When To Say ‘No’ To Freelance Gigs

For your sanity, a few affirmative quotes about saying “no.”

Preface: This blog post is my reaction to MediaBistro’s story about saying no to bad freelance gigs. Recently I started being more selective about my freelance work, and by doing so felt liberated by my new “picky” perspective.

If you know me, you know I’m game for anything. This “team player” attitude is praised in the workplace, but being in the freelance world I have found that it is a double-edged sword. While being a “yes” woman has been beneficial — bringing in new work, connecting me to publications, and of course, paying the bills — I have found that “yes” isn’t always the answer.

Since graduating from college in 2009, I have freelanced in some capacity, but it wasn’t until June 2015 that it become my major source of income as I left the full-time workforce. This transition has caused me to say “yes” to (mostly) everything in hopes of creating a broader network and guarantee that I can live a decent lifestyle. Lately though, because of a stressful workload, I have realized that sometimes “no” is the answer.

I was saying “yes” to projects that I didn’t want to work on, and in turn I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. I couldn’t sleep, and I felt overworked. After putting myself through this pain over and over again, I realized I was being crazy. Ultimately, the reason why I left the full-time workforce was to pursue my passion and to put myself in full control of my career path. [RIGHT?!] And, here I was burdening myself with projects. I was saying “yes” to writing stories that weren’t in line with my expertise or passion.

I hit a wall and realized I no longer should feel guilty about turning down work. I needed to set boundaries for myself. For my happiness. For my sanity. For my love of journalism.

I’m still working on it. Every “no” feels like a tiny victory, as I free myself from something that could weigh me down and push me down the wrong path. I remind myself where I’m going and what my destiny is, and in the end this helps me realize if a gig is worth it. That may sound ridiculously (and unnecessarily) existential, but I became a freelancer to guarantee that everything I did, every project I worked on, every story I wrote had some meaning either to the reader, and if not, at least for myself.

Things I’ve vowed to say no to:
  1. Poor pay
  2. Topics I can’t speak to / am not passionate about
  3. Editors / publications that are hard to work with
  4. Organizations I don’t connect with (for marketing / PR / communications gigs)
  5. New projects when I’m all booked up

I’d love to hear from fellow freelancers (others included!) how you go about accepting and denying work, and why. xo, marissa

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2 thoughts on “When To Say ‘No’ To Freelance Gigs

  1. Camels & Chocolate says:

    Good for you, friend. I went full-time freelance in 2008, and it wasn’t until two years ago when I started turning down work more regularly than accepting it. I also counter a lot with “given the amount of time and research involved, I actually think this project is valued at $X. If you can come up to that price, I can get started right away.” You’d be surprised how you CAN negotiate in editorial.

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