We all get to a point in our freelancing career where things are running relatively smoothly, clients are on retainers and everyone's happy… until you receive a request from an existing client (or a referral from a client) for a project that you don't wanna do. How the hell do you turn down your client without losing their business?

By doing it the right way!

There is always a right and wrong way to turn down a client's request for work. The standard “I'm too busy right now”, is NOT an option, particularly if the request has come from one of your ongoing clients. You do not want to stop them from approaching you with more work, but you also don't have to accept everything they send your way.

So, before you respond to that email, consider these three options when it comes to saying ‘no' to a new project or client.

3 Ways to Say No the Right Way

If you want to remain successful, follow these tips.

#1: Say no, but provide some value

Whatever you do, you don't want to leave your client feeling empty-handed, like you've abandoned them, and you definitely don't wanna do any of the following:

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  • Say no and make them feel rejected or like they annoyed you
  • Turn them away without providing something else


When to turn down freelance clientsSo what should you do instead? Provide them with some free resources, preferably some created by you. Ensure that you include links to relevant sites, provide as much helpful content as possible that will assist them in what they're looking for.

Don't forget to thank them and that you'd be happy to help them on another project in the future. Rather than saying you're busy, just tell them that you're unavailable for whatever period of time but here are some helpful, free resources to get them sorted.

Now, this tip will only work in some situations, so make sure that this is appropriate.

Create a file of free resources to hand out to clients, particularly around small tasks that you continually get asked to do. That way, you've got them handy and it'll take you no time to get them sorted.


#2: Say no, but offer alternative options

This works best when it's a client you no longer wish to work with or a client that has been referred to you but the project is outside your area of expertise.

Refer them to another freelancer that you know, like and trust. By doing this, you'll not only solidify your relationship with the client but you'll also get some ‘feels' from the freelancer, who in turn, can provide the same back to you.

It's a great way to diversify your income and also to be helpful to clients, so they know that they can turn to you, even if something is outside your wheelhouse.

Just make sure you vet any freelancer that you recommend, otherwise it could backfire.

#3: Say no, but offer some DIY options instead

When you come across a client who just isn't willing (or able) to pay your fees or you'd love to help them but you just don't have the time in your schedule to fit them in, offer them some of your DIY solutions instead.

This could be in the form of an eBook, webinar, online course, workshop etc. Whatever you get asked to do the most, this is what you should create from a DIY perspective.

Take my OFS Guide books for example. I wrote this series of 7 books because I was getting asked about this information a lot. I've also created courses around these too.

Save yourself some hassle and create products that you can sell when clients aren't willing to pay you top dollar or you don't have availability in your calendar.

Everyone comes away feeling satisfied!

90-day plan on autopilot!

If you actually feel like you have no time in your calendar yet want more clients and income, then The Hustle HQ is where you need to be.

Inside, you will learn how to become more productive in your online business, as well as learn how to generate consistent income.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: if you have to say no to a client, make sure that you never send them away empty handed. Find a way to help them, in any way that you can. That way you'll always have clients willing to work with you on just about everything!

Have you ever turned down work? How did you handle it? If you've got more tips to share, leave them in the comments below…

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    3 replies to "When to Turn Down Clients and How to do it Right…"

    • […] careful who you choose to work with though, not all clients deserve your time and you don’t have to work with just any client that comes your […]

    • Céline

      Old post are still good to re-read because they’re still updated.
      I truly believe that you have sometimes to say no to a client even though you’re available and because his request doesn’t fit your skill area for example.
      But you explain it very well there are art and manners to say no.
      Yes saying no and bring a solution will make the client not lost and won’t impact your reputation. He will even recommend you to others and come back to you for other requests.
      I also think you can contact him a few weeks later to know what solution he opted for and tell him you’re available for other gigs if he has some.
      The client will feel recognized and important.
      So saying no isn’t losing business!
      Thanks Lise!

      • Lise Cartwright

        Yes, you got it Celine. Saying no isn’t about losing business, it’s about choosing to work with the clients that you can best help and that you also enjoy working with. It’s gotta be right for everyone!

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