Do you always go along with client requests even if you’re not comfortable with what’s being asked of you?
Are you struggling to make ends meet even though you have plenty of work?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone.
When I was a new freelancer, I promised amazing transformations in a client’s bottom line. I entered a meeting as a freelance designer and left as “the world’s greatest marketing strategist” (even though I had less than a year of industry experience).
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Then I had to go back and tell the client I’d misrepresented myself and was unable to provide what I promised.
Fast forward several years:
I wasn’t making outrageous claims anymore and my clients were happy with my work, but I was drastically undercharging.
I based pricing on how much time a project would take, without including time spent on non-designing tasks like meetings and research.
My clients loved me because I was cheap. I had plenty of business, but still needed a 9-to-5 to make ends meet.
Then I did it. I uttered one little word that changed my life, and my bottom line, forever:
I told my client no. And I’ve never felt better.
I know what you’re thinking. You think saying “no” will scare your clients away.
Though it may run some of them off, you’ll find that standing up for yourself will:
- attract more lucrative clients,
- get you more recurring work, and
- make you less likely to burn out.
Still on the fence? Let’s explore how saying no to clients can actually boost your income.
#1: Saying no to clients attracts higher-paying clientele.
Low-budget clients can be difficult to work with. They often:
- haggle over prices,
- waste countless hours in useless meetings because they don’t know what they want, and
- constantly change their mind.
In the end, it’s costing you money to work with them! All that non-billable time you waste could be going into paying work.
When I switched to value-based pricing, I started requiring all clients to sign contracts that included an hourly charge for consultation, and a cap to the amount of time I would spend in meetings.
Some of them hit the road. I couldn’t be happier.
Now I can take on projects that are actually worth my time, and keep scope creep from ruining my profits.
In contrast, marketing managers at medium to large businesses:
- have a better understanding of what they want,
- don’t waste time or argue over prices (most of the time),
- are not afraid of contracts, and
- pay you what you’re worth because they’re not as emotionally invested.
These are better prospects to target (with better budgets, too).
Check these posts out for more about pricing and finding clients:
- How switching to value-based pricing transformed our small agency
- My 9-step guide to attracting “A”-level freelance clients
- How to get tons of new clients (without spending a dime) with the “human billboard” method
- How to quote a design project and win the account
#2: Saying no to clients earns client confidence and respect.
Clients are more likely to work with someone with confidence.
Makes sense, right? If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, why should they?
My clients know I’ll be honest about their ideas and therefore they have come to respect my professional opinion. If they want to do something that isn’t a good fit for what I do, I politely refuse the job and tell them why.
When your clients have a clear understanding of your professional boundaries, they will respect you for it and give you more work.
But, don’t forget! Learn to say no to your client without burning bridges for future opportunities.
Keep a rolodex of freelancers who have different specialties and price points than you, and refer them to clients who need help with projects outside of your comfort zone.
Check out these posts about professional boundaries:
- Why you shouldn’t feel bad about your freelance rates
- How to stay sane (and profitable) as a freelancer
- How to handle design clients who always ask for a discount
#3: Saying no to clients makes burnout less likely.
I am, by nature, a “yes” girl. I love to help people. But I’m also an introvert who needs her quiet time.
When I start saying “yes” to everything, I turn into a walking time bomb.
You cannot work 24 hours a day.
Everyone has their comfort level when it comes to how much work they can handle. Find yours and be fiercely protective of it, or you won’t make it very long as a freelancer.
Your bottom line will plummet if you burn yourself out. Your stress level will be too high to complete quality work, and you’ll be too frazzled to get anything done anyway.
When you provide shoddy work, your clients will definitely take notice—and take their business elsewhere.
These posts will help you learn more about avoiding burnout:
- 7 Signs you’re approaching business burnout & how to save yourself before it’s too late
- Four Big Freelancing Mistakes I’ve Made and What to Learn from Them
- How to stay motivated when solo business has got you in a rut
- 3 signs your freelance work/life balance is off
No matter what season of your freelance career you’re in, trust your gut.
When it comes to working with clients, sometimes the low-hanging fruit is actually filled with worms.
If something doesn’t feel right about a particular project or client, run the other way.
You’ll be glad you did.
Do you have a time you said no to clients and things turned out better because of it? Share it with us in the comments; we’d love to hear from you!
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