How to say 'no' without disappointing your client.

Do you struggle to say ‘no’ to your clients when they ask you for discounts or sharp deadlines? Do you say ‘yes’ when you know you shouldn’t because it’s outside of your expertise?

Working way too many hours trying to squeeze everything in leaves you feeling exhausted and demotivated but you just don’t know how to say ‘no’.

You think you’ll be letting them down. You dread the guilty feeling that follows… Did you make the wrong call? Were they offended?

Well I’ve got good news for you. When you learn to say ‘no’ in a respectful and helpful way, it sends a wonderful message to your clients and enables you to do your best work.

Check out these scenarios to relearn what it means to say ‘no’…


Photo by Ready Made on

Scenario: A client asks you to do work that you don’t want to do because you are not trained to do it well and it is not in alignment with your style.

How to say no: “No, I’m sorry, that’s outside of my expertise and scope”.

What you’re afraid it says: “No, I’m not capable.”

What it actually says: “I do great work in my field of expertise. I value your goals and want you to succeed. I am honest and authentic and so I will be clear with you upfront. I can’t help you achieve your desire to the level you deserve because it is outside of my expertise.”

Bonus points: recommend them to someone who can help with what they need – this serves them by making their job easier. Explain what you can do. You never know when they might have the problem you solve or they may know someone who needs your help.

In this case, saying no builds trust.

Scenario: A client asks you to take on a job with a sharp deadline. You are already working with existing clients and would have to either sacrifice their work or pull ridiculous and unsustainable hours to get it done.

How to say no: “No, I can’t help you right now but I have availability in 3 weeks.”

What you’re afraid it says: “You’re not important, I’m busy. When I am ready, you will already have gone elsewhere.”

What it actually says: “You are so important that I want to give you my full attention to solve your problem. I have a full work-load right now. I have availability in 3 weeks and I can assure you my full service. This will enable me to solve your problem to a high standard quickly. It is worth the wait to work with me because I am a premium professional and you are already drawn to my style because you know it will connect with your ideal clients.”

In this case, saying no preserves your energy levels and respects the client’s goals.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on

Photo by Karley Saagi on

Scenario: A client asks you to reduce your fee or says it’s too expensive.

How to say no: “No, I can’t offer a discount.”

What you’re afraid it says: “I’m cheap and just want the money.”

What it actually says: “I do great work. It is a premium service and is priced based on the value I provide. I am worth my full fee. Your goals and project are important to me. I want you to succeed. In order to do that, I need to give you 100% of my skills, abilities and energy. If I discount my price, I need to discount my work and that will not set you up for success.”

In this case, saying no clarifies the value you provide.

Scenario: A client asks to pursue a different direction mid-way through the project outside of the contracted agreement.

How to say no: “No, another revision will be outside of the scope of this project and will require a new negotiation. The direction you have already chosen meets your original project scope and serves the best interest of your customer.”

What you’re afraid it says: “I’m a fussy artist. I don’t want to do more work and I really like this idea even though you don’t seem to like it.”

What it actually says: “I’m focussed on reaching your goals. Based on our agreement and discussion so far, this solution meets your goals. I’m a professional and you have sought me out because you trusted me to help you succeed. My boundaries protect you from costly distraction and they allow me to maximise my skills and expertise.”

In this case, saying no reassures the customer of their original decision.

Photo by James Wheeler on

If your client struggles to hear ‘no’ the first time. Clarify further by telling them what you’re actually saying using the details provided in the scenarios.

Are you ready for more strategies that enable you to partner with the right clients, do your best work and structure your business in alignment with your creative process?

Join me next week as I launch my Masterclass Series. Freelance Fundamentals: Becoming a Financially Flourishing Creative even in a Challenging Economy.

Drop a comment below and I’ll make sure you get the link.

Success! You're on the list.

Published by hanfitz.creates

I'm Hannah, a business coach for creative professionals. The world needs creativity and innovation: this is how we progress as humans. But, the creative journey is paved with challenges: we're told the story of the starving artist since we're children, our brain is hard wired to resist anything new (like creative ideas), we doubt our ability and worthiness to succeed and we crush our ingenuity with judgement and comparison. Yet, we know our purpose is to create. I help visual artists, designers and illustrators bridge this gap with my uniquely curated knowledge and experience of graphic design, finance, human behaviour and neuroscience. You have invested time and resources into their technical skill; now, it's time to invest in your mindset and strategy. After working with me, you can confidently communicate the value of your work, attract clients and charge what you're worth through multiple income streams. This frees up more time and energy to do what you're best at: create.

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