Declining a freelance project for ethical reasons can be challenging, but it’s important to prioritise our values and principles. As freelancers we get to choose our ethics and who we work with – it’s only fair to us and clients that we work on projects we’re 100% enthusiastic about. This is one of the best things about freelancing for me – I don’t have to work with proft focused corporations selling stupid products and services, or sharky small business owners that would sell their own grandmother.
With that in mind, here are some pointers on how to politely decline a project for ethical reasons.
Thank the client
Start by thanking the potential client for considering you for the freelance project and expressing your appreciation for the enquiry. It’s good manners and sets a positive tone for your reply.
Explain your ethical concerns
Be honest and straightforward about your ethical concerns and why they conflict with the project. For example, if the project involves promoting a product or service that you believe is harmful to society or the environment, explain that you cannot in good conscience be a part of it. There’s no need to rant about it or criticise them for their ethics, just let them know it’s not a good fit.
As well as sticking to your ethical position, this can help us get a reputation for specialising in certain kinds of freelance work and the client may remember that in future and/or share your details with their contacts.
If possible, offer alternatives that align with your values and principles. For example, if the client is promoting a product that you don’t believe in, offer to work on a project that promotes a similar product that is more ethical and sustainable.
It’s also good for networking (and might come with a referral fee!) if you know of a good freelancer you can recommend who might be interested in taking on the project.
Keep the door open
If you are interested in working with the client in the future on freelance projects that align with your values, express that and let them know that you would be happy to discuss future opportunities.
Keep your tone professional and respectful throughout the conversation. Remember that declining a freelance project does not mean burning bridges, and maintaining a positive relationship with the client can lead to future opportunities with them or their professional contacts.
As a freelancer, it’s important to prioritize our values and principles when deciding whether to accept or decline a freelance project. By communicating clearly and offering alternatives or future collaboration, you can maintain a positive relationship with the person enquiring while staying true to your ethical beliefs.