As an independent contractor it’s very tempting to say “yes” to every prospective client. This is a mistake.
There are two reasons why I say no to a project:
I’ve had companies approach me who were looking for a large project to be completed in a small amount of time. I say no.
The reason I say no is because I can’t complete the project in a form that I am happy with in the time provided. The end result will be that I am not happy with what I have done and they will not be happy with what I have done. I tell these types of clients that I will be happy to work with them on projects in the future with more realistic deadlines. They usually appreciate my candor and come back to me.
Something Feels Wrong
Earlier this year I had someone call me who needed an urgent quote for a project. We arranged to meet in his home office the following morning. When I got there, he had just awoken and didn’t remember that he had made an appointment with me (strike 1). While meeting with him, a woman called him who he was apparently suing. He started yelling at her and threatening her (Strike 2). The project involved a large number of 1-2 page documents. When I got home I Googled him and found out that he was involved in several law suits, on both ends (Strike 3). I submitted the first document and didn’t hear back from him. After a couple of days I called him and he told me that it wasn’t at all what he was looking for me. I said “thank you very much, goodbye”. The project didn’t feel right from the beginning, and I should have told him straight away that I wasn’t interested. I learned my lesson.
As a footnote I’d like to add that this client found me through the internet. I’ve noticed that things almost always go smoothly with clients who are referred to me by word of mouth, while those who reach me via the internet have been some of my best clients and some of my worst.