There’s no point in denying it: Rejection sucks.
When it comes to running your own business, you’ll probably face quite a bit of it.
Don’t get us wrong – there will be plenty of times when clients will be clambering over each other to work with you. But there will also be times when clients will reject you before you’ve even uttered the words “retainer.” Or worse yet, after the ink is already dry on the contract.
The last thing you want to do in these situations is panic. Everyone who runs a business has faced rejection time and time again, and they’ve not only recovered from it, but also leveraged that rejection to find even better clients (and get better paychecks).
And the good news is that you can do it too.
Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do the next time a client says, “No thanks!” to your services.
There are a plethora of reasons why a client might reject your business, and plenty of them have nothing to do with you personally.
Some clients may not be able to afford your rates (this doesn’t mean you should lower your rates, however), or maybe their project was flawed long before they ever brought it to you and you simply couldn’t fix it.
Maybe they have a singular vision for how they want things done, and their vision is just something you’re not able to produce. It happens.
Sometimes clients will tell you exactly why they’re rejecting you, but most probably won’t. The last thing you want to do is spend time analyzing exactly why they don’t want to work with you.
You don’t want to immediately assume you’ve done something wrong. You risk devaluing your own skills for reasons that were entirely out of your control.
Instead of asking, “What did I do wrong?” consider asking, “What circumstances led to this?” If you review your own actions and find that you did everything the same as you would with any other client, then chances are the rejection had nothing to do with you.
If you find that there were things you could have done differently (i.e. you didn’t return their emails quickly enough) then you can make adjustments in the future.
But remember, not everything is about you.
Refine Your Target Market
If you’re noticing that certain types of clients are rejecting you more often or that certain projects seem to fall through faster than others, ask yourself why.
It could be a problem with your target market.
Maybe you’re a developer who wants to coach other developers, but you find that your “ideal clients” are ignoring you. But maybe you’re finding success working with SaaS startups.
Or maybe you’re a writer who wants to work with small businesses doing content marketing, but find that your clients are complaining about a lack of ROI. But, maybe you notice that other writers are coming to you for advice.
It’s possible that the reason you’re being rejected is that you’re focusing your skills on the wrong demographics.
If you’re facing a lot of rejection from certain clients but you’re still in business, take some time to assess the clients that aren’t rejecting you to see if there’s a way you can market your services directly to them.
But if you find that you actually hate working with the clients who aren’t rejecting you, and you really, really want to work with the clients that are rejecting you, it could be a problem with your marketing strategy or branding.
In which case, you would most likely need to reevaluate your whole approach to getting new clients.
Educate Your Clients
You may also find that people are rejecting you because they expected certain results from your services or for you to perform certain tasks for them that you weren’t able to do.
If a client comes to you expecting you to transform their whole business overnight, and you’re a developer, they’re not going to see results no matter how hard you work.
Inappropriate client expectations happen for two reasons: Either a client doesn’t bother reading up on what’s included with your services and what’s not, or you simply forgot to tell them about it.
Just because you’re a skilled designer, or developer, or writer, doesn’t mean you can solve all of your client’s problems. You need to be upfront with them about this, either on your website or in your initial meeting.
Educate your clients about what you can and can’t do and the results they should expect before, during, and after the project (don’t forget to give them a “to do” once you hand it off to them).
A lack of communication on your end could lead to you inadvertently getting the axe.
Perfect Your Timing
Another reason for rejection is poor timing, some of which is in your control, though not always.
Clients may come to you when your workload is already full, and even though you’ve accepted the project, you’re just not able to give it the necessary attention, so your client never comes back.
Maybe your client came to you and you were ready to take on the challenge, but they were still struggling with issues in their infrastructure and weren’t ready to grow.
Or perhaps they rushed the project because of a deadline, and even though you did your absolute best, the project still failed and they moved on to someone else.
Poor timing can be a tricky thing to navigate, but there are several things you can do to minimize the chances of rejection due to timing concerns.
Be sure that you don’t rush the intake process with a new client, even if they’re on a deadline.
Make sure that everyone understands the deadlines and that you’re able to handle the work (and that everyone on their team is able to handle the work).
And remember, if the timing isn’t right, it isn’t right. There’s nothing you can do about it.
Don’t Self Sabotage
Of course, the absolute best question you can ask yourself if you’re facing a lot of rejection is this: Do you actually want to succeed?
While it may seem simple, your thoughts and desires play a huge role in how your clients perceive you.
If, for example, you don’t believe that you really deserve to be successful, or that you’re charging too much (“who would pay for my services?”), or that your clients would be better off with a larger company, or that your work won’t see the results they want, then you probably won’t keep clients around for very long.
But these negative mindsets can also impact your business as a whole. If you still see yourself as an employee instead of a business owner, you’ll wait around for clients to tell you what to do. You may find that clients are rejecting you because you’re not taking the lead the way you should be.
There are plenty of ways that your mindset can impact whether or not a client rejects you. The best thing you can do is to start thinking positively about your goals and your ideal client.
If you can envision yourself as a success, you may find that the number of rejections you face reduces significantly over time simply because you finally believe in yourself.
While being rejected will never be the highlight of your day, it doesn’t mean the end of the world.
If you’re worried about whether or not you could have done something to prevent it, take some time to assess your actions and how they compare with other clients in similar situations, determine if this client or situation was ideal to begin with, and don’t be afraid ask the client follow-up questions (if possible).
And finally, keep in mind that rejection can happen for any number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with you or are completely out of your control. So don’t sweat it.
Some people handle rejection better than others, and if you want to be a pro, do these 7 things. Subscribe to get this free resource.