Two Reasons to Turn Down Money

The past few articles I've written have been about pricing and adding value to your business so that you can charge what you're worth.

But sometimes you actually need to turn down money to make money.  By saying no to the wrong projects you open yourself up to the right projects.  And we know that like attracts like, so the right projects will attract more of the right kind of projects.

Not only will you attract more projects that are the right projects, but by turning down projects you strengthen the muscle of saying no and trusting your instincts.

There are only two reasons to turn down money for a design project.  Ultimately, it comes down to:

  1. The project is not a fit
  2. The client is not a fit

Let's go into more detail about each of these reasons.

The Project

You should consider turning down money if the project is not a fit.  Some examples of the project not being the right fit for your business are: the timeline is too tight, the budget is unreasonable, the style is not your aesthetic, it's not a location you want to work in (maybe too far away).

You may also feel that the project is out of your comfort level, maybe it's a larger project or budget than anything you've done in the past.  I don't want you to shortchange yourself here.  This may be an opportunity to stretch yourself and not let fear take over or it may be not the right project.  You have to decide.

There are lots of reasons that the project may not be a fit for your business.  However, the project may be perfect, but maybe the client isn't a fit.

The Client

The reason clients may not be a good fit usually comes down to personality.  They may be too demanding, their money values too unreasonable, they want something you aren't willing or prepared to do, they are unkind, or perhaps they may be too analytical for the creative process of design.

Early in my business, the first time I knew without a doubt that a client wasn't a fit when I was contacted by the wife, but when we met the husband dominated the entire meeting (this is before I had a detailed onboarding process).  I left the meeting knowing that I could not take the project.  I didn't hear from them again until about a year later, when I got a call from the husband.  He told me that the designer they hired hadn't worked out and would I come in and give them three design schemes "like they do on HGTV".  It was confirmation of my initial gut feeling that first meeting.

There are usually signs (red flags) when you first interact with a potential client.  Be watchful and be careful that you don't ignore the signs.

Usually, designers run into problems turning down projects when the project is a fit but the client isn't or the other way around and the client is a fit but the project isn't.  This is when the rationalization starts.  It is easier to say no when you know they both aren't right.

If either the project or the client isn't the right fit, it is best to turn down money.  If you need some real-life scripts for professionally turning down a project read this article.  

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