When to Turn Down Work as a Freelancer

When to Turn Down Work

I’ve heard from many freelancers that they have a hard time turning down clients. Freelancing can be feast or famine, so it’s difficult to say no to projects even if you’re fully booked. 

I’ve also struggled with knowing when to pursue an opportunity and when to politely bow out. Here are some of the things I consider when deciding if a job is the right fit for me. 

You’re At Capacity

Over the years, I’ve learned that the maximum amount of articles I can write in a week is about ten. I get frazzled if I take on more assignments than that and end up having no time for myself. 

If I’m offered an assignment when I’m fully booked, I ask the client to move the deadline and turn it down if they can’t. If I know another freelancer who is a good fit for the job, I usually offer to put the client in touch with them.

Referring other freelancers is a great way to build professional connections. And the people you refer will probably return the favor down the line when they get overbooked. 

If you don’t want to give up the income from the project, you could outsource the work to another freelancer and take a cut of the profit. But make sure your client is aware that you sometimes use subcontractors so there are no misunderstandings. 

It can be tempting to overschedule yourself as a freelancer because the more you work, the more money you make. Since you don’t have a boss limiting your overtime hours, you can take on as much extra work as you want. But working nights and weekends is a recipe for burnout, so I try not to make it a regular habit. 

The Opportunity Doesn’t Excite You

The great thing about being a freelancer is you don’t have to take on work you find totally boring. I’ve learned that I usually earn a higher hourly rate on projects I enjoy. So I try to fill my schedule up with assignments that excite me. I only take work I’m less interested in if I need the extra cash. 

The Project Doesn’t Align With Your Goals

Another factor to consider before you accept work is whether or not the project aligns with your business goals. If you’re trying to increase your income, you may not want to accept work that pays your current rate. Likewise, if you’re trying to gain clips for your portfolio, then ghostwriting gigs may not be a good fit. 

If you’re not hard up for work, consider whether or not a project will help you advance your career or meet your financial goals before you say yes.

You Don’t Have the Right Skills

It’s ok to go outside of your comfort zone a bit and take on challenging projects. But if you don’t have the skills necessary to complete a job, it’s probably best to pass on it, especially if you already have a full schedule. 

As a freelance blog writer, I wouldn’t take on a whitepaper because it’s not my specialty. Although employees often learn on the job, it’s usually not profitable for freelancers to take on projects that aren’t in their wheelhouse. Focusing on areas you’re experienced in allows you to complete your projects faster and earn more money. 

If a client asks me to write about a topic that’s outside my niche, I usually refer another writer who specializes in that area. This helps build rapport with both the client and freelancer I referred, so they may send me work that’s more aligned with my skillset in the future. 

It’s Ok to Turn Down Work

Turning down work as a freelancer can be scary. You may be afraid that you’ll enter a dry spell soon and regret passing on the opportunity. 

Earning extra income while the projects are flowing can help you pad your emergency fund and weather the down times. But it’s important not to push yourself too hard and maintain work-life balance so you don’t burn out. 

It’s also worth considering whether or not a project aligns with your business goals before you agree to take it on. It’s tempting to jump on any opportunity that pays, especially at the beginning of your freelance career. But waiting for projects that are a good fit professionally and financially is worth it and will put you in a better position to advance your career. 

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