How to politely decline a job


Yes, you read the title correctly. I know I’ve talked about tradies doing it tough, but there are and will be times where a tradesperson will need to know how to politely decline a job for any number of reasons.

This post has been written for the plumber but the advice can be applied to any other given trade or service job. And if you find yourself as the customer, feel free to eavesdrop and find out why a job you have offered has been fobbed off.

Firstly, when a job is declined by a plumber it’s not necessarily because they don’t want to do it. It could be that they can’t meet the job deadline that is required, they are too busy, it’s not in their niche… or sadly they have had a bad payment history with the client and doubt whether they will be paid on time or at all. I’ve had experiences in all these scenarios more than once as a plumber and they are never easy conversations to navigate but they must be done to preserve your time, your business and your sanity.

The polite way to decline a job is to be honest and explain the reason for declining. Being polite is super important because these days we can all take things too personally and can be easily offended. It’s easy being honest when you really are busy and don’t have time to do the job or the job isn’t inside your niche, but when it’s a bad paying client or a client you don’t want to work for because they are too much hassle and you’re light on work… how do you decline jobs from these types of clients?

I have no hesitation explaining to a customer that I can’t afford to work for them if they can’t pay their bills on time. (And I don’t mean bills that are overdue a week, I mean bills that are overdue by 4 months)I simply explain that I’m a mum and the reason I work is to feed my family and I wouldn’t be working if I could afford to stay at home. I’m being honest and if they don’t want to give me work, I’m not worried because they were terrible payers to begin with.

The same honesty principle can also be applied to the customer that is difficult to work with. These types of clients are the ones that cost you money because they are unorganized or constantly change their mind on what they want while you are onsite and don’t want to pay you for it. In this situation, I have explained to the client that I couldn’t give them the service they would expect because of other commitments with my business. In this situation, fobbing off is the method that comes to mind when dealing with a client like this but I wouldn’t recommend ignoring them or not returning their calls.

Have you ever had to decline a job? How did you go about it?