Knowing when to say no to a client

The thought of saying no to potential business can be a frightening one; however, if you are going to have any success in your business, you will have to learn when to say no.

There are a vast number of reasons for rejecting potential business. In this post we will evaluate 5 circumstances in which a “no” is warranted:

1. You lack the skills or capacity

Before accepting a project, it is important to evaluate whether you have the skills and capacity to complete the task. It can ruin your reputation if you accept a project blindly, later on to find out that you are not equipped to fulfill it.
You need to evaluate whether you have the right experience, credentials, and resources. Conduct a thorough feasibility study, and if you calculate that you do not have the skills or capacity to complete the project, reject the proposal.

2. The cost versus benefit is unfavourable

One of the main reasons to run a business is to make a profit. Aim not to accept deals that negatively affects your finances. Sure, there might be other non-financial benefits to the deal, however, if the financial cost versus benefit ratio is overly off balance, you might want to re-evaluate whether those non-financial benefits are sufficient.

3. The client gives you unrealistic timelines

This goes without mention. Unrealistic deadlines can lead to extreme stress, poor performance and a bad reputation. If the client is unwilling to change the timelines to suit you, you will have to say no.

4. The client has a bad reputation

These are clients that have built a negative rapport with you, and those who are widely known as bad clients. A business relationship is a two-way relationship, where the client also has a role to play. Sometimes breaking a relationship with a client is necessary if you feel that your reputation is on the line.

5. The client is not a good fit

The final reason for saying no to a client could be that you realise that the client is just not a good fit with your company. Your brand has visions, values and goals; if this new proposal is not in alignment with that, you should consider saying no.


Saying no at the right time may produce benefits such as a good reputation, cost saving and time saving. Evaluate each deal on a case-by-case basis; if you are not sure about it, it is best to reject the deal.