Freelance Rules: know when to say ‘No’


The fact I’m writing this article at a little after midnight is certainly pertinent. You see, it has taken me all day to actually find enough freedom and clear headedness to write something engaging and interesting enough for Wannabe Hacks.

I began my day this morning at 8:30 with the email checkout: it is here that I am allocated and offered any freelance articles or pieces for the day. Today’s schedule: an Autumn/Winter accessory collection article for high-end luxury brands; interview preparation for a Michael Bastian press breakfast next week; six or seven eHow fashion and lifestyle articles; a few freelance pitches and a personal website piece. Here I am now.

Stack Of Work

I said “Yes” to all of them and now I’m paying for it.

If you are diving – as I am – into freelancing then you’d be foolish not to flutter and jump at the chance of ANY work. However, you should beware of being so eager.

Swamping your head with words and swimming in articles all day long is not particularly good for your health. It’s worse for your writing. Every freelance relationship (be that casual or professional) can be over in a matter of minutes. Simply fall off your game or write a shoddy piece and you’ve shot yourself in the foot – that foot in the door.

I’m tired and I’ve been struggling. My back aches from sitting in a poorly designed chair all day and my writing punch and prowess are all but tatters on this technical blogging screen. I should have said “No” to at least one thing today – given myself a chance to regroup and recuperate; picked it up tomorrow.

Instead I’m flying risk to the wind by producing a series of potentially sloppy pieces when I could have produced one or two mighty, career-defining signature articles.

Know when to say “No.”

Politely decline when you’re up against it. Inform your contact that you have a lot on your plate right now and would pick up a piece for tomorrow or the next day. Show them that you’re not a slab of meat they can flash in the pan when they feel like it; you’re a proud freelance writer and editor that works – sensibly – on the top of your game and in the prime of your writing. If you can’t negotiate then you might have to question the relationship that you have with the publication (remember: you should be in control).

Saying “No” means to take pride in your work. A quality that every freelance journalist should have at the top of their list – after all, it is you who you are working for!

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

2 Responses to Freelance Rules: know when to say ‘No’

  1. mark says:

    A freelance who turns down work because they are TOO busy……ho hum

  2. Pingback: A worthy plug « Paperback Rioter

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