Learning to Say No

A hard lesson to learn if you’re a freelancer to learning to say no to money. This is especially true for WordPress freelancers. There are a lot of WordPress projects available to dive into. In that bunch, however, there are a lot of awful projects to get roped into. Because the barrier of entry into WordPress development is so low, there are a lot of low client expectations out there about how a project should be structured and how much it should cost. Below are some ways I’ve found to weed out the good projects from the bad and keep your sanity.

Canned Messages

Gmail gives you the ability to create canned responses to send to people. A large number of leads I get in from my website contact form are people asking about my pricing and rates. Instead of looking into each person and whatever attachments or documentation they send, I find it most efficient to simply send them my rates in a canned response. Not only is this saving you time and keeping your inbox clean, but its weeding out people looking for a $10,000 website but only willing to pay $200. Below is what my canned response looks like.


Thanks for reaching out. My hourly rate is $50 an hour. My development project rates starts at $2,500. If you could send me more information about the project and any related links or documentation, I can take a look and get back to you with a quote for the project.

Looking forward to working with you and thanks again for reaching out.


Raise Your Rates

Raising your rates should always be in the back of your mind when dealing with clients. 5 clients at $1,000 each is the same as 1 client at $5,000. Not to mention, that $5,000 client is going to be way easier to deal with because they know your worth. Don’t undercut yourself to get the job, hold steady with your rates. If you can, get the client to give you a number first, ask them what kind of budget they’re dealing with. If they don’t have a budget, they don’t have a plan, and it’s probably best to pass on the work.

5 clients at $1,000 each is the same as 1 client at $5,000.

Write a Proposal

Proposal writing can seem daunting, but once you’ve done one, its really easy to use that as your template moving forward. By writing out a proposal and a scope of work, you let the client know exactly what they’re going to receive. Breaking down each milestone with payment and deliverables, as well as line items of each step in the process can help to keep the client in line and yourself on track.


Be Honest

The most important rule to learn is to be honest. If you don’t want to work on a project, say so, don’t make up an excuse. If you’re freelancing, you most likely have a well paying job as your main source of income. Don’t put yourself through the pain and aggravation that comes with some projects if you don’t have to. If the money isn’t right, but the project seems cool, don’t do it. If the money is there, but you get a bad vibe from the client, don’t do it.

In the end, don’t waste your personal time for money if something about the project is off.

I find myself many times a few emails deep with the client. They seem knowledgeable, they have an appropriate budget, but when they send you the design… it’s awful. At this point, just be honest with them. You may be concerned about hurting their feelings or ruining the relationship, but honesty is key. Simply tell them “I’m sorry but I’m going to pass on the project, the design doesn’t appeal to me.” That’s it!

Building a business is tough, especially when you don’t have work coming in. Spend that time learning new things, working on personal projects, or simply kicking back with some Star Craft 2. All in all, keep positive, be honest, and know your worth, and everything will be fine.

posted in: Business

  1. Gordon McLachlan

    Well said! As a young business, this is something we’ve struggled with. For us, it always came down to that see-saw of cash vs confidence. Basically, do you have the confidence to turn down lower paid work with the certainty that another opportunity will come along? It’s a tricky conundrum as you don’t want to end up going out of business but equally you can’t grow or thrive if you keep taking on low value work. I think it’s just about having confidence in your work and the courage to stick to your prices.

    • Pete Schuster

      Nicely said Gordon. I agree its a very hard balance to find, and when there is your well being involved that choice becomes even harder.

  2. Artem Sapegin

    Wise article, Pete! I especially like last but one paragraph. I already have a rule not to work on projects started by someone else and then abandoned (probably not without a reason 🙂 Now I want to add a new rule: not to work on projects that willn’t suit my portfolio. And I also wish to find a balance between freelance and personal project (I have a nine-to-six job too).

  3. herizo

    Hi Pete,

    Really nice article. it was very interesting for me, sometimes it’s hard to say no with clients. Many times i taked projects that nobody want to do but it’s better to have less good projects than many bad and underpaid projects.