Freelancers turning down projects

I was wondering how much percentage of work offers do freelancer turn down and what are the reasons:
…whether they dont want to do the project at all b’coz its not of their interest?
…or they dont have the capability/resources to do that?
…or they are stuffed with too much of work?
…or is there any other reason?

Sometimes a key to survival is knowing when to say “no”. For all the reasons you mention above plus countless more.

how about “pay you when it funds…” :laughing:

How justified that ‘no’ is when you know its taking away your business to someone else!

I was thinking of a system where you welcome whatever comes to you, keeping in mind this:
If its not in your capabilities, use other’s expertise.
If you dont like it of you’re stuffed too much, pass it on to other and just look after the management part.

A rising tide floats all boats. To make it a bit more palletable, recommend them to someone you trust will do a good job. Believe me, the short term payoff may not be there. But the long term that karma will save your bacon one day.

They’re all valid concerns. One that every freelancer/independent biz owner struggles with. I wasn’t joking when I said that a key to survival is learning when to say “no”. The answer is different for everyone.

Any new client is always a possibility to expand your business, hire more employees and make more money.

absolutely, saying no is crucial to both business and your sanity as a freelancer/consultant.

many times, have I had a gut feeling about a project/client, only to ignore it and get burned later. sometimes $ isn’t the only important thing and choosing a project/client wisely can in fact save you money / make you more.

my red flags usually go up if the client thinks they know everything, immediately balk at the $ in a proposal, or if the expectations just dont match reality.

in my experience, it hasn’t so much been a question of having the expertise to do a job (although i would never take a job i didnt think i could do), but rather picking your battles as mentioned so that the final result and both parties will be happy.

i’d take a fun, portfolio building job, with a good client any day over a pain in the a$$ client, who sucks up my time, still isn’t satisfied, and wants everything their way, despite my years of experience and recommendations.


Reasons I turn people down are generally…

Conflict of interests - the product would compete with product I am developing already. That doesn’t mean I turn down all other kids sneaker projects because I have one kids sneaker client already. Sometimes it’s uncanny how many requests I get for almost exactly the same product.

Time. Sometimes I’m just too busy.

I haven’t turned down anything due to capabilities yet - if I need help,I’ve plenty of contacts I can ask.

If I’m not sure if they can /will pay us. My Dad (an architect) says. ’ People think design is a hobby and they don’t want to pay for it.’ I weed these out with credit checking, contract and deposit payment, but even then, if it doesn’t feel right, I won’t go with them. The Footwear trade is tough right now - I had a company go bust on me last year, my friend, a sourcing agent, just retired after five of her customers went under in ten months!

If I don’t believe in the product - I’d do them a bad job because my heart wouldn’t be in it, so I’d say no.
Under this one you can add about 95% of the patent application enquiries I get, most of which are for almost exactly the same idea, which if you check , there alreay lots of applications filed for similar already. You then end up asking yourself why,in that case no ones managed to bring this idea to market yet.

‘Wafters’ as we term them. Clients who just cannot make up their mind and are more interested in constantly changing the positioning of a bow on a pump that getting down to the business nitty gritty. Waste my time, their time and we end up costing them a fortune because of all the extra effort. I’ve learned to spot 'em early now and I haven’t worked with a wafter for at least a couple of years. My partner does a lot of web work - his pet hate is people who want a website, but don’t have a clue what they want, or cannot provide any content.

I don’t cherry pick the most creative projects. There isn’t enough work around for me to do that. I do treat every project as a challenge, it’d be fair to say, I could do or have done pretty most any footwear product type you could ask me to do. I was designing punk /alternative/emo goth footwear last week fora UK customer, I’m about to start on a toddlers sneakers line for a customer in SE Asia.

Finally - I tuned down a project this year for ethical reasons. I can’t say what it was (signed an NDA) apart from it was bloody wasteful and landfill busting.

Working as a consultant, this is something I’ve struggled with. I don’t have the freedom to outright turn down a project for ethical reasons, though I can voice my opinion over it. When possible, I try to go outside the box and include an alternative concept that is not exactly what they asked for but more eco-friendly. Even if they completely dismiss it, at least I know I tried.

I wonder if turning down the project because it is bad for the environment, just passes the project off to some other freelancer who will go through with the project?

It seems that it may just be too much effort to take on one of these kind of projects and try to change the it from within, suggesting more eco-friendly alternatives, etc.
Is the conscious clearer after trying and failing, versus never trying at all?

Thing with this project is, it couldn’t be changed to be more ethical - the wastefulness was what it was all about! You’re right, someone else is working on it now, I couldnt , it wouldn’t sit well with my conscience and I was very honest with them as to why I thought it was a bad idea,but they would not be swayed.

I have turned down contract furniture design work. It seems the industry standard payment methodology is entirely royalty based. Several meetings discussing committment, if it’s a success, potential payouts, etc. left me convinced I’d never get paid. Company was designer shopping, I’ve learned of at least 3 they talked to. Many years later, it was a successful project for a designer but it was 5 years before he saw any money.

I’ve sent several refusal letters after discussions became pointless. Laughable even: guy has business plan, 100+ pages in colour, will show the book but not let me read it, and he’s demanding I work as an investment partner, i.e. no pay. They were actually reasonably good product ideas, and the people were knowledgeable professionals in their field. After I threatened no interest, then they got desparate and offered up their business plan for one day only!

And I’ve turned down work from people who wanted to copy other products. But, not straightforward copy, a copy integrating it into something else, claiming they had licence, but couldn’t show it when I asked.

I have learned my lesson on this one. I took a full time 6 month freelance project with a start-up company when I first graduated from college. It was a great project and the work was fantastic but the company was terrible. The owner was only there part time and he constantly delayed paying his employees on time. Sometimes we would go over a month without a paycheck. This would have been okay if I had a full time job and just doing this on the side but this was my bread and butter for the time that I was there. As a new college grad with a lot of bills to pay I was scraping by and getting really frustrated. I eventually found a full time job and the company a month later collapsed.

I learned some valuble lessons from this experience. The first is to go with y our gut. This was already mentioned but it is the best peice of advice. I had a gut feeling that this was going to be a bad project to take. The company was very unorganized, the office was very out dated and ilequiped, and they seemed to be biting off more than they could chew.

I also learned to get everthing in writing. This probably should be oviouse but as a new grad I did not know this. Now as a more experienced designer I know better. Every freelance project I do now has a payment schedule and sometime a required deposite.

I ALWAYS require a deposit, no exceptions. It’s too easy for them to run off after you’ve given them sketches. I take 50% upfront and 50% prior to release of any manufacturable data CAD files.

One reason why I freelance is for a bit of personal control. There are types of projects that I don’t want anything to do with. If I was working in-house I’d have to drudge my way through it. But freelancing…I don’t need to take the project. Also I like working with different people but also like to be on good terms with people I do work with. I won’t work with people that seem shady, will be a pain to work with, just completely cut-throat all about the quick buck, etc… I have the flexibility to pick and choose a little more (except when the funds are low, then you have to suck it up like anybody).
But you definitely have to know when to say no. I have a hectic family life now and sometimes have to turn down a project if it’s going to take me out of state for too long, etc.
One other reason why you may have to turn down work is if you only have time to add one more, then you have to weigh the choices between 2 potential projects and go for the one that will pay more, is better for your portfolio, whichever meets your strategic goals at the moment, etc. There are lots of different reasons, it all depends on your specific aims.

As you grow, you have more business. and you keep shifting to management than a hard core designer. This leads me to an interesting querry…
How many of you want to be remained in the domain of design and let the management part handled by someone else? or you love to manage everything by yourself, keeping you away from sketching, ID or 3D?

Well I was a design manager for two years. I was fine on the ciritcal path management, but I’ll be the first to admit that at the time I was a lousy people manager! Ironically, I’ve changed alot since then and have since gained experience managing large teams of people at my Buddhist centre! I know that if I start my own label, I’ll probably have to manage people so I may as well determine to be a good manager.

I still love the creative bits the most though.

one very obvious point you missed was money

I get many offers but it looks like people want their work to completed with no money spent…

i have to reject such offers even though i am all free

Does growing as a manager really help you contributing more to your creative bits as well… or it just adds to a good business?

The point here is, should we take the advantage of good management skills for bringing us more creative stuff… or do we really want just the management part as we move higher?

[quote=“STUD”]one very obvious point you missed was money

I get many offers but it looks like people want their work to completed with no money spent…

i have to reject such offers even though i am all free[/quote]

Yeah I ditto that! Lots of cheap, unrealistic clients some small fry inventors, others are jerks in large companies. I now charge for my meetings, even if just to review their projects for the first time. For too many years it was time wasted driving to the client’s location, reviewing their project, giving advice and comments, and the writing a contract only to have the project fall through and realize they only expected to pay a few hundred dollars for what is tens of thousands of dollars worth of work at a established firm. By charging a small meeting fee, I weed out the cheapskates and those looking for freebies.

I had a discussion with Sorhab Vossoughi (Ziba Design) when I was considering starting my own business. I posed the same concern/question to him. He gave me a piece of insight that rang very true to me and I carry it with me almost every day now, running my own business:

Granted, this was 4 years ago and I am paraphrasing, but it tells the story.