How to Turn Off a New Business Prospect

5 Ways to Alienate Potential Clients

As a communications freelancer in the tech industry, finding new business isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. If you know where to look and how to position your services, it’s not unheard of for freelancers to find themselves with too much work.

Getting to that point takes a little time and patience. If you’re short on both, it can sometimes lead to sloppy new business marketing tactics that can do more harm than good. Here are five ways to turn off a new business prospect.

1. Tell them what they're doing wrong

If a prospect asks you to develop a proposal or share ideas on how you can improve their program, focus on how your expertise builds on what they’re already doing right. Always lead with positive recommendations as opposed to offering your opinion of what’s wrong. If the prospect pushes for your list of what’s not working, offer three compliments for every one piece of constructive criticism.

2. Send an unsolicited email outlining how their current marketing agency or communications freelancer is falling short

In the email, explain why you’re a better option. Here are 10 drawbacks to that approach.

    1. They weren’t asking for your perspective.
    2. It’s impossible to make a quality assessment without first talking to the company.
    3. You don’t know if the person receiving the email conceived the strategy and ideas that are being criticized.
    4. Sometimes decisions are made at the top and marketing is told to execute them.
    5. Nobody looks good trying to make someone else look bad.
    6. There’s enough opportunity in the industry that negates the need for this approach.
    7. The best client opportunities often come through people you already know.
    8. You don’t know the depth of the relationship between the client and their agency or freelancer.
    9. You don’t know the budget and if it’s worth pursuing and/or it reflects the fact that the agency or freelancer is hamstrung by a small investment in marketing.
    10. It can risk looking a bit like spam.

3. Write a press release, email blast or social media post announcing that you have proudly opened your freelance business and are accepting new clients.

The problem with this approach is that the messages aren’t personalized and there’s a hint of desperation. If you’ll take any kind of client, you’ll get any kind of client. Instead, when you focus on personalizing your message and targeting businesses that are most closely aligned with your skills and expertise, you’ll be able to secure more lucrative and longer-term contracts with the types of clients that will see your value as a strategic partner.

4. Offer a free assessment

There’s a fundamental flaw in the “free assessment” marketing tactic. If you’re looking to win business, assessing the situation and making recommendations is simply part of doing business.

5. Present a mismatched plan

If a prospect tells you what they want and how much they have to spend, trust that they know what they’re looking to achieve with their communications program. Your response to the RFP should be creative, original and tailored to their business needs. Don’t present a scope that is wildly different from what was requested or is packed with upsell for additional programs that weren’t previously discussed. If you have a brilliant idea they haven’t thought of, tuck it in as an additional idea for future consideration or discussion after you’ve addressed their requirements.


Attracting and winning great clients comes down to identifying and marketing your differentiators, focusing on the companies that most closely align with them, and listening to their needs.

Now that you know how to turn off a prospect, learn how to find and win new business with the ProsInComms e-book,  The Complete Guide to Finding Freelance Work…Without Looking Desperate.”

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