I’m beginning to suspect that it’s smart, at least sometimes, to turn down and beg off assignments from time to time (even if you really want them.)

It seems to be, paradoxically, good for business.

And no, this is not about hauteur. This is not about being a diva or a prima donna. It’s about some reverse zen contrarian anti-matter dynamic that I can’t figure out.

Latest example.

A client — a bootstrap start-up — comes to me with a project. They want me to write their web site. They seem like bright and eager guys. I like them instantly, but the subject is well outside my skill zone. And the project is a logistical hairball. No way I can hit a home run with this thing. Worst of all, the budget is below slave wages. A non-starter.

So I politely decline, and point them to another writer.

But, of course, they’re having none of that.

They call back. “No, we want you.” They raise the fee, extend the deadline, sweeten the pot. The more I decline, the harder they push. They are trying to sell me on the project. And oddly, the more they sell, the less I want it. (Did too many other writers turn them down? Am I the last sucker on the list? Are they crooks? What’s the catch here?)

Meanwhile, of course, I’m courting the hell out of another client.

This one with budget spilling over the dikes. The company is huge. With them, one pipsqueak document would cover two mortgage payments. Talk about heavy users. They have sixteen hundred pounds, at least nine page-miles of content on their web site.

And all of it is unintelligible crap. The sort of crap that makes a writer just itch to get at it.

I could re-write it all to brilliance with one hand on my Mac and the other juggling a Corona and my FIOS remote. This is what I am born to do. I lie awake re-writing their intros in my head.

I’ve even sent them samples of my miraculous makeovers and transformations. Half the bandwidth, double the impact, six times the clarity. It’s as good as has been done in their industry. (Even if I do say so myself.)

“Very interesting,” is all they say. “We’ll let you know.”

But they ain’t calling.

The harder I sell, the less they want me.