7 Reasons to Turn Down Freelance Work

As a freelancer, you want work. But not all freelance gigs are good. Here are 7 situations when you should turn down freelance work to avoid unprofitable or time-wasting assignments.

There’s plenty of work to go around but not all of the work is worth your time. Some jobs you should “just say no” to. On the other hand, most new business owners understand that bills have to be paid and the only way to grow a business is to take on work, and some of that work won’t be the highest quality clients at the beginning.

But even for the newest business, some jobs just aren’t the jobs you want.

Let’s Talk About Your Time

Time is in short supply for all business owners. If you could buy more of it at the store, you probably would, but your only option is to maximize what you have.

Maximizing your time means choosing your actions with great intention. Every choice impacts your time. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. With that in mind, taking the wrong gigs may take you out of the running for the right gigs because you’re simply out of time. But what is a wrong gig?

1. The pay is too low

In your business, there are market rates that often come with a range based on education and experience. If you’re new in the business, you’ll be on the low side of the market rates but that doesn’t mean you should work for considerably less than the low end of the range.

Don’t forget, you have taxes, insurance, retirement, and other overhead to pay and they aren’t giving you a discount. Working at a loss holds very little benefit.

And most business owners will tell you that people who try to undercut on pricing are often difficult customers. Don’t commit your valuable time to people that don’t want to pay reasonable rates.

2. They want to pay you in “free advertising”

Bartering with other businesses can be beneficial, but typically, working in exchange for “free advertising” isn’t. If the New York Times calls and offers to exchange work for advertising, that might be an arrangement you’re willing to entertain. A small business, a website, or the side of some local organization’s trailer have no value to you as advertising space.

3. They want you to work for free or at a discount because “It’s for the kids”

Part of being a responsible business owner is giving back to your community and those in need. There’s absolutely no doubt that you should give of yourself, but set a reasonable percentage of your time to set aside for those endeavors. They might not even be connected to your business. For all of the other requests that come in, politely decline and wish them the best.

4. They tell you “I’ll give you equity in my company”

Again, you might be passionate about helping up and coming business owners like others helped you but as a form of payment, just say no. If they can’t afford to pay you, the equity in their company probably holds no value.

If their new company does something that could help your business grow, offer to exchange services for free. If they want you to make an investment of time into them, ask them to do the same.

5. The spotty client

Some businesses are the type where clients aren’t regulars—a car dealership for examplebut if that’s not you, look for regular clients that have constant business as the cornerstones of your revenue. Getting to know new clients and customers means investing your time into learning what they want and developing the relationship. Established clients are faster to service because you’ve already done the discovery process.

You should always be looking for new customers but don’t fill your business with the small accounts. That’s too much work for too little reward.

6. The Jerk

You can’t turn away every customer who isn’t like you but you can say no to people who somehow missed the life lessons that teach basic decency. If a client mistreats you or your employees repeatedly, let them go. If they have a reputation for being overly difficult, politely decline their business when they call.

That doesn’t mean that a client doesn’t have the right to question your product or service but they should do it in a respectful way.

7. Products/people you don’t believe in

As the old cliché says, the only thing you have in this life is your character. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t take on a job that is illegal or bordering on illegal but what about the immoral? This comes down to a personal judgment but remember this: At some point, years down the road, you will look back at the legacy you left.

You will ask if you live a life that your family can be proud of? Were you the role model to your children that you wanted to be? Did you treat others in a way that you’re proud of? Did people see you as upstanding or shady?

At that time, the money won’t matter so as you’re making business decisions today, just say no to projects and people that you aren’t willing to talk about to others. You’re not likely to build a successful business by making decisions you’re not proud of. There’s plenty of work out there to choose from.

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