In most fields the general consensus is that no business is bad business—but, as a contractor, that’s not always the case. Making sure you’re able to satisfy the customer to the best of your ability while still turning a profit is vital and there may be some jobs that won’t allow for that.
One of the biggest questions to ask yourself is whether this job is your area of expertise. If you’re a plumber and someone asks you to fix their HVAC system, while you may have a general idea of what to do, not being formally trained in HVAC may put you at risk. Or if you’re a general contractor asked to install a brand new roof, it could lead to potential leaks and repairs down the road for a very dissatisfied homeowner. Being honest about your skill-set with the potential client is your best bet at ensuring you’re the right one for the job.
In addition to sticking with your specialty, never let your quality of work suffer to meet a client’s financial or time restraints. If you aren’t able to do the job right, don’t do it at all. This includes using sub-par materials, rushing to finish or cutting corners.
While you definitely don’t want to rush a job, it’s also important to complete the project in a timely manner. Taking on another job may make financial sense, but if you’re already booked solid and there’s a chance the job could be significantly delayed you may want to consider passing. In a world of instant gratification, delays typically don’t go over well with the customer. Don’t forget to take seasonal changes into account. For example, if it’s the rainy season there may be unforeseen weather delays, or if it’s summertime employees may take a vacation. Think ahead and be prepared to say “no thank you” if needed.
Some clients should come with a warning label, and many of them do if you look closely enough. If a client repeatedly changes the scope of work throughout the process, makes unreasonable requests and is difficult to procure payment from, trust us—it’s not worth it!
Turning down a job doesn’t mean turning your back. Often the best way to refuse a job while maintaining a working relationship is to thoroughly explain your reason for turning it away so they understand it is ultimately for their benefit. In doing so, they may still come to you in the future if they have another job that better fits your expertise/schedule. Additionally, if you know of another reputable contractor you can recommend, absolutely give the customer a referral. We all know how valuable recommendations can be in this business and one day they may return the favor.