what makes you stop in your tracks and TURN DOWN a gig? pay? personalities? locations? let us know in the comments what and why!

  • In a new client relationship, personality and/or culture may be a contributing factor to turning down business. Collaboration and good teamwork are essential to delivering good work and you need to work on the same page. More often than not, my reason for turning down a gig is because I'm getting too much business from one source. Perhaps it sounds counter intuitive. But much of my work is done on behalf of independent agencies; and I've found that maintaining some diversity in your client base is essential to maintaining my business.

  • Money is a deterrent for me. I may not charge high prices, but I will not work for peanuts either.

  • any mention of financial troubles is a HUGE red flag for me as well. I immediately assume they can't or won't pay me in a timely fashion.

  • Clients with a superiority complex gotta go. Left the corporate life to get a way from that kind of abuse.

  • Agree with George Cook about clients with a superiority complex... I remember this potential client who called inquiring about my services and talked like he was doing me a favor :)

  • This comment has been removed with a light and loving touch.

  • When a project comes in that the client doesn't actually want to do (for example, it was "assigned" by an uninformed upper management) but that they need to show something is being done, that's a red flag for me. If the people I would be working directly with don't have interest or time to help me help them, then no one will be happy at the end of the effort.

    Fortunately, since all my clients to date are through referrals and networking, I know about this kind of insanity ahead of time.

  • I was asked by a customer (who had never used a freelancer before) if I was willing to "discount" my quote in exchange for a higher-than-my-quote fee if the project sells. So, if the project didn't sell, I would only get the lower fee. This "incentive-based" mentality implies that designers are motivated by money, and will do an extra better job if there is more to gain. I did think twice about the offer. Then I decided since I wasn't going to be involved in "the pitch" meeting, and I did not know this company, their sales team, or their strategy then I would decline. I could create an amazing presentation, but if their sales team sucks, or their service isn't good - then THEY could be responsible for a loss, not just the design. I hear this excuse a lot..."we lost because of design", I've never heard.."the sales guy is a jerk". So, I realized never to work for less, and to run from dangling carrots..!

  • Jeri, I love your comment that "This shouldn't take long" is the kiss of death. Oh, so true! As in, this client won't pay tiddlywinks but will be the most demanding of all.

    I would have to say the superiority complex is top red flag for me. The "I'm doing you a favor" attitude, or the "I want it done right now" demand, or the "let me tell you how to do your job" condescension is an immediate turn off.

    Another red flag is the new business. Many people call with their exciting idea and since I was once a startup, I always take time to listen and encourage. But in reality, most people are dreamers. They haven't done their homework or put in the necessary time. Most of all, they don't want to invest in their idea. As much as I'd like to help, I can't afford to for next-to-nothing, especially if they're not in it for the long haul.

  • What a client is willing to pay is #1 for me, but I have also turned down gigs because clients were unnecessarily demanding or always wanting their work done right now, unable to understand I have other clients and projects.

    I don't often work with new businesses. I got burned early on by someone in a startup who wouldn't/couldn't pay me, and I've been wary ever since.

  • I've always used a strict filter on prospects. But many still fell through the cracks over the years.

    What's unacceptable to me: unable to state a business goal, no signature ( 1 name might get a pass), physical meetings on tiny projects, price haggling, labor or complexity minimization, budget and expectation miss-alignment, excessive unscheduled phone calls, unscheduled phone calls during dinner time is a big red flag, carrots, more than 3 days without a response, breaking their word more than once, asking for non competes ( I would never give up my right to compete in any capacity if I can help it ), scope creep, refusing to follow a project management process and many many more.

  • This is a great question--it might seem that we need to be in really strong financial or professional positions before we can be super choosy about clients, but on the other hand demanding clients come with big opportunity costs.

    And even if you can be choosy, in my experience it's not the clients you expect to be hassles that turn out to eat your time. It'd be great if we had ratings for clients, just like so many clients have ratings for freelancers.

    But barring that, it's important to have a practiced and professional manner to step AWAY from a client relationship without ruffling any feathers or compromising the work itself. That's where places like Freelancers Union might come in :) Trusted networks are crucial when it comes to redirecting business for one reason or another.

  • Ralph, I've run into a variant on what you mentioned. A customer wanted to pay me when the work was published. The agency usually takes a big percentage; consequently they should pay me upon completion and assume any risk. And since I won't be involved in the sales meeting and don't usually know the agency, their sales team, or their strategy, then this deal is not good for me.

    The other comments were also great. For me, the ones about haggling over price, excessive phone calls, a superiority complex, and scope creep were especially good.

  • I have to trust my gut. I've been asked to design and deliver Websites but the individual or company had no business plan. No plan, no Website. Period. Want me to deliver technical documentation but cannot identify the audience? Thanks for your time.These are a few situations that can cause me to turn down a potential gig. I don't walk away from an assignment I've accepted.

    Although, I should have on a couple of occasions.

  • Late to the party. Biggest deterrent for me, other than money and attitude, is disorganization. A client who is disorganized, to me, looks like a client who may be: emotionally or financially unstable, unable to clarify what they need and stay within scope, and just generally unbalanced.

    For personal reasons and due to some situations from my past, I CANNOT cope with a chaotic environment. I realize that SOME chaos comes with the job, but temporary chaos due to a busy time or big, crazy project is different from endemic, generalized chaos.

  • In a new client relationship, personality and/or culture may be a contributing factor to turning down business. Collaboration and good teamwork are essential to delivering good work and you need to work on the same page. More often than not, my reason for turning down a gig is because I'm getting too much business from one source. Perhaps it sounds counter intuitive. But much of my work is done on behalf of independent agencies; and I've found that maintaining some diversity in your client base is essential to maintaining my business.

  • Money is a deterrent for me. I may not charge high prices, but I will not work for peanuts either.

  • any mention of financial troubles is a HUGE red flag for me as well. I immediately assume they can't or won't pay me in a timely fashion.

  • Clients with a superiority complex gotta go. Left the corporate life to get a way from that kind of abuse.

  • Agree with George Cook about clients with a superiority complex... I remember this potential client who called inquiring about my services and talked like he was doing me a favor :)

  • This comment has been removed with a light and loving touch.

  • When a project comes in that the client doesn't actually want to do (for example, it was "assigned" by an uninformed upper management) but that they need to show something is being done, that's a red flag for me. If the people I would be working directly with don't have interest or time to help me help them, then no one will be happy at the end of the effort.

    Fortunately, since all my clients to date are through referrals and networking, I know about this kind of insanity ahead of time.

  • I was asked by a customer (who had never used a freelancer before) if I was willing to "discount" my quote in exchange for a higher-than-my-quote fee if the project sells. So, if the project didn't sell, I would only get the lower fee. This "incentive-based" mentality implies that designers are motivated by money, and will do an extra better job if there is more to gain. I did think twice about the offer. Then I decided since I wasn't going to be involved in "the pitch" meeting, and I did not know this company, their sales team, or their strategy then I would decline. I could create an amazing presentation, but if their sales team sucks, or their service isn't good - then THEY could be responsible for a loss, not just the design. I hear this excuse a lot..."we lost because of design", I've never heard.."the sales guy is a jerk". So, I realized never to work for less, and to run from dangling carrots..!

  • Jeri, I love your comment that "This shouldn't take long" is the kiss of death. Oh, so true! As in, this client won't pay tiddlywinks but will be the most demanding of all.

    I would have to say the superiority complex is top red flag for me. The "I'm doing you a favor" attitude, or the "I want it done right now" demand, or the "let me tell you how to do your job" condescension is an immediate turn off.

    Another red flag is the new business. Many people call with their exciting idea and since I was once a startup, I always take time to listen and encourage. But in reality, most people are dreamers. They haven't done their homework or put in the necessary time. Most of all, they don't want to invest in their idea. As much as I'd like to help, I can't afford to for next-to-nothing, especially if they're not in it for the long haul.

  • What a client is willing to pay is #1 for me, but I have also turned down gigs because clients were unnecessarily demanding or always wanting their work done right now, unable to understand I have other clients and projects.

    I don't often work with new businesses. I got burned early on by someone in a startup who wouldn't/couldn't pay me, and I've been wary ever since.

  • I've always used a strict filter on prospects. But many still fell through the cracks over the years.

    What's unacceptable to me: unable to state a business goal, no signature ( 1 name might get a pass), physical meetings on tiny projects, price haggling, labor or complexity minimization, budget and expectation miss-alignment, excessive unscheduled phone calls, unscheduled phone calls during dinner time is a big red flag, carrots, more than 3 days without a response, breaking their word more than once, asking for non competes ( I would never give up my right to compete in any capacity if I can help it ), scope creep, refusing to follow a project management process and many many more.

  • This is a great question--it might seem that we need to be in really strong financial or professional positions before we can be super choosy about clients, but on the other hand demanding clients come with big opportunity costs.

    And even if you can be choosy, in my experience it's not the clients you expect to be hassles that turn out to eat your time. It'd be great if we had ratings for clients, just like so many clients have ratings for freelancers.

    But barring that, it's important to have a practiced and professional manner to step AWAY from a client relationship without ruffling any feathers or compromising the work itself. That's where places like Freelancers Union might come in :) Trusted networks are crucial when it comes to redirecting business for one reason or another.

  • Ralph, I've run into a variant on what you mentioned. A customer wanted to pay me when the work was published. The agency usually takes a big percentage; consequently they should pay me upon completion and assume any risk. And since I won't be involved in the sales meeting and don't usually know the agency, their sales team, or their strategy, then this deal is not good for me.

    The other comments were also great. For me, the ones about haggling over price, excessive phone calls, a superiority complex, and scope creep were especially good.

  • I have to trust my gut. I've been asked to design and deliver Websites but the individual or company had no business plan. No plan, no Website. Period. Want me to deliver technical documentation but cannot identify the audience? Thanks for your time.These are a few situations that can cause me to turn down a potential gig. I don't walk away from an assignment I've accepted.

    Although, I should have on a couple of occasions.

  • Late to the party. Biggest deterrent for me, other than money and attitude, is disorganization. A client who is disorganized, to me, looks like a client who may be: emotionally or financially unstable, unable to clarify what they need and stay within scope, and just generally unbalanced.

    For personal reasons and due to some situations from my past, I CANNOT cope with a chaotic environment. I realize that SOME chaos comes with the job, but temporary chaos due to a busy time or big, crazy project is different from endemic, generalized chaos.