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How to Expertly Turn Down a Design Job

How to Expertly Turn Down a Design Job

Diana Mahoney | The Design Partner

A first response to this question may be, “Why would you think of turning down a job in this economy?”

Some might say this falls into the “nice-problem-to-have category” — But how do you turn down a job without negatively impacting your reputation or the impression it may leave with the potential client? The number one rule to remember when turning down business is to always, always be professional and polite. So, turn down a project with care and courtesy. It’s a small world and paths often cross – no burning bridges, ever!

What would the reasons be to turn down a design project?

First off, is your own instinct signaling you? Listening to that inner voice as you meet and begin to consult with a new client is very critical. There is a certain flow of communication and personality-merging that either “works” or doesn’t. The designer and client relationship is very personal.

Mutual trust and honesty is important for a smoothly delivered project. If that gut-instinct tells you something isn’t right, listen to it. As much as a client comes with design needs, it’s up to the designer to frame the relationship so the outcome is seamless. Working transparently allows there to be no surprises. If this isn’t possible, it may be necessary to diplomatically exit as early in the process as possible.

Even in a lousy economy and an ultra-competitive job market, there are reasons to turn down a job. Often these relate to pay. It’s awkward to discuss money early in the design process, but herein lies a key element to a smooth project – a mutually agreed upon contract. The majority of clients are perfectly willing to agree to a designer’s terms and conditions. There are, however, a few out there that push the envelope when it comes to getting the most out of their designer for the least amount of money. For example, some clients may be “designer shopping” requesting free mock-ups or style boards. Put your foot down and tell the client that you’ll do no free mock-ups, but you’d be happy to move forward once you’ve received “x” amount towards the project.

Next: What If a Client Suggests You Change Your Business Practices? →


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