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How to tactically decline a contract offer

Paystream News

Kerry Hull

Friday 18th Aug, 2017

Turning down work can seem like an odd choice for limited company contractors, but sometimes it can actually work out better to do so.

However, there is a skill to declining a contract offer so that it does not have an impact on any future chance of work. Here is our guide on how to formally say no and how to do so without causing any upset.

When to say no to work

When working as a freelancer or contractor, it can be tempting to say yes to anything and everything that is offered, but occasionally there are strong reasons to decline work.

While this can be easy to do if you are not planning to maintain a future working relationship with the client, there can be times you need to say no, even if you are hoping to work with a company in the future.

So, what are good reasons for saying no to work? If limited company contractors are busy, then there could be some concern about the standard of work being produced. You don't want to be in a situation where you are rushed to produce work and therefore make errors through carelessness or not putting in the correct amount of research. The most experienced contract workers ensure they build in some slack into their working timetable, just in case a project overruns or there is additional work required by the client.

Alternatively, it may not be the right time to take on the work due to other commitments, such as holiday or an ongoing large-scale project with another client. In some cases, accepting new work could cause a conflict of interest with an existing client - so you may want to say yes, but not right now. This also applies if the contract offer requires equipment or skills that you don't have in place.

How to say no in the correct way

Whatever your reason for saying no, it is important the rejection is done in the correct way. Even if you do not plan to ever work with the client, you still need to give a good impression. Freelancing and contracting relies heavily on word of mouth and you don't want to be negatively viewed within your industry.


Firstly, do not rush to say no. Take some time to consider what the project is and what the client is looking for. Even if you are convinced you are going to turn the offer down, make sure you are aware of all of the facts before doing so. You never know, it may be something that only requires little work or something that could help to improve your own skills.

Don't burn bridges

It may be tempting to just reply with a short but sweet 'thanks, but no thanks', especially if you are under time pressures elsewhere. However, taking the time to create a professional and formal response could give a much better impression - possibly leading to further offers in the future.

Remember to explain clearly and politely why you don’t feel you can accept the offer. Be honest, yet diplomatic in your correspondence.

Don't leave sending your rejection to the last minute so that you allow enough time for the client to find someone else to complete the work. If you have a good relationship with a fellow contractor, then it may be worth recommending them so at least you are being helpful - you may also find they return the favour in the future.

Keep in touch

It is likely there will be a time when you are short of contract offers and this could be the time to re-establish contact with the client. Make sure that you are clear you are certainly willing to discuss additional work in the future when it is mutually beneficial and you are in a position to say yes.

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