In this article, we’ll delve into the how, when, and why of turning down projects that may not align with your business’s strengths. We’ll also share invaluable data from the 2023 Mailchimp & Co Benchmark Report, made exclusively for agencies and freelancers like you with your fellow marketers’ insights.
According to the findings from the 2023 Benchmark Report, a whopping 60% of agency respondents say they rarely or never turn down projects that aren’t the right fit. The assumption driving this pattern is that every project, no matter how ill-suited, can be a stepping stone to success. But is that true?
The fear of saying “no”
According to the Benchmark Report, responding agency owners tell us they fear that turning down work will lead to a reduction in revenue. And that makes sense, seeing as saying “no” could mean missing out on potential income streams, client relationships, and ultimately, a potential steady flow of projects. But this hesitation isn’t merely about numbers on a ledger; it’s about the essence of running an agency.
For agency owners, saying “no” can understandably feel like balancing the scales between immediate financial gain and long-term sustainability. You might decline a project that helps pay the bills today but puts you at risk of burnout or compromised quality tomorrow. On a deeper level, confronting the fear of turning down work and actually going through with it, can mean running the risk that your agency fades into obscurity.
Contrary to agency behavior, saying “no” strategically can help catapult your marketing business to new heights. In fact, our research uncovered a surprising revelation—those who set professional boundaries by saying “no” were more likely to double their chances of growing their revenue, compared to those who rarely decline work.
Responding agencies aren’t the only one’s facing the dilemma of declining work; the freelancers we surveyed tell us that they grapple with it too, but in a different way. 36% of responding freelancers say that they follow their gut when it comes time to set healthy boundaries by turning down projects. This approach helps freelancers channel their energy into clients and projects that resonate with their goals.
Just remember: It’s important to recognize that this fear is not only unfounded; it’s a testament to the dedication and ambition that helps agencies and freelancers reach for the stars—even when the night sky seems full of uncertainty.