Turning down a job

Like anyone else, I have some flaws. And one of my biggest consulting flaws is my struggle with turning down work. Even when I’m buried in projects, I have a hard time saying no to more work.

Why it’s hard to turn down work:

  • Consultants tend to run through feast or famine work cycles. Since it’s hard to predict what your earnings will be for the rest of the year, it’s hard to say no to jobs, even when you’re flush with projects.
  • Finding new clients takes work. When you’ve gone to all that trouble to find a new client, it’s hard to turn them away.
  • Although hanging out at Starbucks in your off time is fun, it can be exhilerating to be managing several projects.
  • Money is nice. When someone calls or emails with a project that will earn me $2,000 for a few hours of work, it’s pretty darn hard to resist.

How to turn away work

  • Be polite. Don’t brush off someone who’s gone to the trouble to contact you.
  • Ask about scheduling. The client may be able to wait a week or two. I once had a client who waited three months.
  • Note the positive side of being busy. I regularly point out to prospective clients that consultants who can take them on immediately may not have much of a track record.
  • Network. I’ve built relationships with other people who can take on projects when I’m busy. And they send me work, too. One sent me work for an entire year, while she was on maternity leave.
  • Hire someone. Find someone who can take on all or part of the job. (My Consulting Fees Guide discusses this in the section on making more without raising your rates.)
  • Relax. If this client found you, it means your marketing and past performance are good.

"Turning down a job" from Become a Consultant at ConsultantJournal.com.

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