Say “No” To the Wrong Clients

Business & entrepreneurship

Who hasn’t wasted most of their time on a headache.

Who needs it?

One of my mentors always said that turning away the wrong types of clients was just as important as retaining the right types of clients.  When you are new to a business, however, saying “no” to the wrong types of clients can understandably be very difficult.

However, as I have embarked on FreelancePF and now my “full-time” business, my mentor’s advice has never before been so important.

All of us only have so much time in the day.  We should do our best to spend that time being as productive as possible.  When we work for the right types of clients, it makes our work and our lives more fulfilling.  It also allows us to come closer to obtaining greatness.  Turning away the wrong type of work is not only good for your soul, it may also be good for your bottom line.  How? Let’s explore a little further.

You Should Be Just As Selective of Clients as They are in Selecting You

You see, in my former day job, I was forced to take every client the powers that be gave me.  Truth be told, in that scenario I was grateful for even the most difficult clients, because  in most cases, without difficult clients bosses wouldn’t need associates in the first place.

However, when I started FreelancePF, I began to see things differently.  As the boss, that meant that I got to decide which clients and which projects I was willing to take on, and which I should pass on.  Some might even say I’m difficult to work with.  I think I perform solid–and yes sometimes even spectacular work–for a fair price.  If that price is called into question, or if people begin to focus on being nitpickers about issues aside from my writing (such as what types of images I put into the post), then I tend to walk and never look back.

Every self-employed worker has the ability to be selective, and focus on attracting and maintaining relationships with the best clients.

New, But Still Selective

Perhaps because of my day job I can afford to be even more choosy than most freelance entrepreneurs, but this is an idea every self-employed individual should consider.   Now that I have my own full-time business, I maintain that spirit.   As my mentor also used to say: “Sure you appreciate the clients hiring you, but remember that they are not solely doing you a favor.  You have something to offer them as well…if you take on a client then you have to give them 100% effort.  Their dreams become your dreams.  So you see, it is very important to make sure you only take on the right types of clients.”

This explains why it is not personal if I turn down a job.  The fact is, there is only so much time.  I need to work with people who have money to pay.  Who are wiling to pay my fair market rate.  And who allow me some creative license.

I could take on a ton of work, but would it really help my bottom line doing frustrating work, or work for clients who would likely stiff me?   I would rather be selective so that the quality of work does not suffer.  I want to focus on projects and clients that I really believe in and work that I find inspiring or challenging.

So far I have been very lucky to be offered a lot of work that fits this criteria.  I have also turned down a few projects for one reason or another.  I have walked away from many others.  Although I run the risk of being labeled abrasive, that is the cost of sticking to my ideals.

Of course, you can never have enough of the “right” clients, so it’s important to keep finding new ways to market to them, and to target them in the first place.

Now, most potential clients that come your way fall into a “gray area”, where you might not be sure whether to take the client on or not.  Those are the difficult choices.  However, some clients come to you and are instantly recognizable as “right” or wrong.”  For instance, there are certain client situations I have made it a rule to always avoid.  These include situations such as:

The Wrong Types of Clients

1) Found You In Strange Ways.

2) Work you are not qualified to perform.

3) Work you do not have enough time to complete while still providing the best quality services.

4) Clients looking to not pay fair market value, or only focused on price.  .

5) Projects where the client may be a risk to not pay for work performed.

Instead, I have been able to work for the right types of clients and be involved with clients who:

The Right Types of Clients

These clients:

1) Stimulate my intellectual curiosity;

2) Offer me work I can knock out of the ballpark for them;

3) Never put me in situations where I feel uncomfortable.

4) Are appreciative of my work, recognize the extra work I put in, and offer me referrals.

5) Are clients I respect and in many cases with freelance work, are people who I respected even prior to my being retained to work for them.


A lot of the business success comes down to confidence.  Truth be told, almost every success or failure in life comes down to confidence.

If you are a hardworking, trained and talented professional/company, then there is no reason not to believe in the product or service that you are selling, particularly because in many ways that product is likely to be you.

It then immediately follows that if you are in fact dedicated, talented, and hardworking, that you should not suffer the “wrong types of clients,” but rather enjoy the benefits of a mutually beneficial relationship with the “right” types of clients.

This will allow you to have piece of mind.  It will allow you to focus on enhancing your skills and building your business.  More importantly, it will allow you more time to devote to the “right” types of clients.  That is a win-win for everyone involved.

Anybody agree, disagree?  Any real life examples of this principle?


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One Feedback on "Say “No” To the Wrong Clients"

Cherleen @ yesiamcheap

Freelance work has its own advantages and disadvantages. One of them is selecting the client that you would like to work with. Just like you, when I feel that I will have difficulty working with a particular client, I turn down the offer gracefully. There was a time I was asked to promote a website, only to find out that it is an adult porn site. The pay was hefty but I still said “No way!”. I won’t compromise my set of values over money. There was also a blog owner who offered me to write articles for him, $2 for 500-word article. I told him if he is looking for a quality content, he must learn how to pay for its price.