Freelancers: The Freedom to Say “No.” by John LockeFreelancing can be tough. Do you really have the financial freedom you need to choose your clients? Read this post by John Locke. 

You’ve said “yes” to a project that you know you probably shouldn’t have. It ends up being more stress than it’s worth. You’re unhappy. Your client is unhappy.

But you felt compelled to take on the work because you needed the money. Or you hate making people unhappy.

When I first started, I made these mistakes all the time.

I worked long hours for much less than I should have been charging. I took on clients that were a terrible fit. Once I took on those bad-fit clients, I regretted every minute of working with them.

I could have said “no” to clients that were a bad fit during my first couple of years. But I didn’t know how to identify them yet. Once I did know what bad-fit clients looked like, I still took them on from time to time.

Why do we do this? It’s not that we can’t say no, we just don’t believe we can. The only thing holding us back is ourselves.

Fear is the enemy:

Why do we end up saying yes to projects we should decline? It boils down to fear.

We fear that if we don’t say yes, we’re going to run out of money. Or the prospect will say bad things about us. We’re human. We seek approval. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who it’s from.

But saying “no” is the beginning of freedom. There’s a perfect client fit for you. But first, you need to define it.

Define your perfect client:

The consultants I look up to spend time each year reassessing their ideal clients. They hold firm to whom they will accept and who they won’t.

Something happens when you draw that line in the sand.

You’ll be able to say “yes” to more of your targeted clients, and say “no” to clients that don’t fit.

Gut Instincts:

sayno1Our gut instinct tells us who we should be avoiding. Our rational brain tries to talk us out of that decision – trying to talk us into working with people our gut says we should avoid.

So we listen to our rational mind instead and end up regretting it. When in doubt, always listen to your gut.

If a prospect throws up too many red flags in the beginning, it’s only going to get worse after the honeymoon’s over.

Send these bad-fit prospects to someone else. Undue stress isn’t on your agenda. They ended up on your doorstep somehow, so don’t dishonor that. Turn them down gracefully, and send them to someone who can help them.

Provide value even when saying “no.”

The red velvet rope:

No one can become your client until you say “yes “to them first. That’s the power shift that you have to absorb.

You’re interviewing them – not the other way around. You’re determining whether they get to be your client.

Where things change:

The Universe responds to your signals. You’ll be tested to see if you really mean what you say. You’ll receive more bad-fit prospects – to see if you’ll turn them down or not.

But when you turn down bad prospects, more good prospects begin to appear. When you’re picky about selecting clients, you start to get more good clients. Your confidence grows.

Confidence negates fear – your biggest enemy. We make bad decisions when we’re fearful or desperate.

Bills, bills, bills:

savings2I can hear you saying, “I’ve got bills to pay. I can’t turn down work. Even if it makes me miserable.”

Realize, you provide more value than you give yourself credit for.

You can’t do anything for your clients if you go out of business. Staying in business is your main service to your existing clients.

Finding a reliable web consultant is really tough. So don’t make your clients have to look again.

Charge enough to stay in business:

As a self-employed consultant, you must cover your own taxes, benefits, and other expenses. Twenty or thirty billable hours is a realistic week for most people. But some weeks, you might not even be billing that much.

Charge enough to cover your down periods. Then add some for savings. Your savings gives you the ability to say “no” to bad situations and helps keep your fear away. Your savings gives you the confidence to walk into a client meeting with your head held high. You need that self-confidence.

When you fear – when you’re low on money, you make bad decisions. Your instincts kick in. You fear running out of money. Clients can sense the desperation you unconsciously exude. And it takes away all your leverage. Make sure that you’re always putting money to the side — 10% at least. If you can save more, even better.

You need a cushion to get through the feast or famine cycle with the ability to turn down bad work. Say “yes” to the good people and you’ll get more good people. The good people will be your biggest supporters over the long haul.

Internalize this:

  • Bad clients never lead to better clients.
  • Bad clients will never be the foundation of a healthy business. You need clients that give you energy, not ones who sap your energy.
  • If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to say yes to these people, charge as much as you possibly can. Not because of greed. But because the money is all there is.
  • That project from a problematic client? It won’t go in your portfolio, that’s for sure.
  • And sure, they may say they are going to refer you more work, but it never happens.
  • This is why you must always endeavor to work with good clients.

Final tips:

Know what you’re worth. Charge more and build a savings surplus, so you can say no more often.

Say “no” to people that give you a bad vibe.

Yes and No are both choices. But saying “no” gives you power over your future.

2 Responses to “Freelancers: The Freedom to Say “No.””

  1. John J. Locke

    Hi Adam:

    I’ve gotten better about turning down work, even work that looks decent, when I believe I’m worth more. And every time I pass this test from the Universe, something better than what I left behind shows up. 🙂

  2. John J. Locke

    Hi Raleigh:

    That’s the best line: “There will be more work…” But here’s the punchline. THERE NEVER IS MORE WORK.

    My wife is standing right behind me saying, “If there is more work, it’s for $100 dollars.” LOL


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