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It’s far easier to just say everything is great, we love it, I’m so happy; than to really sit down and explain why everything is wrong, we hate it and I’m miserable.  When we shoot down our instincts and bury them under the guise that it’s just easier to do what—insert person/client here—wants, are we really doing the right thing or just looking for the easy way out?

Doing the right thing isn’t always going to be easy.  Telling your client “No” is scary.  But it’s also the right thing to do. When I first started out in this business, I believed that the client was always right. If they wanted a rainbow and kitten on their website (even though they sold digital software), I’d put a rainbow and kitten on it. That’s what they wanted afterall and I wanted to make them happy.

But making them happy, doesn’t make their site successful.  If we are experts at something, than we have every right to say no to putting a rainbow and kitten their website and explaining why it’s not the right fit for them.  If you don’t tell your client your expert opinion, than you are really doing them a huge disservice.

It’s of course a slippery slope. Some clients will appreciate and respect where you are coming from.  Others will balk and make excuses; these clients are looking to have a bunch of “Yes Men” working for them and that isn’t who you are!

I’ve found the best way to tell a client “No” is by using the Three C’s!

  1. Be Clear: articulate clear and concise reasoning behind your choices and backup those choices with evidence.
  2. Be Careful: be respectful but not a push over.  Explain your position, be gentle, yet inspiring. Let them know you care about them and want their project to succeed.
  3. Be Confident: Don’t second guess yourself.  You are the expert.  They hired you for your expertise and when they don’t get the results they hired you to deliver, they’ll be off looking for someone else to work with.

The biggest thing to come away with is that it’s not about YOU being right and getting the client to say yes. Instead focus on building a strong relationship with your client and being respectful of each other’s expertise.  This not only makes for a happy and healthy client/business relationship but also a successful project.


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