Eye on Business | Saying no to a prospective client

Dear gentlemen who are reading this post. I’m sorry for the analogy that follows.

Have you ever witnessed or experienced (bless your soul) the mass chaos at a Victoria’s Secret sale? Poor girls get trampled rushing to get their hands on something amazing that will push, pull, tug and tuck them in all the right places. I’m sure they sometimes end up grabbing the wrong skimmies, thus making their lives a tad bit uncomfortable in the days that follow.

Sometimes, I feel like we, as photographers, act the same way while trying gain clients. We stop at nothing to get clients through our door. In some ways, we are almost desperate to gain their business in this highly-saturated, Olympically-competitive realm of photography.

But, there are times when it’s in your best interest to nicely refuse a potential client. Times when taking on a client could actually harm your reputation. Times when taking on a client is like grabbing a push up bra two sizes too small during a sale frenzy (and then having to wear it!).

The challenge lies in growing your business and working with enough clients who will ultimately add to the success of your business. I’m not implying you need to turn away potential clients because they don’t project a certain image or look that you desire to be splashed in your galleries. I’m talking about people who are wanting services and favors that do not fall into the realm of your expertise, desire, or financial constraint.

How many times have you quipped a “Yes, I think I can make that happen!” following a request or suggestion from a possible client. And then how many times have you later lived to regret that statement?

Yea, me too. Too many times. I, Jodee Ball, had a chronic case of the “yeses.”  Afraid that I would never grow my business, I said yes to everything and everyone. Symptoms of this disorder include exhaustion, frustration, tears and pains in the…”

I would like to share some encouraging words with you today. It’s ok to say no and not gain someone as your client. Saying no won’t hurt your business or your reputation. You’ll be known for being honest and working within your specialty.

Your spouse will thank you for saying no.

Your children will thank you for saying no .

Your own inner spirit will thank you for saying…NO.

So, when is it appropriate to turn away a possible client? Here are some scenarios on which to ponder.


When someone asks you to shoot something that falls outside your level of expertise. 

You must decide if you’re willing to try! If not, suggest someone who shoots the style described by the person. If you are interested in learning, be honest! Offer to shoot the images as a part of their senior set but make no promises that the images will be successfully shot. You could even offer to shoot those images for free after you explain you want to learn. It’s a way you and the prospective client gain something and alleviates the pressure that you must deliver a perfectly desired product.


When someone tells you that you are too expensive.

You must decide if you are willing to decrease your prices to accommodate this person. You may find that you are able make some trades within your pricing structure to help reduce the final cost. Maybe you are able to put the client on a payment plan. Again, you must decide if you are willing to make this sacrifice. And make the decision carefully. People talk. What you decide could set the standard for clients to follow.


When someone has client-zilla qualities. 

You must decide if you are willing to work with someone who is giving a negative, dissatisfied-no-matter-what vibe. This is a tough one, because sometimes prospective clients leave a first impression that is not at all accurate to their true nature (as we all can do at times). A face to face consultation is the way to go. Always. Then trust your inner voice.

I am happy to say I have never felt the need to turn someone away based on a bad vibe, even though I’ve felt them. As a matter of fact, one of my past clients who made me tremble a bit upon meeting, became not only a fabulous client, but a good friend as well. I think challenging people challenge me.


When someone wants to book with you and your schedule is already full.

You must decide if you are willing to give up one of your rare free moments to add another client. It may mean sacrificing a family dinner, date night or play time with your kids. What is your time worth? It’s personal for all of us. But, it’s okay to say you’re booked and stick to it. There’s an element of desire for prospective clients when they know they must book you months prior.

By the way, if this is your problem, no one feels sorry for you. 🙂


When you uphold the integrity of your business, you are making a statement to the world that you are a professional. You are willing to help others and serve your clients, but you are a respected individual as well. Your time is as valuable as your clients’ time. Your talents and effort are worth the investment of time and money others make in you. You cannot accommodate everyone. You simply cannot.