2 Tips for Gracefully Declining an Opportunity – Cut the cord without burning bridges!

As solopreneurs, there is only so much work that we can handle independently at any given time. Certainly there will be “lean” times when you might need to grab almost any project that crosses your path, but hopefully you’ll find more occasions that require you to carefully consider whether or not opportunities will be worth your time and effort.

You need to be selective. And that means you’ll need to periodically turn prospective clients away. In those instances, your approach matters. Although you’re cutting the cord, you don’t want to burn any bridges!

2 ways to say “No” and preserve goodwill

  • Focus on the fit of the project, not the fit of the client – Honesty is generally the best policy, but even if you’re turning the work down because of the quality of the client, I don’t advise saying that out loud. Instead, zero in on how the particular project isn’t something that would be a good fit for you. Perhaps you’re only taking on work in specific industries, or you’re accepting projects only if they meet a minimum revenue threshold, or you can’t take it on because of your current workload.  With that approach, you won’t hurt your prospect’s feelings when delivering the disappointing news. Who knows…they might even refer someone to you who does have a project that matches your criteria.


  • Give them alternatives – If you won’t be doing business with them, share the contact information for alternative providers who can serve their needs. Then be sure to give those providers a heads up so they know you’ve referred someone to them – that way they can be prepared in advance to evaluate the opportunity. Sharing options with clients who you’re setting free generates goodwill all around. The customers will be impressed with your helpfulness, and the businesses you’ve referred them to will appreciate your willingness to direct opportunities their way.


Even though you’ll be disappointing a client by declining to work with them, you can still leave them with a positive impression of you and your business. It’s all in your approach. Be respectful of all prospects and be appreciative of all opportunities.

Your turn! What has worked best for you – or hasn’t worked well at all – when turning down business opportunities? 


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