A 5-step guide to saying no to clients (without making them angry!)

While saying “yes” to everything your clients ask of you may seem like a good business move, it can actually be far more detrimental to you and your firm’s level of service. The more clients hear “yes,” the more they tend to demand and as a result, the more chaotic your work life becomes. To avoid becoming a pushover in your accounting firm here is a quick and easy guide on how to turn down a client politely.

Why is it so important to say "no" to your clients?

a woman stressed because she doesn't know how to turn down a client politelyThe problem with saying "yes" to any request from a client is that this sets the precedence for the relationship moving forward. When accepting everything and taking on more work, before long, you will inevitably start accepting requests that you simply can't fulfil.

Imagine having 10 clients where you say "yes" to everything. Can you imagine the workload that you would have, yet not be compensated fairly for?

While it may seem scary at first to say "no" to a client request, this simple act actually results in a lot of benefits:


  • It helps you gain the client's respect so that they place a higher value on your opinion and your work.
  • Giving your expert opinion, whether they like it or not, is doing what you are paid to do.
  • You are protecting yourself from taking on too much work. That way, you can deliver quality service and maintain the work-life balance that you want.
  • You maintain your personal integrity by telling your clients the truth.

When you think about it, saying "no" to a client doesn't mean you will lose them altogether. If you do it right, it makes you look far more professional and you will be respected much more for it.

Want to know more about how to turn down a client politely? See our email templates here.

Saying "no" in 5 steps

It's easier said than done saying "no" to anyone, especially a client. So how do you do it? How to turn down a client politely AND without making them angry? Here are 5 steps you should follow.

people showing empathy to a girl


1. Be empathetic

Start any refusal with empathy. This is to maintain that connection, trust, and mutual understanding that you have with your client. Think about how you would want to be told the same news. Then think of how you can show them that you care about them and how much you value their business.


2. Be honest when explaining why

Clients will be far more understanding (and forgiving!) if they know the "why" behind your refusal. So lay it out clearly for them. If you can't take on any extra work because it will affect the quality of your service, tell them that.

3. Be positive in the language that you use

Positivity is powerful when you say "no" to a client's request. This can leave a far less negative impression on a client towards you. For example, saying "no, I can't help you" leaves your client feeling left in the lurch and undervalued. On the other hand, simply saying "unfortunately, I don't have the capacity to do that for you myself right now, but I can help you find an alternative solution" would leave them feeling grateful for your efforts.

a woman wearing headphones to represent listening when saying no to clients


4. Be kind by listening to the client

People just want to be heard when they have an issue, so take the time to listen. Then, put some thought into their situation and try your best to fulfil their request. Try it even if the end result is not what they wanted. Listening to and helping your client will make them feel valued.



5. Be helpful by finding the closest alternative solution

Use this opportunity to generate goodwill by pointing your client toward a workaround. What would be the best alternative for them? Would delegating their work be the closest alternative solution?

Say "no" the right way

How to turn down a client politely? Be empathetic and honest in your explanation. Then, listen to what they need so that you can help them find other solutions.

Clients are quick to leave when they feel that you don't want to help them. Moreover, saying "yes" to everything isn't feasible for your work or sanity, so learn to say "no" in the right way.

Where possible, always try to avoid a flat-out "no" and try to ease the pain of denial by doing what you can to help them.


Read on! Click here to read the AGC Guide to Getting Information from Clients without having to Chase Them.


What a great decision I made to join The Accountants’ Growth Club 

I have only been a member of The Accountants’ Growth Club for about a month, but in that time I have already been helped to increase my fees and sort out my client base which will make us more profitable and also cover my membership fees several times over, and that's in the first month. 

Working with my coach I have been given the confidence to take action and believe more in what I do.  I had a bit of a crisis recently and as part of the accountability call I had a quick 1:1 with a coach who helped me through the bumpy period and has given me the strength to make some tough decisions. 

Being part of The Accountants’ Growth Club gives me a sounding board for my ideas and a group of likeminded accountants to turn to so that I do not feel alone any longer.  The tools in the resource library have already helped and I am looking forward to 2020 being the year that my business grows.

Kerrie Jenkins

Atek Accountancy

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