As freelancers, the idea of turning down a new or repeat client might sound like the end of the world. After all, you know how difficult it can be to land the right project, and, especially if you’re relatively new to the game, you might feel a little obligated to always say yes, no matter the consequences. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary and absolutely okay to say no. Here are a few tips for turning down a project and maintaining your professional status. 1. Explain Your Reasoning As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to default to openness and honesty. If there is a particular reason that you’re on the fence about accepting a new client or an additional project from an existing one, let them know. Maybe you’re swamped this week, but have a wide-open schedule the next. Instead of saying no outright, ask if the client has some deadline flexibility. If it’s a price concern, as uncomfortable as it may seem, be honest with your client. Politely, yet firmly explain that you are unable to deliver high-quality work under a certain budget. 2. Be Realistic Ultimately, turning down a project upfront is much better than making a commitment with which you know you can’t follow through. No one knows your schedule better than yourself, so if you really feel that you can’t take on another project at this time, don’t. In fact, the client will likely appreciate your honesty and the opportunity to find a better fit before anyone’s time (or money) is wasted. 3. Be Polite Believe it or not, a little kindness goes a long way. No matter the situation, try to remain as polite and professional as possible. In most cases, a polite “no” will be met with equal politeness and understanding from the client. And hey, just because you said no this time doesn’t mean that you’ve completely closed a door. Maybe you don’t have the time or resources to complete this project, but your professional attitude might compel this client to keep your contact information on file. 4. Stand Your Ground Unfortunately, if you’re in the business long enough, you’re bound to come across a bad egg or two. In the case of an unruly, downright arrogant client, remember a few things: 1. Be polite. 2. You’re not obligated to work for anyone. 3. No matter the price tag, no amount of money is worth feeling degraded or belittled by a client. Notice that the first step is to be polite. Again, this is your default. Engaging in a heated argument with a client will only fuel the fire and might even hurt your reputation as a professional. That said, however, you can be polite and stand your ground when turning down a project. If you truly feel that your life will be miserable should you accept work from a particular client, stick to your guns and decline. 5. Don’t Feel Guilty The bottom line is that you can’t possibly say yes to everyone, no matter how much you’d like to, especially if that would mean saying no to taking care of yourself. Handle yourself in a calm, professional manner, and nine times out of ten, you’ll be met with the same kindness and understanding. Don’t beat yourself up over the occasional “no,” and remember that declining one project allows you the time and effort needed to bang out stellar work on current projects.