathed to do things that some industries appear to do, for example:

Give a silly big quote to scare them off – ‘Don’t bother speaking to this detective, they’re far too expensive’

Ghost them – ‘Don’t bother contacting this detective, they never got back to me’

Tell them you’re too busy etc – ‘Don’t bother contacting this detective, they’re far too busy’

What you really want is, ‘You should give this detective a call. They were lovely on the phone and made some great suggestions, but ultimately couldn’t help me. They may be able to help you.’

Frankie, Steve… your thoughts and potty-mouthed ramblings would be much appreciated”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

What would your advice be?

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