Learn To Say “NO”

‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’

That’s a popular quote attributed to Maya Angelou. And after offering freelance design services for over 12 years now, I’ve come to realize that these words are very true. Especially when working on a project with someone who exhibited major red flags prior to closing the deal.

Sadly, running into such joy stealers is a part of doing business so you must learn how to spot them and tell them ‘no’ with the swiftness to maintain your sanity.

So how do you recognize which potential clients could be the ones from you know where? Read on :)


  • Dictates when they’ll pay you.
    As the service provider, you should already have a preference of when you’d like to get paid for your services. If a potential client disregards your payment preferences by wanting more time to pay their debt, there’s a chance they may never clear their balance.
  • Has poor communication (doesn’t return emails or phone calls) prior to booking your services.
    Communication is everything in any relationship. If a client is hard to connect with prior to solidifying the deal, then working together can literally be a drag as efficiency will be tossed out the window.
  • Tries to get you to change your policies to fit their needs.
    Your policies are in place to protect you, the service provider. If a client learns of your policy but offers another solution that only benefits them, you’ll most likely run into a lot of hurdles further along into the project. Protect your energy by having a policy that you and your client can refer to that is fair and just for both parties.
  • Is late or disappears when the initial payment/deposit is due.
    Potential clients will inquire of your services, ask for quotes, mockups, examples and even the invoice to then disappear once you tell them to pay up. Mark this as a MAJOR warning sign!
  • Questions your judgement or expertise.
    If someone comes to you for help but then undermines your worth by judging your past work and requests new samples to prove you’re the right person for the job, then it’s time to say ‘good day’ to that individual. These are the ones who will nitpick your every move and hassle your prices down to the ground.
  • Compares your services to others they’ve already worked with.
    That’s a big clue in and of itself that this could be a difficult client because if all went well with their previous designer, they wouldn’t need your services now would they. Think on that!

These are just some of the more common red flags that will show their ugly heads when you engage with a potentially bad client. Learn to recognize those who exhibit such behavior and tell them “NO”.


  • I’m sorry, but I doubt I can meet your request at this time.
  • Unfortunately, I am over capacity and can not take on your request at this time.
  • Upon reviewing your scope and needs of this project I do not believe I am the right person for this job and must decline moving forward at this time.
  • With much consideration, I am unable to commit to your request and is removing myself from being considered. All the best in your endeavors.
  • Nah, I’m good. Be Blessed :)

Written by Daveia Odoi.

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