Why I have to say “no” to prospective clients

It usually happens about once a week or so: someone will approach me inquiring about my services and I end up referring them to an industry colleague (ie., competitor).

There are many reasons for these referrals that all boil down to the client not being the best fit at that point in time:

  • Not having a specific job target in mind. Being uncertain about what type of jobs to seek.
  • A profession or subject matter that I consider “out of my wheelhouse.” A big one is technical subject matter–such as chemical engineering–but this also includes any topic where I’m not sure how I can make the information compelling enough to provide true value for the money the client is paying me.
  • A goal of landing a federal job, which is not something I help with.
  • A timeline faster than what I can accommodate; I won’t cut corners, and it’s very difficult to deliver bespoke LinkedIn profile writing and executive resume writing without having adequate time to work on it.
  • Having less than five years of professional experience. I only work with new grads if they are children of past clients.
  • In rare cases, being burned out with that particular subject matter if I’ve worked on several similar projects back-to-back (this has only happened a couple times). You deserve someone who is genuinely excited.
  • A budget too small for my fees. I don’t feel that it’s right to convince someone to spend more than they can afford.

In all of these cases, I’m not the best person to help, and I certainly don’t want to waste the person’s time.

What I do when a client isn’t the right fit

So I’m happy to recommend other people and companies I know, whether it’s a career coach to get clear on a job target, a resume and LinkedIn profile writer who specializes in that particular profession, a federal job consultant, or a company that can do a faster turnaround while still providing high-quality work.

Some would call these other companies my competitors, but I think of them as industry colleagues; sometimes they refer business to me and sometimes I refer business to them. It’s a win-win; we get the projects that are best for us, and we help the clients get the providers that are best for them.

I’ve learned from experience that I do my best work when I stick to projects where I know I can hit it out of the park. If I don’t feel confident I can hit it out of the park, I’ll be honest with you–I owe you that much!

This article first appeared on www.KellyDonovan.com