10 good reasons for turning down work


When you're starting out as a freelancer and haven't quite found your feet, it's tempting to say yes to any work that comes your way, and think about what you want to exclude from your graphic design portfolio later on. You'll soon discover, though, that it pays to discriminate a little. 

Disqualifying clients who don't seem like a good fit for you should be one of your first priorities when you meet a potential client. You save the time and energy that you would spend learning about the client and their business. 

As a result, that time and energy can be spent finding better clients and bigger pay cheques.

To help you spot a client who isn't a good fit, we've put together this list. You should say no if the client does one of the following 10 things:

  1. Requests free work, work 'for exposure', or any other type of work that doesn't provide value to you.
  2. Asks for an impossible solution, product or asset.
  3. Requests for you to work below your normal rate.
  4. Offers to pay in the form of project proceeds or other services.
  5. Keeps expanding the scope of the work without extra pay.
  6. Wants you to work on areas outside of your expertise.
  7. Owes you money.
  8. Has unclear objectives.
  9. Has unethical or illegal requests.
  10. Is uncomfortable signing a contract.

Also, if your gut is telling you not to go with a particular client, listen to it. 

In general, you should pursue work that you want to do more of. If the client, industry, or style of work doesn't interest you, it's a problem. The resulting portfolio piece, case study or referrals will lose relevancy if you drift in a different direction, so always ensure you are properly qualifying your clients. 

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts, the world's leading graphic design magazine. Subscribe here.

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A creative communications specialist, Bryce Bladon is perhaps best known for running clients From Hell – a cult blog that “brings readers to tears with unbelievable, always hilarious anecdotes from those on the frontlines of freelancing.”