The Freelancer’s Biggest Enemies – Saying Yes to Every Job!


When I started out as a freelancer, I never imagined that I would ever say “No” to a job or turn down an opportunity. One of the biggest mistakes I made as a rookie freelancer, and that a lot of freelancers make throughout their tenure, is to accept every single job that presents itself. This can be a detrimental practice to you as a freelancer in many ways.

Whenever you’re presented with an opportunity to do a job, you need to consider several factors before committing yourself to doing the work. I am going to throw out a few out there for starters. Feel free to contribute your own.

  1. CAN you do the job? Do you have the skills required?
  2. Do you WANT to do the job? Is it something that you will be willing to invest time in and do well?
  3. Do you HAVE TIME to do the job? What is the status with your other jobs? Are you going to be overloading yourself?
  4. Is it WORTH IT to do the job? Is the compensation reasonable to the effort and knowledge expended in doing the job?

Why is it important to think through these questions? Well, let’s break it down one by one.

  1. CAN you do the job? – If you can’t do the job, you really should not accept it. When a client commits a task to you, they are depending on you to deliver for them. There is a trust that is implicit in that relationship, and this trust is what keeps your clients coming back, and referring people to you. Taking a job that you know you’re not equipped to do in the hope that you’ll somehow “figure it out” is a stupid move, and one that will do your future no good. If you only take the jobs that you know you CAN do, and are honest with your clients when a particular task is outside of your abilities, they will trust you more, and be willing to build a relationship with you on the things you can do. And remember, you want to build you client base by keeping your clients happy.
  2. Do you WANT to do the job? – Well, you may think that this doesn’t really matter, but it does! You may get a project that you’re perfectly capable of doing, but not want to do it. There are many reasons this could be the case – it may be ethically objectionable to you, you may have decided that you’re taking a vacation and don’t really want to work for that time period, or other reasons. Whatever the reason is, you will realize that if you take on a project that you really didn’t want to do, you more likely than not won’t deliver good quality work. This might lead to you losing clients, and money. So consider if there are valid reasons why you don’t want to do a job, and then say no if you must.
  3. Do you HAVE TIME to do the job? – This is a big one! You need to assess and become very aware of what kind of workload you can take on at a time. If you’re currently loaded up with projects that you haven’t completed, DON’T take on a new project. You will overwhelm yourself, not deliver quality work or simply be unable to deliver to your clients. This was something I did a couple of times before I realized that I was sabotaging myself. I was getting caught up in the mentality that I wanted all the work I could get, and that I would somehow do it all! I couldn’t bear the thought of potential clients going to someone else, so I accepted all the jobs I got even though my desk was piled high with work. The end result was that I got overwhelmed, discouraged, and had a hard time finishing even the smallest projects. So learn to measure your load capability before accepting multiple projects.
  4. Is it WORTH IT to do the job? – This is where you need to determine what your time, skill, and knowledge are worth. I will be discussing this in more detail in later posts, because you have to decide what your lower limit is going to be. If the compensation offered on a job is too low for you, don’t accept it, because then you’re devaluing your time and abilities. A lot of freelancers when starting out offer to do free jobs to build a portfolio, or to attract clients, and this is a great strategy. But once you’re charging for your services, you need to decide what you’re worth, because if the compensation is not worth it to you, I can bet you that you won’t give the job your best effort, and you won’t deliver quality work. And what happens when you don’t deliver quality work? Clients are unhappy. And remember, unhappy clients talk!

So what’s the bottom line here? You don’t have to accept every project/job/gig that you get, or that is offered to you. There will be times you need to say no, and walk away. It may be hard, and the discretion to know when and how to say no is something that comes with time and experience, but I have given you a brief algorithm to work with.

Can you think of other reasons why you would say no to a project?

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