When To Turn Down A Client (And How)

You’ve been talking with a client, they want to move forward with the booking and give you their deposit. Great! But, something just doesn’t feel right. Deep down something feels off.

Here are a few reasons you should follow your gut and turn down the gig, and how to do it with tact.

Why Turn Down A Client:

1) Tastes & Specialty

You simply don’t have the music or acumen for what the client wants. Most times I’d advocate taking the gig and figuring it out, but you need to tread lightly. NEVER commit to something you can’t follow through on. There’s a difference between pushing your comfort zone and being stupid. I’ve done a number of gigs where the client wanted international music for a portion of the event. I’d be honest and tell them I didn’t have experience working with Bollywood for example, but if they were willing to work with me and provide some examples I’d be more than happy to help. If however a client wanted 100% alternative indie for their wedding I’d have to decline (and have). I had no basis of confidence for how I’d pull that off and make everyone happy.

2) Style (on the mic)

They want someone on the mic… All, night, long. But that’s not you. Maybe you’re not even comfortable on the mic. Hard pass here, unless you outsource that job and bring someone else in while you DJ. Over the years I’ve become more comfortable on the mic and can belt out energetic, cheese-free introductions no problem. But aside from coordination and standard wedding engagement, I’m no hype man. I make this very clear to my clients. I go one step further and provide a live recording of a wedding introduction so they know exactly who they’re getting. If you’ve been hiding behind your MC abilities or style and sense they want something else, pass.

3) Client connection

Perhaps you just don’t click with the client. Do they want to control every aspect of the playlist, providing a minute by minute screen-play of what songs to play when? I don’t work so well under micro-management. If that gels with your personality and how you operate, great! Or maybe you’re having an extremely difficult time getting a sense of the type of music they want. They change their mind every other email. Your communication styles might be getting in the way, aside from the simple fact they could be indecisive.

If a flag like these come up, act on them. Otherwise everyone will be miserable.

Ultimately it boils down to:

  • Can you deliver the expected product?
  • Can you collaborate effectively to prepare?

Declining

Ok you’ve decided you don’t want to work with a client. How do I turn them down!?

Be honest (as much as possible)

  1. If it’s as simple as musical misalignment, this is easy:
    • “I don’t think I’m the best fit for the music you’re looking for”

  2. Same for your MC offerings
    • “I don’t think I’m the best fit for the atmosphere you’d like to set”

  3. But if it’s them, being 100% transparent may not work out so well (but still be honest)
    • “I don’t think we really click on how we operate”

If they don’t sound crazy, you can try and forward the hot lead to someone in your network that would be a better fit. You win in both eyes because you were helpful to the client and the other DJ appreciated the passed business and will want to reciprocate in the future.

Win-win.