Freelance Writing: 5 Ways to Know When to Run From a Project
Freelance work is often grueling, but sometimes things may go too far or a client may ask too much. So make sure you know when to say "no."
Freelance writing jobs can be a treacherous game to play. Trust me — I work as a freelance writer and graphic designer in my spare time, and for the most part, I have great clients who know what they want, give me a decent amount of freedom, and are prompt with their payments.
But some others can be a nightmare! Freelance writing can be a treacherous game to play.
1. Screen Your Clients
This is the time when you trust your gut and see what your potential client needs.
It’s okay if clients ask you to lower your prices a bit because they aren’t used to industry standards. But if they’re extremely insistent on prices that you feel are a total rip-off, then run. Run like the wind. This is already a red flag. Other red flags include being rude or extremely indecisive and having unrealistic expectations when it comes to deadlines.
2. Go Over the Project in as Much Detail as Possible
The little things may seem like common sense to you, but they may not be as obvious to your potential client. There’s a reason that they’re hiring you. Besides, the clearer you are on the project, the more likely it is that the project will go smoothly, since the client understands the entire process.
Sometimes slip-ups do happen, so make sure to let your client know that they can ask you questions about the project when needed. That phrasing is key if you want to avoid a 3 a.m. phone call. Make your business hours clear.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Talk Money
If you can’t talk about money with the client in the beginning process, that’s a bad sign. Whether you do freelance writing on the side or full-time, the bill is the most important part (aside from putting in good work). Too many times, potential clients have asked me to do a project for the sake of “exposure.” Exposure pieces are great if a client has a wide social network and the project isn’t extravagant.
But don’t waste your time if there isn’t much of a gain for you. You have to put yourself first.
If you have substantial rates, don’t be afraid to use this time to talk about payment plans and other ways your potential client can afford your rates. When this route doesn’t work, be sure you both know where the door is.
4. Follow Up Immediately When You Finish a Project
Anything can happen within a month or two. I have higher returns from clients whom I contacted right away than from those with whom I was more relaxed about contacting. Even if this just means discussing an adjusted payment plan, start a conversation so they’re thinking about it.
What does this have to do with running from projects? Nothing. It’s still important to chase and get a return on what you’ve put time and effort into. Never forget that time is money. If you’re good at what you do, don’t do it for free.
And last, but not least…
5. Know When to Say No
Your freelance writing is a representation of you. It’s okay to say no when you don’t have time.
You are your most important client. Take care of yourself before you take care of someone else. Say no when a project is way too big for you. Maintain a relationship with that client, but let them know that you’re “not taking projects of that style at this time.” Saying I don’t know is the last thing you want to say – you can always learn. But if a client is super adamant, it isn’t wise to lie.
You can also say no if you hate the project. There are times where we need to act like responsible adults and do what we must, but freelance work is also about paving your own path. Don’t forget to enjoy it. And don’t forget that it’s okay to run if you don’t.