Saying “no” to a potential client

| November 25th, 2008 | , ,

No matter how good a web designer we are, or how reputable our web development agency may be, we all get excited, and perhaps nervous, over the prospect of signing a new client. Our tendency is to promise them everything they want, and then a few things they didn’t know they could do. We can nod our heads a little too much, not realizing what exactly we’ve promised until the contracts are signed. Have you ever considered saying “no” to a potential client? I don’t mean turning down the whole project, that would be silly. What I mean is, have you ever said “no” to some of their ideas before they’ve signed on? Here are a few good reasons why you should.

You’ll probably be the first to say it

This prospect has probably dealt with other vendors in the past and has probably received the same response from them all — Yes, it can be done. It’s normal for someone in sales to promise the world to a client in order to earn their business. But, clients are tired of hearing the word “yes.” When you stop the sales train and explain to them why something can’t, or shouldn’t, be done, the client will likely respect you more for your honesty. And honesty leads to trust, which is unarguably the most important aspect of any client relationship.

Protect yourself and the client from a train wreck

Miscommunication will irrevocably wreck a project. Differences in expectations can often be traced back to the sales phase of a project. Someone said yes to something unrealistic, which resulted in promises being relayed to other parties, only to find out later that it can’t happen. Web development can be especially prone to this due to the expertise required to build custom web-based applications. The more realistic you are in the beginning of a project, the less surprises you’ll have toward the end of a project.

Avoid contractual mishaps

Our eagerness to get new work can cause us to overlook client changes to a contract. It isn’t that uncommon for a client to make changes to a contract in writing before signing it. If you sign the altered contract, you are agreeing to their changes. Take a moment to read through the changes and don’t be afraid to say “no” to them, especially if the client is changing the contract to give them full and exclusive rights to your creation (aka Work for Hire). In this case, saying “no” can spare you from signing away intellectual property rights.

It’s definitely not easy to say “no” when seeking out new creative projects, but learning to do so will help you avoid mistakes in the long term.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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