Clients and Potential Clients - When Should We Say, "No?"

Chris King

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As free agents, independent professionals, and freelancers, it is when we don’t have a current project with the income rolling in that we are tempted to say “yes” to almost any offer that comes our way. I suggest that we take our time to consider the pros and cons of all offers and have the gumption to say “no" when it is in our best interest to do so.

Ask yourself, “Is this a project that I will enjoy working on?" Tempting as it may be - especially if the money offer is generous - you should still turn down any project that promises to be a drag or a threat to your artistic integrity. I am not referring to projects that don't use all of your creative ability - many good, solid projects don't. I am referring to projects that you would have to force yourself to work on and complete. It wouldn't be fair to you or your client. I believe that if we aren't enjoying what we are doing, the work will reflect our attitude.

Next ask yourself, “Is this a project that I'll be proud to tell others I produced?" Even if you rationalize that you would never add a sample of this work to your portfolio, you will know that you produced it, and just knowing that can eat away at your self esteem.

Now ask yourself, “What will I learn and how will I grow from completing this project?" I don't know if learning and growing are as important to you as they are to me, but the perfect project in my mind is the one that challenges me in new ways. It pushes me to try new approaches, learn new ways of accomplishing outcomes, and helps me achieve a higher level of expertise than what I had when I began the project. If I can honestly say upon completion of a project that I learned at least one new technique or fact, I am satisfied.

Be honest and ask yourself, “Is this a project that I am capable of doing well, professionally, and within the designated timeline?" I know that I just finished suggesting tackling projects that are challenging and that force us to grow, but we do need to honestly consider the other side of the story. If completing a project will take up so much of your time learning new techniques that you can’t possibly complete it in a timely manner, it is probably better to be up front and say that at this time the work is not within your realm.

And the final, trickiest and hardest question, “Do I want to work with this particular client?" We all know that there are “clients" both good and bad, both easy and difficult. Some are so delighted to work with a professional that they give minimal direction, value our suggestions, give us all of the information we need when we need it, and reimburse us quickly for completed work. There are clients who border on the impossible. I avoid working for these people. I don't need the stress or the hassle and neither do you.

Remember to take your time accepting when offered a project. Be sure to ask yourself all the questions, and even more than I have highlighted. You will be glad you did, and so will the future of your career as a free agent, independent professional, and freelancer.

Chris King is a free agent, professional speaker, storyteller, writer, website creator / designer, and fitness instructor. Chris has what she calls a “Portfolio Career” -many careers at the same time. If you wonder if you could handle and love having a “Portfolio Career” you will find a free assessment to take at Sign up for her eclectic E-newsletter, Portfolio Potpourri, at You will find Chris’ business website at


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