As an independent consultant, particularly if you're new to the field, it's tempting to accept every prospective project that comes your way. After all, clients and the projects they provide are your source of income. However, just because an opportunity is presented doesn't mean the project is right for your business. Here are four situations in which you might be better off turning down a job.
1. You're Overbooked
Every project you take on will require resources, your time, energy, and focus will be expended. When presented with a new project, consider your current obligations and make an honest determination of whether you have too much on your plate to accept the offer. By taking on a project that you don't truly have time for you will be overpromising yourself to your client, and also potentially putting a healthy work-life balance at risk. Though it may seem like a nice problem to have, having too much work is just that - a problem. If you take on more than you can handle, you may end up disappointing your client and hurting your professional reputation. (A tip: Have a rolodex of good contacts that you trust, whom you can refer the client to for this work, or subcontract it and manage the client relationship, to continue to keep your client happy).
2. You Can't Meet the Client's Expectations
When a client approaches you with the details of a new project, there is often some flexibility in their requirements. However, if after discussing their requested parameters you find that you are unable to meet their non-negotiable needs, walk away. Do not agree to terms that you cannot fulfill. Whether they have a hard deadline that would be impossible for you to meet, requirements that are beyond your expertise, or a budget that would force you to unreasonably lower your billing rate, declining the job will benefit both parties in the end.
3. When the Job Conflicts with Your Values
One of the benefits of working for yourself as an independent consultant is the ability to choose the jobs that you want to work on. In fact, our State of Independence in America Study found that 75% of independents overall stated that doing something they love is more important than making money. This includes having the option to decline projects that don't align with your personal values. If you think the assignment will cause enough discomfort that it would lead to a lack of passion and emotional involvement in the project, you should walk away. Not only would you be compromising your own happiness, but you could also harm the client by not putting 100% of your effort into it.
4. Overly Difficult Client
The perfect client - one who never disagrees with you, never makes last-minute changes, and always pays ahead of schedule - is every independent consultant's dream. Unfortunately, they're few and far between. It's important to remember that, like you, clients are human and conflicts are bound to arise now and then. However, there may come a time when all attempts at mediation, resolution or compromise have failed. If a difficult client is simply more trouble than you feel the account is worth, you may be better off cutting ties and declining future work.
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