Saying no to a client request doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. Here are our 3 favorite ways to smooth things over…

As entrepreneurs, clients are our bread and butter. We want to do everything we can to not only meet, but exceed their expectations. After all, happy clients are more likely to keep coming back — and provide glowing referrals.

That being said, it probably sounds pretty unbelievable to think of ever saying no to a client.

Unfortunately, it’s a situation that inevitably happens to every entrepreneur. Whether you’re working with an established client or someone new, there will come a time when you have to refuse a client request.

Whether it’s an issue with cost or a task that’s outside of your expertise, there are times when you’re left with no other choice than to say no. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to take the correct approach when you can’t fulfill a client request. Here’s how to do it without souring your relationship…

Clarify the Why Behind the No

While having to tell a client no isn’t necessarily the easiest of situations, as a savvy business owner, you know your boundaries. Turning down a request isn’t a decision made lightly. Explaining the reasons why might be a perfect way to chase off any awkwardness.

Perhaps cost played into your decision. Or maybe the time required for you to complete the job may simply add up to more than your client’s budget allows. The job could even be outside of your expertise, and you just aren’t comfortable taking it on.

Whatever the reason, communication is key. Not only will you feel better for sticking to your principles, your client will respect your honesty.

Suggest an Alternative to the Client Request

You’re an entrepreneur because of your ability to think outside of the box. If a client has approached you with a job that just doesn’t seem to be a good fit, why not put your ingenuity to work?

You may not be able to fulfill the current request as it stands, but before you deliver the bad news, talk to your client in depth about their vision for the job and see if there’s a way to make it work within your parameters. Then set aside some time to do a bit of creative brainstorming. You may find some alternative ways to fulfill the request that work better for both of you.

Express Your Gratitude to the Client

Sometimes despite all of your efforts, a client request (even with modifications) wouldn’t be mutually beneficial. If you just can’t reach a workable solution, be firm, yet gracious, and let the client know how much you appreciate their consideration, even if this particular project wasn’t a great fit.

Even though things didn’t work out today, there’s no reason to burn bridges. Ending your interaction on an amicable note only leaves the door open for the future. Your client may even send some referrals your way.

Occasionally you may have a client whom, despite all of your best efforts, is still unhappy with your refusal. This can certainly be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that this just may not be a good fit. A difficult client in the proposal stage will most likely become a nightmare down the road.

You never want to get in the situation where you’re halfway through a job and realize it’s not going to work out. That’s just not good business.

Client relationships are a two-way street, and transactions should allow you both to thrive. Don’t ever forget the value of the services you provide or compromise your integrity. By navigating these uncomfortable situations with grace, you’ll almost always emerge with your client relationship intact.

About Emily D. Tisdale, Founder & CEO

Meet the brains — and heart — behind LEAP for Women. Emily is LEAP’s guiding force, committed to supporting women entrepreneurs at every stage in their journey.

She loves LEAP because:

We’re an authentic resource for women who want the nitty-gritty details of running a business. I want everyone to have the same amazing resources I had.

A resident of Indiana, Emily prides herself on being a transplanted Hoosier and enjoys watching Colts football and spending time with her husband and their two children.

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