Learn to say no: how to avoid the clients not worth the hassle

Paul ReedOwner, Reed & Co

When running an accounting firm, increasing your volume of clients always seems like a critical part of your overall success.

With this in mind, you are probably looking to gain as many clients as possible. When a new opportunity to earn some cash arrives, you immediately grab it. The more clients you get, the more money you make, right?

But this is not always the case. According to EXIM, an estimated 60% of all invoices sent out to clients are paid later than the due date. Late payments, or no payment, tend to be only one of the many reasons why you may face a cash flow problem.

And this problem isn’t just limited to accounting firm clients.

One of the biggest problems I see amongst the businesses that my firm, Reed & Co Accountants help, is not following strict payment terms with their clients. Not only do our clients have to spend extra hours chasing payments, but they need to work around their customers too much, which affects all aspects of their business.

This is why learning when and how you should say no to a client is critical.

When is it better to say no?

There are numerous reasons why working with a specific client can turn into a hassle. 

Time is money in the business world, and if a client is going to be a hassle, they will end up costing you more than the project is worth.

Your attention needs to be divided between the clients you serve. When there is a client causing too much of a hassle, it means you’ll be wasting time that could have been spent on other clients.

Here are a few reasons and scenarios where it might be better to say no to a potential client.

A lack of skills

When you lack the appropriate skills to help the client, it is not worth accepting the project. Spending days or even weeks learning the skills needed just so you can accept the contract would waste too much time. 

Instead, consider the skills things you want to learn in the future and work at a slower pace to adopt them.

A lack of time

If you are faced with a situation where you simply do not have enough time to work on a new project, then it is also important to say no. You already accepted projects from other clients, and taking on another one could lead to chaos. 

Advise the potential client that you are fully booked, but do tell them when you will be available again.

The contract doesn’t seem worth it

There may be times where the money offered for a project just isn’t worth it. Even when times feel a bit tough, this can still lead to a loss on your side.

Understand how much your time and skills are worth, and make sure you are paid accordingly.

The client has too many problems

Some clients tend to complain constantly—and this means you will be fixing even the smallest issues they come up with. In turn, you will end up wasting time to make the client happy without being paid for the extra effort.

How do you say no to a potential client?

Once you have assessed a situation and found that the client is not worth your time and effort, it’s time to let them know. 

When you say no to a client, you still need to uphold your professionalism and be polite. Even when a client provides unexpected comments, you should remain professional throughout the entire process.

Below are a few tips to help you get the message out that you decided to reject the project:

  • Draft an email that can serve as evidence. Make this the official email that declines the project.

  • Be polite throughout the email and provide the client with a valid explanation as to why you won’t be accepting the project.

  • If there is a possibility that you may accept a project in the future, note this in the email.

  • Make sure to keep a copy of the email in your sent box.

  • Should the client respond with an email that contains inappropriate language or messages, do not reply in a similar matter.

Less is more

Clients are essentially the bread and butter of your business. While you depend on constantly increasing the number of clients, there are times where you should rather consider turning the potential client down. 

Learning when to say no and how to say no can bring more value to your business, and allow you to focus on clients that will not become a hassle.

Paul Reed
Owner, Reed & Co

Paul Reed is the owner at a UK based accountancy firm, with over a decade of experience in helping small businesses grow without the added stress of sorting tax compliance.

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