Trust your gut and turn that project away

Trust your gut and turn that project away

Trust your gut and turn that project away

One of my primary job responsibilities at Web Ascender is to identify companies that are a good fit for our services.  The success of my business is not only defined by the success of the projects we accept, but also the projects we consciously decide to turn away. Choice, the choice to turn down a project or tell a prospect that you are not a good match is more important to your consulting business then the projects you accept and complete. The amount of time, money and stress you save yourself by identifying a bad fit will have more of an impact then your successes.  You don’t know for sure, but there are leads / projects that come to my door that I think about weeks, months, years later and thank the stars I didn’t accept it.


One major difference between a veteran consultant and a green horn is picking up on that feeling you get when talking with someone about their project.  The small things that majority of people may not even notice. That gut feeling you get about someone.  I have always learned to trust that gut feeling. 

That gut feeling exists for a reason, and dammit – it’s always right.

There are tons of indicators that you get when talking with a prospect, but here are 5 easy to identify indicators you may feel when working with a prospective client.

1. Ability to do the job.

The most obvious one is your ability to actually do the job.  Designers, marketers, writers and programmers all have different skills and varying level of those skills. When a job prospect lands in front of you, you have to be realistic about whether you are capable of actually starting and completing the project. If the project is too big or has too much risk it’s in your best interest and the best interest of the client for you to pass on the project.  It’s just about doing what is right, if there is someone that would be a better fit then get comfortable with referring them to someone else with those specialties until you round out the necessary skills needed to tackle the tasks coming your way.

For most people I would think this is an easy one to identify, but I see individuals and companies get over their head every day.  If you need the money and you have to have the job, you will make bad decisions like this and it will cost you more then just passing up on the job.

2. The client doesn’t know what they want

I’m all for helping a client figure out how to design and develop a system to get what they want, but if they cannot articulate or have any written ideas about what they actually want, be concerned.  Individuals who are idea people or dreamers are often very hard to work with and figure out what it is they actually need or want. If the process of working with them to figure this out is very difficult then the entire project process will be very difficult. This type of person often changes their mind a lot and is constantly going in different directions.  If you recognize this person and you are very conscious of this you can survive, but you have to watch yourself – they will run your clock up and not want to pay for all their change in direction.

3. The client is starting to annoy you before the project begins

Not everyone is compatible. There are some people you love and some people you just have to put up with.  3 years ago I spent a couple days and probably about 20 hours of effort working with a guy on trying to determine his actual feature list for the budget he had.  It was a pain in the ass but we eventually had the features outlined for his budget.  We then went around and around on small nonsense items in the contract process.  I signed my side of the contract and he waffled again and said he wanted to review it and would sign it and send it back to me after he left.  I actually went out to his car and got the contract back from him, told him that it’s been a pleasure working with him thus far but that I wasn’t interested in working on his project any longer and I didn’t do the project.  Sure, I lost out on some time / money. But you know what I gained – life. I’m positive that if I would have done this project I would have spent 10x the time due to his nit-pickiness, opinions, thoughts, phone calls, emails and his inability to just let me do what he hired me for.  The overall drain on my quality of life would not have been worth it.   It was worth it to me to lose 20 hours of time to not waste hundreds more.  I feel these situations have been just as educational and important in my business then the projects I take. Take the time to think back on when you said no, it feels good.  I also no longer do any free consulting. Need help figuring out what you want, no problem – here is my hourly rate and I would be happy to help you do that.

4. It’s not going to be fun

Life is too short not to have fun at work.  One of the primary reasons I started my own consulting company was the simple fact that I wanted to say no to projects that I wouldn’t have fun doing.  Work to me is more then just getting a paycheck, it’s about building things that benefit others, solving problems, learning and having a good time.  If a high paying job walks in the door but they want us to use a technology we hate, or it’s another “social network” idea, or something that has been done before with no ability for us to be creative and innovate then I’m not interested.  I use this gauge for completely new clients and projects. Clients that I have a relationship with I put up with a lot more because we are partners, and I do what is needed to help their business succeed.  But, if you come to my door for the first time with a bunch of crap work, I’m likely to pass on it.

5. Too busy clients

This is a tricky one.  I have a couple clients that are too busy to play an active role in their projects. This can be extremely frustrating.  It’s hard to get feedback, content, opinions and drive the project forward when they don’t deliver what you need or respond to your emails.  In some cases this works out great, if the client totally trust you to rock it out and when you are done they cut you a check and gush all over your brilliance then this client can be the perfect client.  However, often times this client just goes with the flow, responding with “looks good” and lets you continue working on the project for hours, days, weeks and then they get some free time some weekend and take a huge dump on it.  If you can identify this type of prospect early you may save yourself some headache. I’m extra cautious about this is the early stages of the client’s first project – if my spidey-gut senses are firing it’s best you address it sooner then later.

I’m not a jerk about it, but I turn a lot of prospects and leads away.  I get many leads a day through our online form and a lot of them are just not a good fit for my company.  Based on their budgets, the limited amount of work they need done, the emergency situation they are in or any other host of factors.  If I identify bad fits I usually politely refer them to someone else or give them a quick recommendation of a direction to go but we are looking for clients who trust us and want our opinions.  Clients who hire us specifically for our years of experience, want high quality work and are perfectly willing to pay for high quality work.  The customer who above anything else wants their project to succeed and get it right the first time. The client that wants to just get shit done.  They are out there, find them and treat them right.



Photo Eric Kilby

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