Thanks, But No Thanks! – When to Pull the Plug on a Prospective Opportunity

Knee-jerk reactions and doing business typically don’t a successful combination make, but sometimes you need to go with your gut as a solopreneur. While some opportunities justify a fair share of analysis and consideration before making a decision on pursuing them or not – others can be better left behind because they simply don’t feel right.

Heed the warning signs
Laura Spencer of Freelance Folder recently wrote a blog post to help new freelancers detect a scam when it crosses their paths. Though her key points address how to identify less than credible clients, it made me think about how we sometimes need to also ferret out legitimate prospects who might end up being a lot more trouble than they’re worth.

What makes a prospect a bad fit depends on your own expectations and tolerances, but here are a few signs that I believe most solopreneurs would agree point to a potential customer who you should run – not walk – away from:

  • They expect you to drop what you’re doing to talk with them for non-urgent matters.
  • They balk at a reasonable price for quality work.
  • Rather than efficiently sharing pertinent details by email, they insist on talking by phone so you can take notes.
  • Your time conversing with them has already exceeded the amount you normally spend with other clients before entering into an agreement.

Pulling the plug before you’ve flipped the switch
This is extremely top of mind for me right now. After numerous phone calls that took up a good deal of my time and a prospect’s apparent aversion to communicating important details and documentation via email, I gracefully withdrew my interest in moving forward. Truly a shame because the project sparked my interest and would have resulted in recurring work, but I decided it just wouldn’t be worth it. The M.O. seemed all wrong for me – and so I pulled the plug before we set anything in stone.

Though turning away business isn’t something you might feel you have the luxury to do, consider these side effects of taking on a prospect who shows signs of sucking the life out of you:

  • You’ll have less time to devote to finding quality clients who respect your time.
  • You’ll spend more time “herding cats” than doing productive work.
  • You’ll feel stressed.
  • You’ll lose focus on other clients’ projects and your business in general.

If prospects prove to be extra needy or demanding of your time, expertise and energy in the exploratory and negotiation phase of discussing opportunities, you can expect that you’ll probably be faced with more of the same – to a greater degree – if you pursue the work. Unless you can charge them enough to make that worth your while, you should consider walking away.

Remember, your time is precious. Your time is money. Be careful not to waste it on endeavors that aren’t going to be a win-win!

Please share your thoughts! What warning signs have you learned to heed when evaluating opportunities?

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