11 Cases When A Freelancer Must Say “No”


When you first get started as a freelancer, it can be tempting to take any job you can get, regardless of the pay, the client, or the project. But as you grow in your freelance career, you’ll learn that some of these projects are simply not worth the time or effort. Here are 11 times you should just say “No!”

freelance advice

When they lowball you

You set your rates for a reason. You have researched the market and levied your experience and the quality of your work. If a client wants to hire you, they will pay your rates. If they try to get you to come down on your rates, it’s an early indicator that they don’t value your experience. You’d be better off saying no.

When they go MIA

If a client is difficult to contact early on in the process, it will only get more difficult. In the beginning, you’re just setting the parameters, figuring out the payment, and setting expectations. When you actually need something from them, an absent client can be a nightmare.

When the client is closed-minded

To have a good partnership and a successful project, both the freelancer and the client need to be open-minded. You need to be open to their suggestions, and they need to recognise that they hired an expert for a reason.

When the expectations are vague

A client who doesn’t know what they want is always a bad sign! If they don’t know what they’re looking for, then the chances of them being happy with the finished project are very unlikely. If you are likely to fail from the start, it’s probably not worth your time.

When they badmouth anyone

Does the client have bad things to say about their competition? Have they had nothing but awful experiences with other designers or programmers in the past? It’s possible that they have just had very bad luck. But it’s more likely that they are hard to work with.

When you just have a bad feeling

Have you ever just known something was off with a client? If you get a bad feeling right off the bat, it’s best just to walk away. You’re feeling squeamish for a reason, even if you’re not sure what it is.

When they want constant contact

Does a potential client email or call you several times a day? Do they expect immediate responses? Do they have no idea what boundaries are? If so, they’ll be a bigger headache than the project is worth.

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When they ask for a free sample

Plain and simple: if someone asks for free samples of your work, they don’t value your time or effort. Walk away.

When the project keeps changing

Does your client frequently call to ask if you can add “just one more thing?” If the project keeps getting bigger and bigger without compensation, it’s better to say “no thanks.”

When they have bad reviews

You should always research your clients before you decide to work with them. If all you find are bad reviews, run the other way.

When they refuse your payment terms

If you ask for payment up front, and they refuse, ask yourself why. Tracking down payments is one of the hardest parts of freelancing. Avoid it if you can.

Eventually, it will become easy to spot these situations and say “No” without guilt. Each bad job or client that you turn away is only freeing you up for an awesome client in the future!

This post is a contribution from Kenneth Waldman. Want to contribute to PeoplePerHour blog? Get in touch via juste@peopleperhour.com! 



Kenneth Waldman is a professional content writer with over 5 years of experience and also a Designer at AskPetersen Reviews (read the latest AssignmentMasters Review). His expertise includes education, marketing, freelancing.


  • Peter S

    Some good tips here, pretty much everything connected with my own experiences – a little light bulb went ‘ding’ inside my head after every point you made here. I think most veteran freelancers subconsciously follow these unwritten rules that you’ve managed to summarize pretty succinctly. But for any newcomer out there, I highly recommend adopting and following these tips. Don’t undersell yourself, and never give into unfair demands.

  • Kshitij

    Absolutely Super !!

  • Rebecca Emin

    I would also add when they try and ask you to do things that aren’t firmly within your skill set. It is always good to learn new skills, but difficult to do so just for one job.

  • Sabih Javed

    Great article.

    Probably the best tip for a new freelancer is nothing but “When you just have a bad feeling”. I still remember when I started, I used to ignore all the bad feelings, and I had to pay – at times. When you do not feel good with a client, saying goodbye is the best option.

    Thumbs up.

  • Nikolay Todorov

    I follow those rules anyway, and I would like to add the next:
    12. Do not send a proposal, when the client says “I know it takes xx minutes, but I am so busy to do it.”, if the client is busy to do it or have no experience in the field, how can he/she evaluate the number of minutes/hours a specialist needs to complete a job? Stay away
    13. I know it is difficult to determine, but try to find out if a job is a repost, so that the client is actual freelancer who resells the job. I generally do not mind that, but the problem is the freelancer/client interacting as a freelancer on another post, almost never mentions that he/she will actually not do the job, but will resell it. So being not fair once, there is no guarantee that will not happen again. So if you suspect any job resell, stay away.


  • jim e

    Well written! But, like most experienced freelancers would agree, it is tough to turn down offers when you are just starting a freelancing career. However, you eventually learn to say NO! These tips are on point, but practically it is tough for any newcomer to apply them. I believe everyone has to go through the headaches of freelancing to understand such tricks. It is pathetic but true.

  • Stephen Wallis

    Also I wish PPH would take some of these into consideration when a Buyer leaves negative feedback for a project that they have totally changed when agreed upon

  • Youssef

    Also when a client says “I am interested to purchase. Will await list of your deliverable for the hourlie after you finish the task” You will deliver the work, they see it and then they normally would not place an order, vanish for days till they need you again then they will come up with an excuse.

  • Abed Alzain

    Thank you for tips.

  • Pedro

    Even if I agree.
    Its against PPH terms to request an upfront payment.

    Is this PPH blog?! heh

  • md sohel

    Please Help!
    My pph account not login
    Show this message : Your account has been deactivated. If you feel this deactivation is an error, please contact customer support as soon as possible.

  • Shirley McCANN

    I would add that freelancers should not take on academic work that should be done by the student posting the job.

  • Gopal Prasad

    Well Said and Good Tips that I do have experienced over 1 years on PPH.

    I do have faced bad experience when client provide un-clear requirement. When client ask me to work on task that is not mentioned in JOB POST. and took lots of time with no payment. And when we ask for such work, he deny saying that “this is not mentioned in job post”.

    You should complete work according to mentioned job post. Or I will ask for refund.

    Try to keep away yourself from such client.

    But if client has deposited escrow amount for extra work. Then don’t hesitate.

  • Marius

    Love it!
    The only thing I do not agree with is asking for Free Sample. Maybe he wants to know a demo as an example.

  • Gemma Rowlands

    Clients expecting free samples of work is one of the most annoying things I deal with on a daily basis. I recently had a client who wanted 40 x 1,000 word blogs (which of course is a great amount of work to get in one go) but was asking for a free article to assess my standard of work. I have more than 300 feedbacks on PPH, all but 2 of which are 5 star, so I honestly don’t believe that needing a sample is needed. I would have been happy to do a paid trial with no pressure to purchase the remaining 39 blogs, but there is no way that I’m going to do £40 worth of work for nothing.

    Plus, many clients who do this will ask every freelancer who applies to do a free trial, they will give each freelancer a different blog title, and right away they’ve had the whole project done for free without having to pay anyone at all. It’s very crafty behaviour, but for some reason people seem to get away with it because it’s online and “not real” in many people’s opinions, but I think it’s disrespectful at best, and theft/fraud at worst.

  • Yazmine

    Have to say, I’ve come across so many clients advertising a job, and demanding free samples of the work first before we get picked for the job. I’ve always found this so offensive to us as artists & this has always angered me, as we are not here to work for free. All these basic rules listed above, are a standard for me in general. Artists need to appreciate themselves & not be devalued. We’re the ones with the talent here! 🙂

  • Faryad

    Yes great article but I hope those who design logs for $10 and websites for $50 and those who offer free stuff and free trial tasks read this. Unfortunately the current freelancing platform suffers from underbidders and free workers. They have lowered the value of everything including real pros. They just bid and bid. Their price starts form $10!! I’m afraid. They are ruining everything including themselves. Such people give buyers the courage to ask for free drafts, free previews, etc for FREE!!! I’ve seen LOTS AND LOTS of cases in which a buyer creates a job and assigns $200 for example. After half an hour I see they lower it to $100 and after 1 hour to $30. Isn’t this DRASTIC? Why people betray others like this? In majority of cases these people deliver TRASH and cause buyers to run away even. On PPH people tend to compete by lower prices rather than by better qualities and expertise. Unfortunately this is too bad. Too bad.

  • Donella Daddie

    I had a real bad feeling with one client. There was a quirk in the works and I was able to see what my client was saying to her usual trusted Freelancer about other Freelancers, and it was very insultive. My new client could not get their usual Higher Grade Freelancer to work for them and in their conversation my client said I will have to use one of the idiots (???). I had the opportunity to read my clients thoughts because there was a spanner in the works at PPH. I did point out to this client that there was something wrong with PPH and that I could see their personal conversation with another Freelancer..
    Stupidly, I still went ahead with the job even though I was concerned about the clients condescending attitude towards Freelance workers not in their usual higher grade. To cut a long story short, my client kept changing what they originally asked for and for some odd reason somewhere along the chopping and changing I lost heart. From then on everything that could go wrong, did. At the end of the day I didn’t complete the job due to more hours worked than I should have and when my client gave me the final insult, I just gave up. PPH put me down as unfinished and since then I haven’t had any success in work.. SO… my motto is, if you really feel something is decidedly wrong, and you clearly get all of the warning signs, JUST DECLINE.

  • Paul Callaghan

    I think some project management training would solve a lot of the issues experienced here.

    Specifically; changes to the brief should always be documented complete with an impact estimate of time and cost. You can then elicit a go/no go decision from the client and no one gets a nasty surprise st the end.

    The benefit of this is that the creative will not waste time, the client is forced to provide accurate guidance and the whole thing is documented so expectations can be met.

  • Nikolay Todorov

    Today, I got exactly the same invitation from two people, that is true project resell. Nothing against it as I said, but “reseller” or project platform is PPH. Telling some one that you may do something and than go and resell it to a third party, (hopefully), because parties may get many, simply is not fair to the first client.

    In my point of view, PPH should prohibit this, well and if it doesn’t I know how to protect myself 🙂
    Best regards,

  • sibtain


    Suddenly my account has been deactivated by people per hour and they don’t inform me as well. There are some funds in my account as well as the project running on that account and they said that because there is some with my name is already exist so that I can not access my account. I don’t know about other account.

    If so then why they approve my account and profile and all that changes i have made to the profile at that time they should inform me that this is not valid.

    Also, I have sent verification document for identification still they said they have permanently deactivated my account and I can not able to access any fund.

    Please help me in this matter.

    Thank you.

    • Kelly

      I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing some problems with your account.
      In order for someone to resolve this for you please contact support@peopleperhour.com

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