10 Signs You May Need to Turn Down a Potential Client

What’s one sign that you should turn down a potential client? Why shouldn’t you try to make it work?

Client negotiation

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

1. They Have No Interest in Your Input

Taking on a new client is a two-way street; they have to want to do business with you, and you with them. If they have no interest in what you have to say about the proposed relationship, it might be time to move on. Their unwillingness to listen to you will likely continue and your chances of success will dwindle.

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

2. They Are Difficult and Unreasonable

When the client is exceedingly difficult and unreasonable, it’s best to turn them down gently. But before doing so, try talking to your potential client first and present facts. Sometimes, they are just being unreasonable because they are misinformed. If you’ve explained the process and they’re still demanding to see unattainable results, let them go.

Kyle Goguen, Pawstruck

3. You Can’t Agree on a Final Vision

It’s time to turn down a potential client if you can’t agree on a vision for the finished product. If you try to come to an agreement before you start and can’t, there’s a good chance you’ll run into multiple roadblocks with this client. I suggest taking the time to draw up a contract. If they disagree and refuse to budge, move on.  

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

4. The Project Is Too Big

My company has had to turn down a large commercial customer because we had a supply issue. While I believe in challenging my company, sometimes it’s best to be honest with yourself and with the potential client that the project is just too much. A good client will appreciate your honesty and may bring you a more manageable project in the future. 

Shu Saito, SpiroPure

5. You Don’t Share the Same Values

In today’s world, choice is abundant. More and more businesses differentiate by following the path of a purpose-driven business. They have a purpose (which is deeply rooted in their values) that defines everything they do. If you find in the initial conversations that a client’s values are completely opposite of your beliefs and what your business stands for, that’s an early sign for trouble and you should find a different way forward.

Fabi Hubschmid, Markaaz

Freelancer in a client meeting

6. You Can’t Agree on Payment

You should turn down a potential client if you can’t agree on an amount for payment. You know what you’re worth and don’t need to settle for clients who don’t value that. If you and a client can’t see eye to eye on how much you charge, it’s best to turn them down. You don’t want to devalue your work, but you also don’t want to work with a client who isn’t willing to pay what you’re worth.

Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. You Have to Constantly Prove Your Worth

We all want to have the perfect client. Though it’s impossible to have one, at least have someone who already believes in your potential and doesn’t ask you to constantly prove yourself worthy of having them, when in fact the partnership should be done with mutual trust and respect.

Daisy Jing, Banish

8. They Ask You to Complete Work for Free

One of the red flags to look for is potential clients who ask you to do free work so they can “see how you do” or “see the quality of your work.” Often, you’ll invest time doing the work and the prospective client won’t end up working with you. Or, if they do work with you, they’ll never pay you for that time. Don’t give anything away for free.

Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com

9. Their Needs Are Outside Your Expertise

Clients come to us for SEO and digital ads, but sometimes they may want other marketing services, which are outside our core area of expertise. We need to say no because we would not be able to do the rest of our job properly. It is better that we refer them to someone who specializes in more general or traditional marketing than assume the responsibility outside of our proven scope.

Matthew Capala, Alphametic

10. They Have Unrealistic Expectations

You should definitely turn down a client if they have unreasonable expectations of you. For such clients, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, they are always going to be dissatisfied with your work. It’s better to cut them off before it’s too late.

Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster