Why saying NO is so damn important

By on June 15, 2014

Saying Yes to everything is stupid

Starting out, you want to say yes to as many opportunities as you can. Everybody does it, but saying yes to everything is actually one of the most detrimental things you can do to your career. Why? Because it builds a terrible foundation for your career from the ground up. Your freelance business is most fragile  during the first 6 months to a year. This is where you really need to pay attention to where you’re spending most of your time and energy. Starting out, you want to just get clients in the first place. Give me the next 5 minutes or so and I’ll let you know why saying no to some clients is so important and how you can benefit from it and make more money in the long run!

Saying No to clients

Saying No opens up more time for real growth

Here are two scenarios that can happen when starting out: Dumb Dan is starting out and takes on every craigslist/Elance gig he can get his hands on, and finds out that the cheapest clients  actually end up demanding most of his time and effort, and are never happy. Inn the end, he doesn’t get a huge amount of money, and more importantly he doesn’t even have any great projects to show future clients.

Meanwhile, Smart Sally is also starting out, but instead of blindly firing off business cards everywhere, she targets her niche, focuses only on getting a couple of jobs, and spends most of improving her portfolio and marketing herself effectively. In the end, both Smart Sally and Dumb Dan are making about the same, but Sally as a lot more time and sanity, and she uses it to further strengthen her business foundation, so when she does get more clients coming in, she has a system that lets her properly handle it.

Be like Smart Sally. Use the time you have to effectively brand yourself, market yourself, and learn skills relevant to you. For me, it was learning CSS for web design, and proper skin retouching for photography.


You will be able to focus on quality instead of quantity

When you’re starting your freelancing career, it is a good idea to improve your portfolio as much as you can, and as quickly as you can. When you’re you’re taking on too many low-level jobs, it’s simply does not give you the time, or more importantly, the creative energy to make truly kick-ass work. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years now and I still don’t take on more than two clients at a time for that very reason. It allows me the creative breathing room I need for web design or setting up the photo shoot. When starting out, you want to work on projects that reward you with more than just money. If I had a chance to start again, I would forgo the meager amounts I got  for added experience or a better portfolio in a heartbeat. Picking the right jobs from the beginning will allow you to not only gain experience, but a better portfolio as well. Oh,, and if you don’t know how to build a proper portfolio to show clients, read this article on building a freelance portfolio.


When to say no:

There are lots of reasons to say no to a request. A huge red flag that I see is if a client starts talking about price right off the bat and only wants to talk about price. These types of clients don’t value quality of work and just want to get it done for the cheapest rate possible. As there very little money with penny-pinchers, and you probably won’t even get a good portfolio piece because they micro-manage so much, it’s a lose-lose situation for you. You’ll find these people on Craigslist postings and even some online freelancing websites.

Fortunately for you, since they do introduce price right off the bat, you won’t have to waste too much time on them before letting them know that you’re not going a to be a good fit for them. Saying no to these people will be SUCH A HUGE RELIEF! You have no idea.

Nothing says blogarific like a stock photo of Simon Cowell!

Nothing says blogarific like a stock photo of Simon Cowell!

How to say no:

When turning down clients, you don’t want to be a total dick. There’s a tactical way of going about saying no to a prospective client, but the best method is not having bad prospect clients in the first place. You can do this by being mindful of where you prospect for clients. As mentioned above, Craigslist is usually a big no-no. Its generally a good idea of  doing some homework on your client leads before you decide to pitch them your services.

When you do need to say no, however, you should do so gracefully. I usually say something along the lines of ” I appreciate you coming to me for this, but it isn’t the direction I see my company going and I don’t think we’d be a great fit for each other.” I usually then offer the contact information of a couple of colleagues that could potentially help them out. If the prospective client is really toxic, I don’t refer them to anyone.


TL;DR Takeaway

Even though you may want to get every client you can get your hands on in the beginning, its better to think about the clients you want first and go from there. Since your first few clients aren’t likely to be huge accounts anyway, you should take the time to find projects that can reward you with more than just money, such as portfolio additions, industry entries, etc. It also allows you more time to properly market yourself as well as improve your skills. While being picky with clients and projects may initially seem counter-productive, it does really pay off big time in the long run.

Adam Rasheed

About Adam Rasheed

Adam is a Web designer and professional photographer based in Corona, CA. He loves drinking chai and watching British comedies.