Today I want to cover a very important issue that you should be prepared to deal with as a freelance web designer – and that is knowing when you should decline or turn down a certain client or project, and how to do so professionally and in a way that leaves a good (yes, its possible!) impression on the client.
Which Clients or Projects You Need to Say ‘No’ To
There are a two main reasons that would make me (and hopefully you!) consider turning down a potential client. I am sure that we each have our own particular reasons that would make us not take on a certain project – so leave a comment below and let us know what your ‘red flags’ are!
1) The client’s budget is much much smaller than you would ever consider designing the site for. You’re not running a charity here! And I say this from experience – one time, I did lower my price to match the client’s budget, and in the end, it was not worth it – it would have been better for both me and the client to have not taken on that particular project! Stick to your price range and don’t lower your prices just to get a project. (Of course, this is assuming you are worth what you are charging! If you are just starting out and you are trying to charge the same price that well-established and popular designers are charging – good luck! Just want to warn you that you just might possibly have trouble finding clients…maybe not! but you can’t say I didn’t warn you…
2) After sitting down with the client, you can tell already that you and they will not work well together (something we discussed in Two Types of Clients You Deal With As A Freelance Web Designer). If you get the sense after just one or two conversations that you and this client would be butting heads the entire time and that this could turn into a very difficult project, you have to decide whether its worth it to you or not. Personally, I would rather do a smaller, less lucrative project for a client that I work well with than a more profitable project for a client that I dread talking to – but that’s just personal preference and it’s something you will have to decide for yourself.
How to Turn Down a Project or Client Safely Without Hurting Your Reputation
Refer them to someone else! If you cannot or will not take on the project for any of the reasons listed above, you have an easy way to get out of it – and that is by referring them to someone else. You can use whatever reason you need to – “this other designer has more experience designing websites in that particular field”, “that designer can help you get up and running for much cheaper than I would be able to”, etc., etc. This makes you look generous (not taking all the business!) and it doesn’t leave the client hanging. It is a win-win solution.
Worst Case Scenario: You Decide to Drop a Client Halfway Through the Project!
As the heading states – this is definitely one of the worst case scenarios as a freelance web designer. Dropping a project halfway through it is a risky decision – your reputation as a designer may be on the line if you don’t handle this well. I am sure some designers might even argue that you should never quit a project halfway through. Personally, I never have stopped work on a project that wasn’t complete, but I do think that in certain situations you might have to. There are the two situations that would make me consider abandoning a project. (Note: Most, if not all, of these situations, should be addressed in your contract, so that the client is aware ahead of time what will happen should these situations arise!).
1) The client is not making payments on time or anywhere near on time. If you get tired of being held up and slowed down because the client hasn’t paid on time or at all, or if you start to wonder if they are ever going to have the money to pay you – I think that is one of the times when you consider dropping the project where its at. I have never had to do this myself, so I am speaking theoretically here. But I think that you should make sure your contract outlines when you would have the right to stop a project – one of which is if payments are not being made within, say, two months of the time when they were due. Needless to say – if you kept going with a project like this, it is probably going to be stop and go the whole way. Let’s say that the client pays you your upfront fee and you start working, working, working (since you are trying to get the project completed within the set time frame – as we talked about in Deadlines and Time Frames – Managing Freelance Web Design Projects) and then it comes time for the second installment of payment and it never comes. So you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and now its been four weeks that the project has been at a standstill. Obviously – this is really really bad for your business! You really can’t take on another project at this time, since the client might pay you tomorrow so work can resume and then you’d be overbooked! So, as a designer, I think you should make sure it is very clear in your contract the conditions under which a project will be abandoned. If it comes down to that, I would say that you can simply hand over the project as is – if they have paid for the amount of work that’s been done! If they haven’t, then I would hand over the part that IS paid for and tell them they can have the rest if and when they pay for it. You could always resume the project later on down the road if you wanted to, but it would be taken on as a completely new project with a new contract and proposal.
2) An even more controversial reason for abandoning a project is because you are having trouble working with the client. Then what? This scenario is extremely hard to end well. That is why you should try to screen clients as much as you can before you take on the project to make sure that the two of you are a good fit. But sometimes you get blindsided and you really didn’t see how difficult working with this client was going to be. I think in many, if not most, cases that you will simply have to stick with it and finish the project as best you can and try not to make the same mistake again! However, if you really don’t think that the project is going well, and both you and the client are not very happy – then you may be able to get out of the project by referring the client to another designer. Of course, you will need the client’s permission to do this, and you will both have to agree on the terms – who owes who money, etc. This is another situation I have never been in personally, so I am interested to hear from those of you who have dealt with this. How did you and the client resolve the situation?