The Unpopular Art of Turning Away Clients

No one likes the idea of turning away a potential client. Clients equal money. And there’s really no one I know that likes to turn down money. Sadly sometimes it’s just necessary to say no to the potential business. Being a VA, it’s no good being a “Yes Man.”And while you may not like it, you definitely need to know how for when the time comes. I promise, it’s much easier than you think.

Do you have the time?

This is the first thing you should think about when you’re interviewing a potential client (PC). Do you even have the time to take on this project? Factor in all the other clients you currently have. Make a good guestimate of how much time you’re spending on those clients say, every week. Now figure out how much billable time you have leftover. Please note that I said BILLABLE time. Please, please, please don’t take away time you have set aside for family and other personal duties. If you don’t have the billable time available to take on this new task, politely decline the work. How? I’ll get to that.

Do your personalities mix well?

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of working with someone. I test every client I interview. They don’t know it (unless they read this post now) but I’m testing them. I giggle a lot. That’s just me as a person. If the PC can’t laugh or just seems to stiff of a person, I’ve likely already decided to move on. If there’s a trait of yours that you know not everyone handles well and you simply can’t stifle it, make that your test. Or if there’s something you absolutely can’t stand, a huge pet peeve of yours, make that a second test. Another example, I hate being cut off. I mean I hate being cut off. Now awkward cut offs when you’re both starting to say something and stop (and giggle, of course) that’s fine. But if you intentionally cut me off to make a point, I hate you. Sorry not sorry. I literally hate you. Have a pet peeve like that? Use that to determine if you actually like a client enough to work with them.

Finally, the reason you’re even here.

The actual “turning down” part of this can be incredibly awkward the first time around. I certainly won’t deny that. Though discomfort is a big part of business, this industry in particular, so this is great practice.

Have a waiting list

This applies to my first point up above: time. If you think you’d enjoy working with this person and the only thing stopping you is time, set up a waiting list for PCs. This lets them know that you’re serious about taking on clients and that you’re actually worth working with because you’re so booked. So it’s kind of beneficial…I suppose. Also, having a waiting list can boost your confidence a bit by just knowing that so many people would like to hire you.

Have a sizable network

Remember what I told you about networking and how it’s practically mandatory for growing your business? Aside from gathering leads, here’s another way it comes in handy. If you’re in touch with other virtual assistants, particularly those who share your skill set, they may be willing to take a referral or two from you. Always make sure that they’re open to accepting new clients before sending one their way. If you know you don’t want to work with a client and they’re not an absolutely terrible person, it’s a good idea to refer them to an equally qualified virtual assistant who may be able to work with them.

See? Easy. Easier said than done, that is. (I’m kidding.) Rehearse it a bit in a mirror or with a phone to your ear. If you’re like me, try writing a script and reciting it to your mom until she’s sick of hearing your voice. Save said script in Evernote or some other note-taking program on your phone or computer. If and when the time comes that you have to turn away a client or two, you’ll at least have something to work from. Nothing’s easy the first time, and probably not the second time either, but let’s hope you don’t have to do it that often.

Have experience turning down clients? Was it terribly easy or just terrible? Share your stories in the comments.


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