Turning Down Work Graciously
June 9, 2010 9:20 PM   Subscribe

How can you turn down consulting/contract work graciously?

I'm a software developer that works in the web application/integration space (mostly LAMP Stack). I've been doing this a long time, and I have a good feel for the kind of clients I'll be able to work well with and the kind of clients I won't be able to work well with.

What are some techniques for graciously turning down the later? I've found a straight forward "You and your organizations aren't quite the fit I'm looking for in clients" tends to ruffle feathers.

Ultimately I'm not TOO worried about this, but if there were ways/attitudes/stories I could use to let people down easier but still leave the call positively I'd love to hear them.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"I'd love to take your job, but I think given my other obligations, I won't be able to give it proper attention. Can I refer you to my friend Lisa?"
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:22 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

would this work? "i'm sorry buy my current work load will not allow me to give your project the attention that it would require to perform a job to the satisfaction either you or myself."

(on preview, what that other person said)
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:26 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe something along the lines of "Unfortunately, I'm unable to take that job" or "I'll be unable to complete it in a timely fashion" followed by "But I can recommend the following people, whose work I think highly of: [a few recommendations]."

Seems like that approach would be fairly inoffensive plus it potentially helps them solve the problem of getting someone to do the job.
posted by 6550 at 9:28 PM on June 9, 2010

A long time ago, fresh out of college, I had a company who wanted to hire me for an embedded programming job (darts or some crap). The tour of the place and interview with coworkers gave me a really huge failure vibe. What I did after the tour was to take 24 hours to consider the contract and task, and ultimately decided I was too broke to risk being one of many contractors shorted by a struggling company if I failed or was late. So I told them I wasn't confident I could do the work and recommended a friend of mine with much more experience.

Two things surprising things happened: 1) they offered him fulltime employment rather than a contract (I did not expect this) 2) three months later his paychecks started bouncing (he didn't expect that). I feel a bit bad about what happened to the guy but I did let him know I thought the place was in trouble financially. The refer to a acquaintance thing is common place among pieceworker; some even do referral payments but it can strain relationships.
posted by pwnguin at 9:38 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pretty much what everyone else said. "After taking careful look at your needs I/we think that I'm/we're not the best person/people to take on this project."

Only add recommendations if you're really confident it's a good match. (In general I trust other contractors warnings about project/clients. Every time I've taken a "yeah, this isn't the right client for me" project I've regretted it.)
posted by Ookseer at 9:40 PM on June 9, 2010

Raise your rates significantly to the point where the client likely wouldn't bite and - if they do - it's worth the PITA factor?
posted by asuprenant at 10:36 PM on June 9, 2010

What I usually say is something along the lines of:

"I'd love to take this gig, but I've got a previous commitment that I have to honor."

Or something along those lines.
posted by Relay at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2010

Do you even have to give an explanation as to why you're turning it down? Perhaps a simple "We're sorry, but we are unable to accept your assignment" might suffice. Also seconding the referral to a third party.
posted by holterbarbour at 11:33 PM on June 9, 2010

I always say something like "I am not able to take this on right now" or "unfortunately, my schedule is full" and then "I will pass it on to people in my network with comparable skills." and probably a "thanks for the consideration"
posted by thedaniel at 1:42 AM on June 10, 2010

Rather than saying that they're not a good fit, say that you know yourself well enough to know that you're not a good fit. This sounds much less judgmental of them.

Obviously someone can see through this and realize that both parties contribute to "fit", but the way you phrase it does make a difference.
posted by amtho at 5:59 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Raise your rates significantly to the point where the client likely wouldn't bite and - if they do - it's worth the PITA factor?

This is pretty common in construction contracting. If a job needs to be done right away, or is going to be a huge hassle, you raise your rates to reflect the opportunity costs. The problem is that if you don't think you'll be successful, you're charging a high rate and delivering a substandard product, which could be bad for your reputation.
posted by electroboy at 6:27 AM on June 10, 2010

I do say this...

"I'm sorry buy my current work load will not allow me to give your project the attention that it would require"
posted by the noob at 7:19 AM on June 10, 2010

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