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Should You Ever Turn Down New Business?


A few years ago, we hosted an event featuring a panel of incredible female entrepreneurs. One of them, Brenda Hayes-Williams, said something that stopped us in our tracks. “Not all money is good money,” she told the room. What she was referring to is the fact that sometimes the financial gain from a venture or project is not worth the toll it takes on you, your current business, or your personal life.

For small business owners, freelancers, or those who work under the pressure of finding the next sale or client or investment, when an opportunity presents itself, it’s tempting to accept without consideration. As women, we want to grow professionally through these opportunities, so turning one down feels counter-intuitive. The reality is, sometimes we need to do just that. Here are a few reasons why:

It’s Not Your Area of Expertise

You know yourself and your business best. While it may be exciting to take on a project in a field you’re unfamiliar with, only do it if you’re wanting to grow your business in that particular field. If it’s totally foreign to you, not only will you not have the working knowledge to present your best work, but the time to learn about the unknown may affect the quality of product you provide to your clients who sought you out for your area of expertise in the first place.

You’ll Get Overloaded

Sometimes everything seems perfect, except the timing. You might already have multiple deadlines around the same time frame, or you’ve just started a couple of projects that will require most of your attention. In this instance, turning down the business isn’t exactly a “no,” more like a “yes, but just not right now.” Perhaps the client or project isn’t time-sensitive and is willing to wait. If not, you’ve left a door open to future business.

It’s Not a Good Fit

You’ve likely spent a lot of time, effort, and money building your business with a certain brand in mind. Clients who fit this vision feel like a seamless partner in growing your business, whereas those who don’t can feel like the square peg. Consider each new project as a potential open door. Do you want to continue open doors to work not in alignment with where you see your business in five years?

It Won’t Help You Grow

Quick, easy work is tempting, and small projects here and there can provide a boost when you need it or have some time to spare, but if we only take the easy stuff, we miss out on projects that challenge us and keep us moving forward. Freelancers and small business owners have an additional consideration of keeping up with ever-changing technology, social media platforms, and marketing strategies. The last thing we need to be is obsolete!

While it may feel excruciating to turn down business in the short-term, keep the long-term top of mind. When you do have to turn down potential clients or projects, use that as a networking opportunity to connect others with work that might be a perfect fit. You never know who might return the favor!