Not Accepting New Clients – How to Write a Polite Decline Message

Not accepting clients is not something you should feel bad about. There comes a time in every freelancer’s journey when they have to say no to a client at one point. This could be for a number of reasons.

Saying yes to everything when you are already juggling so many projects can lead to burnout and that’s something every worker should avoid. However, there are a lot of people who feel anxious about saying no to clients or declining a project or an offer. Maybe you feel like you won’t get another opportunity or you are afraid your client will get mad at you.

Honestly, you can’t really predict how a client will react when you decline a project or an offer. All you can do is ensure that your message will be clear and polite. For some, how to say no to a freelance project seems fairly simple. But once you are in that actual situation it can suddenly feel anxiety-inducing.

How to Tell You are Not Accepting New Clients

You’re very busy and you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying you are not accepting new clients. But how do you actually go about doing that? Before you try figuring it out, know that there are two types of situations where you have to do this. One is direct wherein a client will directly talk to you via email, message, or call. The other is indirect, wherein you prevent direct communication from even happening.

Woman on the phone sitting in front of a laptop while using a pen and tablet

1. Direct Communication

Maybe you have a very impressive LinkedIn resume or you’ve applied to dozens of gigs and now you find a number of potential clients trying to book you. What do you do? Below are some of the direct ways you can communicate with them:

• Write a Polite Decline Email

Start off with the proper heading and make sure to be formal when you create this message. After adding the recipient, you can start with a salutation and try to get the message across in the very first sentence. Don’t beat around the bush sprinkling the email with compliments to lessen the blow of declining someone. A potential client will appreciate it if you are direct to the point.

After saying you can’t do the project, add a bit of a reason (be honest!), and don’t explain way too much. Make sure to thank them for their interest and finally do not close doors (unless that is your purpose). Tell the potential client that you hope you get a chance to work with them in the future. (Again, only if you want to). Check out the sample below:

November 5, 2022

Mr. John Doe

Dear Mr. Doe:

I regret to inform you that I cannot accept your offer at this time. Currently, I have a full work schedule and will not be able to accommodate long-term projects.

Thank you for the opportunity and I do hope that you think of me in the future. Hopefully, by then my schedule will be more flexible and I’ll get the chance to work with the amazing team at ACME Inc.


Jane Doe

• Send a Message Respectfully Declining a Project

Person holding a coffee cup and a mobile phone

Now, not all clients are quite formal. Some prefer to communicate through messaging apps like Slack, and this should be a bit more casual. It’s pretty much like the decline email but again, lose the formality so as not to be too awkward.

But the message should pretty much be the same, straightforward that you can’t accept the job, have a reason or explanation, and finally, say thank you and add if you genuinely want to work with them in the future. It can be as simple as the sample below:

Hi John! I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to accept new gigs at the moment as my schedule is booked up. Thank you for reaching out and I do hope that you think of me for your next project.

2. Indirect Communication

Maybe you already know that your schedule is going to be busy for the next few weeks or months. If you want to ward off potential clients from messaging you in the future, this is how you do it:

• Make an Announcement

Yellow background, hand holding a placard that says No, and another hand holding a megaphone

Use your professional social pages to make an announcement that you can’t handle new clients or jobs. When you do this, you can simply say you are booked up or you are busy. It’s still best to give a reason for your potential clients. And even better, if you can give a timeline for when you can start accepting new clients again.

This should keep potential clients from messaging you or contacting you. And there will be no need to make a personal message where you politely decline their offers. It can be as simple as, “Thank you for your interest but I am unable to accept new clients.”

• Create a Template

For some, rejecting or declining is a very tough thing to do. If you really want to avoid having to directly talk to potential clients, you can settle for a template. This can be a better option if you have a company name or talk in the third person. It can go something like, “This artist is currently on leave and will not be able to accept new clients.”

You can even inject some humor or a little bit of your branding into your message like “Artist Co. is unable to accept new jobs due to a shortage of black paint.” This is especially helpful if you are not comfortable saying the real reason why you can’t take on new clients.

Why It’s Important to Decline New Clients

Maybe this is something you don’t really want to do or imagine doing. Again, at one point in your journey as a freelancer, you will have to decline a new client. Not accepting new clients can even be a milestone for some freelancers. Here’s why it’s important to learn and do:

Prevent Burnout

Whiteboard filled with weekly schedule and post its

If you keep saying yes, you’ll find your schedule fully packed. Or even overflowing. As much as it is important to learn how to keep track of freelance work effectively, sometimes you really just have to let go of new projects and clients.

Improve Relationships with Current Clients

When you focus on your current clients, you can improve your relationship, and this could lead to many benefits. For starters, a client that trusts you will keep getting you for future projects. Next, if a client really likes your work, you can get better pay. Finally, you get a chance to be a part of a major project of your work with a client long-term.

Foster Client-Freelancer Connections

One of the worst things you can do is to “ghost” a potential client. Not only is this rude but you aren’t helping the freelancing community either. Mutual respect is a must between freelancers and clients. You help foster the connections and the community when you are polite to everyone, whether the client you are declining is nice or not.


Not accepting new clients may seem like a difficult task, especially if you have problems with people-pleasing. But a freelancer must learn how to do this task the correct way whether it is easy for you or not. Not accepting new clients is not wrong, what is wrong is if you do not do it in a respectful way or if you simply leave a potential client hanging with no message or reply.

You wouldn’t want a potential client to not reply to your proposals, right? So, you shouldn’t do it to them either. Learn the right way to tell how you are not accepting new clients now so you won’t have trouble with this task in the future.

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