In the past year, I’ve gotten dozens of requests for custom lettering and logo design. They’ve included retail shops, friends, and organizations such as AARP. Yet, I’ve turned down every single one of them.
Last week, I shared how a client from hell ruined my passion for web design. After transitioning to lettering, I took on the role of a professional. I would no longer take on any job for “work experience.” I would establish my own values and make decisions based on them. I realized I didn’t need to take on work on terms that I didn’t agree with, or with people who didn’t trust me.
My Reasons for Turning Potential Clients Down
Many of these projects may have seemed fine at first glance. However, they conflicted with my values in one aspect or another. To illustrate the reason for turning down potential clients, here are some of the reasons I turned them down:
1. Avoiding My Process
If someone deliberately tries to avoid the preliminary steps required to work with me, I will likely turn them down. This is a clear indication that they don’t respect me enough to do what is needed to do my best work.
If someone answers my questions with one-line responses and refuses to engage in the questioning and discovery process, I will likely turn them down. It doesn’t makes sense to work with someone who doesn’t care enough about their own project to help me do my job.
3. Wanting Me to Execute Their Own Ideas
If they’ve come to me with a preconceived idea that they want me to execute, I will likely turn them down. This usually leads to bad design and something I won’t want to use in my portfolio.
4. Unrealistic Timeframe
If someone is in need of a super quick turn around, I will likely turn them down. Developing a solid, and cohesive logo is difficult enough. Doing that under the stress of a short time constraint is not conducive to achieving my best work.
Protecting Your Passion
Some may say “how can you afford to turn down work opportunities?” I would ask, “how can you afford NOT to?” Can you afford to allow all the wrong people the opportunity to ruin your passion for the work you do? Allowing money and the demands of others to control your work is a sure-fire way to kill your passion for it.
I’ve only taken on one client in the past two years, which was back in 2014. It was because they respected me and my work. They respected my process and trusted me to do my job. They were a breeze to work with and to this day it’s a project that I’m truly proud of. I know I wouldn’t be able to say the same if I took on any of the other requests.
Just because there is an exchange of money, doesn’t make it any more real than experience gained from personal projects. Think twice before taking on a project. Don’t believe the bad advice that you should take on whatever work you can get. Remember that you can get that same “experience” on your own.
Taking on a Professional Mindset
You are a professional the moment you decide to take on the responsibilities expected of a professional. That includes setting the terms, caring about the experience of your customer, and turning down potential bad clients.
You don’t suddenly arrive at being a professional from years of experience, number of clients, or the amount of money made. Professionalism is a journey, not a destination. Being a professional starts once you decide to choose to pursue that direction and work towards achieving it.
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