Q:  “What’s the best way to turn down a client you don’t want?  Sometimes, when discussing a project with a new client, or looking at the background files, I just know it’s a disaster just waiting to happen. 

What’s the best way to say ‘no’ to a project and client I don’t want, while allowing everyone to save face?  Just saying “I can’t take this on at this time”, has worked before. But I don’t want to appear too small, or unqualified. Or to imply that I might take this on later. Ideas?”

A:  Funny thing, this. When clients turn us down with a ‘no, thanks’, we’re expected to take it like a pro and buck up.

But when we beg off, clients seem to get huffy and offended.

Which I never understood until I called in a house painter, who made one trip around my house and said, “I think I’ll pass.”  WTF?  You don’t like my shingles? It’s too much of a wreck? There’s some hidden problem I don’t know about?

Try this. And don’t worry about being self-deprecating. If you don’t want them as a client, it doesn’t matter.

“Gee. I wouldn’t be a good fit for this project. You’d be much better off with another writer. I’m sure you could find someone who could run with this.”

or. . .

“Now that I look at this, I’m definitely not the editor for this project.  I imagine there are other writers who have a much better feel for this sort of work, and can do it justice. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.”