A professional photographer recently asked me this question:
“I’m in the position where I can pick and choose the work I want to do. I’m confident that I will have several enquiries for a date in the diary and that all the dates I want to work will be filled. How do I tell a potential client I’m not interested in their enquiry? It’s not always the case that I already have a booking for that date, and it may be some way into the conversation before I realise they’re not for me.”
It’s a dilemma that is probably familiar to many of us: how to say “No” without risking offence?
You have to remember that an enquiry doesn’t hold either of you to anything. It’s a preliminary discussion between you and your potential client to find out if you are the right match for each other, and agree on the way forward.
There’s a temptation to accept any offer of work that comes your way. Even when you’re established, it can still feel difficult to turn offers down. What you mustn’t forget is that accepting work which is not right for you, or if you’re not right for the client, dramatically increases the risk of an unhappy client.
Also, if the number of enquiries you’re accepting exceeds the number of days you want to work, that risks damaging your reputation and your existing client relationships. It is time to protect yourself. Change your thinking to “I’m only taking the work that’s right for me.” Instead of saying “Yes” to every enquiry, say “Maybe, tell me more.” Consider each proposal in depth before committing.
Your client will likely have a deadline. So, if the project isn’t right for you or you’re not the right fit for them, it’s important you let them know promptly so they can move on and find someone else to supply the service. They will appreciate your honesty.
“Sorry, but I’m not the right photographer for you.”
Now you will be able to concentrate on the enquiries you want to undertake, with a clear conscience and your reputation intact.