When and How to Say No to a Job

You might not think it but turning down work is a serious problem for contractors. Finding the...

You might not think it but turning down work is a serious problem for contractors. Finding the right away to say no to a job without leaving a bad impression is crucial to your reputation and your future business. Use these tips to make your exit smooth and professional while keeping the door open for the next project that comes up.


For a lot of contractors, saying no to a job is one of the toughest things to do. After all, turning down a job means turning down business and money for your company. But in some situations it can be the smartest move to make as a business owner, especially if you handle it professionally. Here’s a great guide on when and how to turn down jobs and keep your professional reputation intact.

When to Say No


Every contractor dreams of the day when they have so much work coming in that they can pick and choose the specific jobs they want to do while still keeping their business profitable. Even if that’s the case at your company right now, it’s not the only reason to turn down a job. Here are some of the most common reasons we’ve found to say no to a job:

  • Pricing Disagreements - There’s no reason to sell yourself short. If a homeowner has an impossible budget for the job or your level of quality and refuses to adjust it, move on.
  • Booked Solid - Be mindful of how many projects your crew can take on. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and end up doing rushed, shoddy work. If you don’t have time to do the job and do it right, don’t take it.
  • Not Your Type - If you’re a specialized contractor who has some skills in other areas, always be honest with yourself about your skill level. If a customer comes to you with a project that requires you to use your less-honed skills, consider turning it down if you’re not sure whether you can complete the project to the best of your ability.

Even though these are the most common reasons to turn down a job, every contractor’s situation is different and you may find yourself turning down a job for a reason that’s not on this list. That’s okay. As long as you are being honest with yourself and with your client as to why you don’t want to take the job. Speaking of honesty, let’s talk about how to correctly turn down a job.

How to Say No


Yes, there are different ways of saying no to a client and their project. Some ways will keep your professional reputation shining, keep bridges from burning, and could potentially result in future jobs. Others will tarnish your professional reputation, burn bridges with potential clients, and lead to bad reviews and fewer projects. Whether you’d like to work with that client again in the future or not, always be polite, professional, and firm. Word will get around no matter how you turn down a project, so make sure they’re going to be good words.

Good ways to turn down projects:

  • “This project doesn’t quite seem to be in my area of expertise and I want to make sure the results you get are the best they can be so I’ll have to decline. If you have any future projects that I’d be more suited for, I’d be very interested in hearing from you.”
  • ”This project sounds great, but unfortunately I’m booked for [insert timeline period here]. If you still need some help either on this project or another one at that time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.”

Bad ways to turn down projects:

  • Never say “can’t” when speaking with a client. If it’s a service or project you don’t provide, say you don’t do it. When clients hear the word “can’t,” they stop listening and devalue your company's abilities. It’s the worst word to use when dealing with customers and clients.
  • Never insult the client. This is just poor customer service. Even if you can’t stand the client, never insult him or her. You’ll end up with terrible reviews and directly lose future clients.
  • Never ignore the client. Either leave a brief message on the client’s phone or send a polite email stating why you don’t want the job.

No matter what the reason, always be professional, polite, and firm when turning down a project. Whether you would love to work with the client in the future or you would never accept a job from him, even if it was the last job on earth, treating every client with respect builds your company a good reputation and a better chance of future referrals.