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Old 13-12-2009, 05:47 AM
harmonysteel harmonysteel is offline
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Default How to politely reject potential clients / projects ?

Does anyone have any thoughts on how to effectively turn away a potential client you've already flagged as a problem client, without hurting their feelings / burning bridges?

I've just been going with the age-old "must pass on this project due to current projects and time-constraints" but is there a better approach?

I'm also at a loss as to whether to recommend other web services. I never ever pass this kind of client along to someone I know, that would just be unkind , but is it a nice gesture to refer them to a web agency in their area who may want the project, or is it better to make them find their own provider?

A big thank you in advance for any advice you're happy to send my way.

Harm
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Old 13-12-2009, 07:43 AM
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Sadly, I've found no better approach than the one you're using.

Oh sure, I've tried other ones, but "This project violates my 'No Wankers' policy" isn't advisable if you're NOT out to hurt feelings.

You could also try "My wife says I'm not allowed to work with you any more" and hope the outrageousness of that statement tells them how insane you are.

Good luck!
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Old 13-12-2009, 08:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonysteel View Post
Does anyone have any thoughts on how to effectively turn away a potential client you've already flagged as a problem client, without hurting their feelings / burning bridges?
Oddly, doing this gives me a GREAT feeling of satisfaction. I think it's because for years I worked for other people who would take on any job no matter how many warnings signs the client threw up.

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I've just been going with the age-old "must pass on this project due to current projects and time-constraints" but is there a better approach?
If it's a triple red flag client/project, I say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, this is not the kind of project we do/take on". That's my favourite line for people specifically requesting Joomla or OSCommerce, hahahahaha.

If it's a project I just have misgivings about, I pretty much say the same thing as you - "unfortunately we're not taking on new jobs [optionally 'of this size'] at the moment" usually backed up with a "we couldn't start it for at least [x months into future (usually at least four)]". Or if they've stated a deadline, "I'm sorry but there's no way we could complete the project within your required timeframe".

If the client just seems like they might be a bit of a pain, I quote really high and really long and hope they won't go for it. If they do go for it, at least you're getting well compensated for your efforts. I only do this when I think the project is ok.

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Originally Posted by harmonysteel View Post
I'm also at a loss as to whether to recommend other web services. I never ever pass this kind of client along to someone I know, that would just be unkind , but is it a nice gesture to refer them to a web agency in their area who may want the project, or is it better to make them find their own provider?
Let's look at the reasons why you don't want to work with a client/project:
a) it's morally objectional (different for everyone - me, I don't work with churches, cults, political parties or people that seem to be heavily involved in either, but others have no problem with that. Some things are obviously scams, or are "bad for the internet" eg spammy).
b) the client is personally offensive
c) they're cheapskates
d) they're overly demanding on your time/patience/abilities

Each of those "traits" make a client a nightmare for the small operator; but most of them (except maybe the scams and the spam) would probably be able to be handled by a large company where there are layers of process protecting the developers from the client, and where they have clear guidelines, professional project/client managers who don't take things personally as a matter of course, and know how to say "I'm sorry that will cost you an extra 1 beeeelllion dollars" with a straight face.

So I often tell clients I'm turning away to try one of the well-known bigger companies. I don't think it's unkind to them.
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Old 13-12-2009, 01:01 PM
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Harm - I agree with most of what Kay says and that is how we used to play it. Now that we have grown a bit bigger and can afford a little air of arrogance we actually tell them what is wrong and try and be honest with them. Typical responses are:
  1. Your budget is not sufficient - ebay must have cost in the millions to build.
  2. You really meed to have a proper strategy in place before we can do anything, here is our template - fill it out and come back to us (generally never hear back from them)
  3. We are like surgeons and specialise in particular technologies, yes the web is big and there are big differences under the hood, perhaps a GP or specialist in your area will be better for you.
  4. Suggest that you go to forums.port80.asn.au and ask people on the forums to help as we cannot help you at the moment.
  5. We seek to form a real partnerships with our clients and that means that our thinking needs to be aligned and cohesive, unfortunately that does not seem to be the case and might result in you being unhappy with what we deliver, we suggest you would be better off elsewhere.
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Old 13-12-2009, 01:11 PM
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Sometimes you just love the client - there was one a few months ago and we really wanted to work with them, but their budget was not big enough for what they wanted to do (at least for us) and we did tell them to seek an alternative partnership with someone that already has that kind of system in place, they were adamant they wanted to build it so we spent a lot of our own free time to give them a spec to show how complex the system will be and hence cost money, and offered to do it in stages as opposed to all at once, so they can use cashflow to fund expansion and also shut it down if it does not work after 6-9months.

Looks like the Perth company that took the work on just did it for the money and if you look at the site, it looks good but is it making the client money? I don't think so, still has test data and evaluation version of software all over the place. So in some cases people just don't listen.. I guess we all need to have dreams
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Old 13-12-2009, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
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Your budget is not sufficient - ebay must have cost in the millions to build.
Ah, yeah, budget. That's one where I don't mind telling them flat out the truth. We don't get too many people with unrealistic expectations these days but I absolutely HATE dealing with hagglers and cheapskates. Hagglers often come back to find the price has doubled

On the other hand sometimes I absolutely cringe when I hear how high other companies have quoted for really simple jobs.
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Old 14-12-2009, 11:25 AM
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I'm finding it amusing that this year I'm trying to work on saying no to clients :P

The last couple I've just said, "Sorry, I'm not the right person for that job" and tried to refer them if I could.
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Old 14-12-2009, 05:44 PM
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^ For the win - direct and professional.

At the point you make this decision you will've already discussed things like scope, budget and timeframes. The client will already have a pretty good idea of what you think of their project, so there's no reason to resort to flowery excuses.


Unless you're rejecting a well budgeted idea with a solid scope and reasonable timeframe, just based on the fact you don't like the guy. In which case, just tell him that for the next three to five months you'll be in juvey / washing your hair / founding a colony on a distant planet.
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Old 15-12-2009, 09:49 AM
harmonysteel harmonysteel is offline
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Great advice all round, thanks guys !! I really appreciate it.

Kay - I particularly like your approach to handing these clients over to the bigger companies, and I think you're absolutely right - they can handle it.

I'd like to find a company like that in Brisbane - can anyone recommend one?
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Old 21-12-2009, 11:31 AM
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A recent post from JK on the issue.

http://jessicatron.posterous.com/tip...ghtmare-client

I like the "it's not you, it's me" approach.
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