You are an expert in your field and have decided to become a consultant. You have met with your first prospective client and made the personal acknowledgements, listened well, given support, disarmed objectives, understood his wants and have been as authentic as you know how to be, but in the pit of your stomach there is a nagging sensation that is making you feel this client might not be the right one for you. Logically speaking everything seems to add up. So maybe you might just be nervous because you are new to this. Or maybe your intuition may be trying to tell you something.
Don’t ever ignore your gut feelings. It may your intuition talking, or subconscious that is reading the situation and not feeling comfortable with the results, therefore trying its utmost to send you danger signals. A critical part of being a good consultant is understanding whether or not it is in your mutual best interest to move ahead with your client together, or not. It definitely is not to your benefit or to your client’s to take on “low-chance-for-success” projects or to accept a project that will be so time-consuming that it may negatively affect other important aspects of your work life.
So what do you do? How do you back out gently without burning bridges? Here is an example of what you might say:
“Having examined your situation in detail, I’m convinced that what you really need is something outside the scope of what I do well. I can see you’re looking for _______, and that’s not really my area of expertise. I don’t feel that I am the best fit for your project and wouldn’t be comfortable taking this project knowing that you would not be getting my best work.”
Thank your client and do your best to leave the door open behind you.