One of the easy pitfalls when you’re first starting your business (or really at any time) is to say Yes to a client and take on a job that you really didn’t want and should not have taken on in the first place. There are all kinds of reasons why we do this; we need the money is typically the culprit. But it’s also easy to give in to situations where you think you’re helping the client, or perhaps you think it might lead to future opportunities, or other mistaken and misguided reasons.
The problem is that once we get into a situation that isn’t a good fit, for whatever reason, it’s far more likely that the job will run into insurmountable challenges. Just as we want our customers to be successful in their businesses, we also must ensure that we put ourselves in a position to be successful. Sometimes that means saying No to a potential client.
As a web designer, this is an issue I face daily. I will receive requests for quotes from businesses who may want a site that isn’t within the normal scope of projects that I accept, or perhaps budget is an issue. We can spend some time discussing the project and see if allowances can be made on either side, but if we’re just not a good fit, I need to say No (politely) and allow both of us to move on.
For example, suppose you only wanted a quick, simple, three page website with a Home, About and Contact page. Of course I would talk to you about your business goals and try to recommend that you use a CMS for your site so that could edit your pages and add more content and information over time, but if you were certain that a static site is all you needed, should I accept the job? Absolutely not! First, I don’t build static websites, only sites using the Drupal CMS platform, so the project would be out of my comfort zone. Second, the reason why I provide a CMS is because of my philosophy of content marketing, which doesn’t track with a static website. And of course the budget for such a project would likely be no where near what I typically require (I’m not expensive, I’m reassuringly priced).
So declining such a project would be a smart move. But the reason you’re reading this article is find out how a No can sometimes get you to a Yes. So here’s the secret: when you politely turn someone down for a project, you often earn more respect. Most people would rather you be honest with them and while some might not like your answer, still others will actually be impressed! “Wait, what? You’re not interested in taking this project? Why not?”
Sometimes, saying no will actually spark some additional conversation and discussion and get that prospect to change their thinking.
Here’s another example. As I mentioned, I specialize in building websites using Drupal. It’s a professional-grade Content Management System that is extremely powerful, and a platform that I often recommend for businesses. When talking to people on the phone or sometimes social networks, I’m often approached by people who are interested in building their website themselves. I will happily tell them anything they’d like to know about Drupal, and then tell them not to use it. Wait, what? That’s right. If you’re determined to build your own website, Drupal is not for you. I did mention it’s a professional-grade system, didn’t I? As much as I love the platform, I have to be honest and admit that it’s not for inexperienced developers. If you’ve never built your own website, you’re going to have a much easier time with WordPress. So I tell people that and sometimes it gets them thinking. They think about their own free time, their business requirements, and their desire to have a good-looking web presence, and they start to realize that maybe they should have professional assistance after all.
And the truth of the matter is that for those jobs where you said No and both of you moved on, you’re both better off! If you restrict yourself to saying Yes only to those jobs where it’s a great fit, you will be able to focus your time on projects that really matter to you and your business will thrive. You will enjoy your work more, do a better job, and create happy, raving fans who will refer you the kind of business you want to continue to get.
Does it work all the time? No. Should you say no with the expectation that it will get your client to say yes? No. Instead, have a clear idea of the kind of projects you’re able and willing to take on and be successful with, or the kinds of services you’re able to provide and do a great job on, and do not waver. Politely, but firmly, decline to take on work that doesn’t fit your business model. And sometimes, just sometimes, you might make yourself appear so professional and knowledgable that the client might change their requirements so that you can say Yes.
Image courtesy of nathangibbs, Flickr.