Why it's sometimes OK to turn down freelance work

Going freelance can be a tricky decision.  For one thing, there’ll be far less stability…all those ‘Hooray it’s payday!’ or ‘Hello weekend!’ social media posts can make you feel sorry for yourself when your income is far from stable and regular, and full weekends with nothing to do are a distant memory.

What makes all that worthwhile, though, is the unending potential and ability to work with and learn from a huge variety of fantastic people, with final accountability only to yourself.  For me, this is a luxury and a pain in equal measure – mainly because I’m finding that I’m a much harsher boss than any of my actual bosses ever were! – but choosing who you work for is a benefit I’ve noticed a lot of freelancers can be reluctant to take advantage of.

It’s genuinely difficult to turn down work when you’ve got bills piling up…but if you’re not thinking about what sort of work you really want to do and who you really want to do it for, then you’re missing out on the real advantages of going freelance.

Does your potential client know who you are?

Why did they contact you?  Did they like your work, or maybe you came recommended to them?   I ask this because I’ve had meetings and e-mail exchanges with people who have had no idea about the type of work I do – and who didn’t much care.

These exchanges rarely worked out, either because I don’t write the type of work they were looking for, the style they wanted didn’t suit me, or they weren’t bothered about the style at all.  Which brings me on to…

Do they care about their business?

I know – seems a strange question to ask, doesn’t it?  What it really means is that you should check if you’re going to be producing work your clients will care about.

In my case as a freelance writer, I want to know that the words I write for my clients are going to be valued (and commented on/criticised accordingly!) – not something they’ve hastily delegated to me just to get it off their to-do list, with no particular opinion about its quality. 

This, in my view, is the absolute best thing about being a freelancer.  Life’s too short to be producing reams of high volume, low quality work in a haphazard vacuum, after all.  My time and my work is valuable, and I choose to work with people who feel the same way about theirs.

This approach means I’m lucky to be working with a wonderful group of regular clients who are passionate about their companies and how they’re represented in words – the very best kind!

Do they respect your time?

As an employee, if your manager asks you to work on something urgently, you’d probably be expected to drop everything and get on with it.  This is usually fine if you’re office-based and working for just the one company, but as freelancer you’ll probably have lots of different projects lined up for lots of different clients, all scheduled according to deadlines.

The best way to sidestep issues is to make sure your clients understand your turnaround timeframes right from the beginning.  I send new clients a simple one-page sheet outlining what they can expect from me, and what I’d like from them in return. At the time of writing this at least! - there haven’t been any problems at all.

If you’re thinking about going freelance, rest assured that it’s a fantastic way to work and I hope these tips help you on your way.  If you’d like to become a client, you’ve made a great choice and I look forward to hearing from you via phone or email!