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The Fine Art of Saying "No" to Clients

Saying "yes" to everything will quickly lead you to ruin: over-stretched, under-valued and unavailable for social and family engagements. Freelance Supermarket look at how and why you should learn to say "NO".

Part 1:

You might think that customer services is all about appeasing the client, doing everything they want and never letting them down. Well, yes, and no. Always saying "yes" has unusual psychological effects. Clients may come to view you as a performing monkey who will work late, bend over backwards and slash your prices in half at the first sniff of a request.

So while you will need to manage your clients with care and sensitivity, you will need to occasionally say "no". But that's okay. It's okay to say "no" and most of your clients will respect you more for it.

Never surrender! (or apologise)

You are allowed to say "no". As a freelancer or contractor, you are your own boss. Never forget that! It's acceptable business practice to say "no", so don't feel like you have to say "sorry" for saying "no". Just say "no" (politely).

Treat them mean...

You may think that saying "yes" to everything is the nice thing to do. And it is. But being nice isn't always the best business practice. Turning down requests, and telling people that you're too busy to meet their expectations sends signals to your clients that you are in demand and that you are not sitting around waiting for them to call. It's good to remind people that you have other clients. Putting your foot down also engages one of the principles of persuasion (scarcity) which we'll be investigating in future articles.

Your priorities: remember your partner, family and friends.

If a client wants you to work all night to get something done, consider the impact on your social life. What is most important to you? Are you prepared to sacrifice your personal life for a client's demands? While occasional emergencies may be worth entertaining, remember that you have a life beyond work, and it's totally reasonable to say "no" - particularly when saying "yes" will upset the people who love you.

In Part 2 of this article we'll look at strategies for saying "no" and the effects of agreeing to concessions when negotiating contracts.