It can be tempting to take on every assignment that comes your way. But being picky about what you take on can pay off.
Turning down writing gigs takes a huge amount of willpower. Even if you have a million deadlines approaching and projects lined up for the next three months, saying “no” to potential clients can feel like leaving money on the table.
Spoiler alert: It’s not. Passing on assignments—whether you’re a full-time freelancer or have a side gig to your 9 to 5—is often the best decision for your career, your sanity, your bank account or all of the above. Let’s dive into the five solid reasons you should say no to a client.
1. The client asks you to do work for free
Some clients will ask you to do free work upfront, with the promise that they’ll pay you if you do a good job. Don’t fall for this trap.
First, you should never work for free: It devalues your work and makes you seem less professional. Second, credible clients will almost never make this request. People who do are usually hoping you’re too inexperienced or desperate to say no.
Walk away if someone’s hunting for a cheap deal.
An exception: If you’re applying for a full-time writing gig, the hiring manager will typically ask you to complete a writing test. You’ll get a set period of time (usually two days) to write a sample post for their outlet. Since the stakes are much higher for a permanent position, they need to make sure you can write well on a deadline.
2. Unreasonable expectations
When a client is making unrealistic demands from the get-go, walking away is your best move.
One anonymous freelancer received a request to write a 200-page ebook in one week—and the client wanted at least seven original interviews. The freelancer turned down the gig.
With these types of assignments, it doesn’t matter how hard you work: The client is probably never going to be satisfied. By the time the gig is over, you’re overworked and stressed, and they feel taken advantage of. It’s lose-lose.
Rather than telling yourself their demands will ease up, save yourself the headache and let this job go.
3. Unrealistic Deadlines
As a freelancer you’re probably juggling numerous deadlines on a day to day basis and will have the next week or two booked out to allow adequate time for each piece of work.
If a client throws an emergency job with a very tight deadline into the mix and you accept, you may be compromising the quality of the piece and letting yourself in for extra, unnecessary stress.
You’ve got three options with this, the first is to outright decline the work stating you just don’t have the time.
The second is to ask for an extension on the deadline. Be sure to outline the benefit of giving you a few extra days. If they’re insistent on the tight deadline you have option number three. Look into adding a rate for rush jobs to your website so the client knows that it’s actually a service you offer.
Trust your instinct. If you’re getting a gut feeling that this client is going to be more trouble than they’re worth, you’re probably right.
You may not be one of the veteran freelancers who can pick a charlatan out at a hundred paces but I bet you can still pick up on when someone is being a little shady or deceitful.
If you’re getting the feeling that something isn’t right and the client isn’t doing anything to allay your fears, drop them as politely as you can.
Negotiating over rates is a fundamental aspect of any business deal. Offers and counter offers are expected, but when you’re a freelancer I’d strongly advise against any negotiations.
Know your minimum acceptable rate and do not accept anything below it. If the client wants the work done for cheaper, they can find someone else. Trust me when I say that if a client is refusing to meet your rates at the beginning, the likelihood of a raise later down the line is slim.
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