Thursday, 22 March 2012

Saying No to Clients - Part 1: Taking the Job.


Image from Getty Images ( #108310235), slightly adjusted.

We all have those clients with unrealistic expectations, whether it's the scope of the job, the timeframe or the cost involved, and for some (if not most) designers, it is especially hard to say "No" to clients.

There are many situations where it is appropriate to say "No", but for the purpose of this post,  we will focus on whether or not to accept the job.

Most designers are fortunate, in that they are surrounded by clients, colleagues and suppliers who respect their boundaries. However there’s always one or two of them are likely to try and push their luck.

Instead of simply agreeing to 'put out' for your client when they ask (expect) you to go the extra mile, take a few minutes to think about the impact of taking on the project. When making this decision, consider how taking on the project will affect you / your business / your other clients / your schedule.

The problem is you may decide the job’s not right but still find it hard to say "No". This is a really common issue, especially for freelancers / start up businesses, many of whom agree to unreasonable requests because they worry their clients will think badly of them if they turn them down.

In reality, most client’s reaction is more likely to be “this designer has really got their act together” rather than “it’s unprofessional of him/her to turn down work" or "I'll never use your services again”. Most clients who know how good you are as a designer would really insist that you do the work for them. But you cannot be available all the time.

You really have to learn the art of saying "No" to do away with so much work. Having too many commitments will make you less productive and could leave a bad impression of you as a designer. You should not accept projects when you are still occupied doing many others. You should also know the important and urgent things that you need to do and be aware of the deadlines (especially when it involves print).

If you are finding it hard to say no to clients, here are some tips to help you.

Know your priorities.
Design is a process, so knowing where your time is committed will help with the decision to say "No" when something comes in out of the blue, but also with the actual turning down of the job.

Always be courteous and polite.
If the thought of saying a harsh-sounding "No" distresses you, surround it with a comforting phrase, like "Unfortunately I do not have any time available to tend to your request as I'm double booked already, but please ask me again" or "I would love to help, but I have to many projects at the moment to give yours the attention it deserves". You'll find that you can still sound positive or open to new work, even when declining someone's request.

Don't say "Sorry"
Usually, people would say sorry to begin saying no. But you don't have to do that. It would sound as if you are not comfortable with or that it is somehow wrong to say "No". So, avoid apologizing. Just be firm.

Defer requests
You can also tell your clients that instead of doing the work now, you can do it some other time. But if they won’t agree with it, then let it go. You really don’t need to accept everything that comes to you. Nothing is wrong with rejecting some of them and deferring it for some other time.

Talk to your clients
The key to saying no is in the discussion and explanation, and this should be a large part of your client communication already. If saying no is something you struggle with, take a look at your communication in general with clients, and make sure that you’re conversing enough with them in general.

Final thoughts:

Saying no isn’t always a bad thing if it helps you and your clients in the long run! Having effective client communication skills and the confidence to say "No" is a real asset, so take control, be clear headed about your policies, know your limits and when you need to… just say no!

Read Part 2

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