When you own a creative business, it’s difficult to say no to a potential client. After all, you are in the business of making money – the rent needs to be paid and food to eat. It’s hard to leave money on the table.
So when a potential client comes along, you normally do whatever you can to get the work. But what if it isn’t a good fit? What if you get that feeling in your gut (you know the one) and you know without a doubt that if you sign a contract with this client, one or both of you are going to end up miserable.
The first step is knowing how to say no. Do it well and the client may be disappointed that it didn’t work out. Do it poorly and they will be happy it didn’t work out. You don’t get the client either way, but only in the first instance is there a chance that they will come back later or recommend you to someone who might be a better fit.
It’s a good practice to keep in mind that someones is a client from the second they get in contact with you, even if your creative business can’t provide the service they are looking for they are still a client.
So how do you say no?
- Don’t get upset. Say you’re talking to a client and ask questions, get a feel for the job and try to figure out just what he or she wants. The client may get upset that you are requiring so much information or research. They don’t understand why you are asking for so much and they act kind of put out. Don’t get mad. Let him or her know that you are trying to create something meaningful and give special attention to their needs. Explain yourself and the service you are trying to provide, but don’t expect them to understand .
- Don’t take it personally. Keep in mind is that unless you are dealing with someone you know well, you can probably safely assume they aren’t taking this personally. They are just seeking bids, ideas, or a library of creatives to fill a need. So be nice, be polite and simply say, “I don’t feel it is a good fit” or “I don’t think I’m the right person for this job.” No harm, no foul. Move on.
- The sticky wicket. What if you want to say no to someone when you were referred to them? Say another creative business owner couldn’t help this person so they referred him or her to YOU. Can you still say no? Yes, you can. Just keep in mind that what you say will probably get back to the first person. This contact will forward your email or give the referrer a rundown of the events, so keep it nice. Besides, just because you don’t want to work with THIS client that was referred to you doesn’t mean you won’t want to work with any future referrals from them. Oh, and remember to thank them for the referral even though it didn’t work out.
- Always offer to recommend providers that might fit a clients needs. Remember, they are your client until work with someone else. You want to make sure their needs are met. Or at least do the best you can to meet them. You never know, saying no in a professional way could pay off at some point after all.
By: Vicki O’Dell, The Creative Goddess