When your business is new, you want all the work you can get. You’re hungry. You want to build your portfolio. So you may be a little less subjective about the work you take on.

Once your business is established, you should be able to be a little more selective. That means understanding that not ever potential project is a fit for you.

Here are four instances where you should turn a project down.

1. You have a nagging feeling that the client will not be a good fit.

Some clients are difficult to work with – overly demanding, not respectful of your time, haggling over fees….you know the drill. These are the clients who make your life miserable. These are the clients you want to avoid. Say no!

2. The project is way out of your area of expertise.

Keyword: WAY. If it’s just a stretch, there’s no reason to turn this work down. You can stretch. A little research. Calling on some colleagues for advice or help. You’ll learn something new and provide the client with some fresh answers.

3. The project time line is totally unrealistic.

Sometimes it’s enticing to say “sure, we can do that” even though the project time line is crazy tight and you know you’ll never be able to deliver on deadline. Why set yourself up for something that’s pretty much guaranteed to fail? Be honest. Say “thanks, but we couldn’t meet your timeline”. Who knows? Maybe the client will be realistic and rethink their deadline.

4. The client is requesting something you know is wrong.

Not wrong in a criminal sense. Wrong in that the end result will not get the client what he needs. These types of projects usually come with a client who is absolutely definite about what he wants and won’t listen to your professional advice. And this is the client who will never be happy with anything you give him.

Save yourself some grief. Eat noodles and cereal for a few more months and keep looking for clients you really want to work with – clients with realistic expectations who will let you do what they hired you for.

On a positive note….

the longer you’re in business, the more solid projects you’ll find. Don’t get frustrated. Get out and network more. Join new groups. Let colleagues and friends know you’re looking for more work. Be proactive and the business will come.

But always, when new business comes your way, listen to your gut. Are you getting bad vibes from a potential client? Pay attention. Look at the numbers. Are you shaking your head wondering how you can possibly make a profit when the margins are so low? You probably won’t.

Remember that you’re in business to make a living. If you won’t be able to do that, move on to the next opportunity.

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