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3 scripts for dealing with past clients

bossy-mug-how-to-say-no-to-past-clients
Photo source :: I’ve been eyeing this mug for a while.

First, let’s talk about the importance of saying ‘no’.

When you’re first starting your business, I believe that saying ‘yes’ is how you build your business. However, once you get to a certain point — maybe you’re booked solid, you’re reaching your income goals each month, or whatever it may be that makes you feel like your business is killing it — you get the choice of saying ‘no’ to some clients or projects that don’t get you super excited.

If you fill your client roster with a bunch of clients you aren’t really excited to work with or aren’t paying you well, you’re not leaving any room for those clients and projects that make you love what you do AND pay you top dollar for it.

But then, you start to struggle with whether or not you should say ‘no’ and how to say it without burning any bridges. I know… the struggle is real, folks.

This question landed in my inbox from Amy F., a new email subscriber, so I figured I’d answer it for everyone. Just in case you’re going through the same thing right now.

Amy asked:

One issue I struggle with is how to say ‘no’ to people whose requests don’t fit with what I do. Some of them might even be past clients. For example, I struggle with whether I should do their cheap spring break trip (I tend to focus more on destinations more far afield, such as Europe, South America, Australia) just because I’ve previously planned their custom 10 year anniversary trip to Italy. It feels mean, or like I’m not taking care of my past clients…. Suggestions?

I’ve put together 3 different situations where you may need to say ‘no’, and what to say in each situation.

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Script #1 :: To past clients asking for a service you no longer offer:

Hi (name),

It’s so great to hear from you again. Hope you’re doing well.

Unfortunately, I’m no longer offering (insert service they’re asking for).

I absolutely loved working with you, though, and would love to work with you again. Here’s how I can help you in the future:

Insert list of things you do now

Let me know if you need my help with any of the above. I’d love to whip up a quote for you. 

Hope to hear from you soon!

(your signature)

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Script #2 :: To past clients asking for a service at a price you no longer offer:

Hi (name),

It’s so great to hear from you again. Hope you’re doing well.

I would absolutely love to work with you again. Just so we’re both on the same page, I wanted to make sure you knew my updated rates. Attached is a 1 page pdf describing my services and new rates.

I absolutely loved working with you and hope we can work together again.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Talk soon,

(your signature)

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Script #3 :: To past clients you no longer wish to work with (for various reasons):

Hi (name),

It’s so great to hear from you again. Hope you’re doing well.

Thanks for reaching back out to me to work together. Unfortunately, I’ve got a packed client roster at the moment, with no wiggle room for new clients.

I don’t want to leave you stranded, so I’ve rounded up 3 potential people that I know and love that may be able to help. 

Person 1 (with link to their site/portfolio)

Person 2 (with link to their site/portfolio)

Person 3 (with link to their site/portfolio)

I hope you can find someone out of those 3 that can help.  

Let me know if you have any questions.

Talk soon,

(your signature)

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Well, there you have it.

3 ways to say NO to past clients for a few reasons. Whatever the reason may be, just remember that you DON’T have to work with a client just because you have in the past. If they’re asking for something you don’t offer, not wanting to pay your new rates, or were a PITA client in the client before, politely decline their request and offer something in return.

TELL ME

What’s a sticky situation you’ve been in (or are in) and you weren’t sure how to respond? Or got another question for me? Send me an email or leave a comment below. These make the best blog posts.

  • I’m so glad someone asked this question! I run into that awkwardness all the time. I felt so uncomfortable mentioning my new rates that I STILL have a handful of clients who are charged differently than everyone else! (Now I just have to wait for their contracts to expire so I can bring them up to speed.) Thanks for this!

    • Amanda Genther

      Oh, that could be a whole new post… How to tell clients your new rates :)

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  • Sara Berkes

    This is such a great post! I’ve definitely struggled with all three, but most notably the first two. When I was just starting out I took on a lot of small projects, but I’m not really into doing them anymore. I’ve found explaining that really hard, so I’m very excited to try out your script! I think it’ll make it much, much easier.

    • Amanda Genther

      Awesome. I’m so glad this helped. Loved your post this week :)

  • Cathy Cochrane

    I recently came up with just this situation: an old client who I wasn’t sure would fit with my updated way of working + new prices. I outlined it all in a polite email, and didn’t she book on the spot!

    • Amanda Genther

      That’s awesome, Cathy! Way to go!

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  • Rose

    I agree so much with what you’ve said about taking on work in the beginning. In the early stages you have more time, more energy, and less historical evidence of success therefore you can tend to grab onto anything that comes your way. However, you do need to refine what you are and are not willing to do, so that you can focus on what brings you and your clients great joy. When you’re doing work you live, which clients that energise you instead of sap you, it doesn’t seem like work. Your suggested scripts not only help with the wording, I think they also help us ‘justify’ needing to do this. Acknowledging this is important and we are justified in addressing it, without the need to burn bridges or go into avoidance tactics. Thank you!

  • Laura

    Great scripts, thank you! Here’s one that we’re encountering right now.
    I work in a business that isn’t project based, and the client relationship is ongoing (finance). The questions is about firing a client. It’s technically easy to transfer a client off our books, but it’s an irreversible decision because then we don’t have authorization to do anything for them. So when they call and we can’t help them anymore? (Let’s assume the reason for firing them is that they are high maintenance, unpleasant to work with, and generate no income for the business.)