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Growing As A Freelance Writer By Learning To Say No

June 11, 2009 – 12:25 pm One Comment | 2,061 views

Last week, I talked about the effect that saying ‘yes’ could have on your freelance business.  This week, I want to flip things 180 degrees and examine the benefits of saying ‘no’.

When you first start freelancing, it might feel like almost any work that comes your way is work that you should definitely take on.  For the most part, this is the right attitude to have – unless the pay you are being offered is insultingly low, an important part of building your freelance business is establishing a client base and a portfolio and that means saying yes, yes, yes to job offers.  Ultimately, (and hopefully) this can mean working very hard for the first 6 months to a year of freelancing as you accept as many jobs as you can squeeze into your schedule.

However, it is important to remember that was with all things in life, building your freelance writing business is something that advances in phases.  There will come a time in your freelancing evolution where you have built up a stable of regular clients and / or stable access to a pool of fresh clients and you are no longer scrambling to fill the hours of your day with writing work.  At this point, you can start to scale back your rate of acceptance and begin to apply a filter to the jobs you do decide to take on.  You might decide to focus on a specific niche in the freelance writing world, or to maximize your earnings by working only on projects which meet certain levels of compensation.  This enables you to move on to the next phase of your freelance business and establish a workable set of policies that will guide your future work.

Perhaps the toughest phase of your freelance writing career is the one that comes next.  After you have established yourself in a niche, or nurtured a range of profitable subject areas that you enjoy writing about, you may still find yourself being inundated with work.  This is a very happy circumstance, and one which should not be taken for granted, as there will of course be the occasional dry spell where you may find yourself more concentrated on marketing and promotion than actual writing.

However, just because the job offers are coming in, you should not feel obligated to accept every single one of them.  You are no longer the struggling first-year freelancer – you are now an established professional with a good reputation and a stable client base.  This means that you have put yourself in the position where you fully control your work schedule – not the market.  At this point, you will most likely have to start doing one of the hardest things for a businessperson to do – turn down well-paying work.

At first it will seem counter-productive to turn down work that you know you can do well, and for which you will be well paid.  You certainly could go back to burning the candle at both ends and work 80 to 100 hours per week.  Unfortunately, this type of work arrangement becomes more untenable the longer it goes on, and you will eventually find yourself burned out and bitter after a few months no matter how well compensated you were for your time.

Making the transition from struggling freelance writer to successful business owner and strategic thinker is not easy.  That being said, changing your mindset to embrace your new circumstances and breaking from old habits is your best pathway towards success.  Being able to respond and adapt to your new reality will help you add fresh layers of brick on top of the firm foundation you have already built.

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One Comment »

  • Angela West says:

    Hi Benjamin:

    I completely agree with you. It is tempting to say “Yes” to everything but priorities are crucial to establish at a certain point in your career. I enjoyed the post and will be back!

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