Patricia Capracotta 53 articles

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When To Say No to a New Online Writing Project

As freelance writers, we're only too happy to say 'Yes!' whenever someone offers us new work. We want to make a great impression and hopefully gain a new client for repeat business. We also know that we cannot possibly take every writing job that comes our way, so it is always in our best interest to take only those that are the best for us in every way possible.

So how do we know when we should pass on a new writing project? We all have our own version of a 'gut' feeling. Some call it intuition, others guidance, and others still indigestion. Whatever you call it, it's that small voice that tells you to look at something very carefully before you jump in. And I don't mean fear. This is different. You'll know it when you feel it, but to fine-tune your abilities, consider these things whenever you're on the brink of accepting new work from anyone.

You naturally want to keep busy, while having enough writing work to support your needs financially, but there can be a very fine line between busy, and overworked. So to me, the number one reason to turn down new work is when you simply won't have the time to do your best. If you want to leave all of your clients with the best impression not only of your writing ability but also of your response-ability, say no when you have too much on your plate already. A good rule of thumb is, if you cannot say with confidence and surety that you can meet or exceed an expected deadline, you should turn away the job. Mind you, if the client is willing to wait for you and has no problem with your current time constraints (and none of the other reasons below are present), then by all means accept the job. Only you know how much you can safely and professionally handle.

Although feeling stressed about not having enough time to finish a new project could be included in this next one, what I'm referring to more here is being stressed by any aspect of the project at all. Yes, time falls into that, but so does having a distaste for the topic you need to write about, or not liking the work the company does, etc. Even when I write for Criminal Defense Attorneys, there are topics that I simply can't cover because they are uncomfortable for me. This does not necessarily mean that you have to turn down the project entirely unless the only aspect of it is the distasteful topic. Many clients will be willing to work with you and compromise if there are one or two topics you'd rather not cover. As long as you're willing to handle most of the job, you may still be able to accept the offer. Communication on this will reveal your answer.

If the client is willing to communicate with you, in a detailed and consistent manner, you may feel a bit like you've found a pot of gold. (You would be pretty close to the truth too.) One of the biggest difficulties when working with a number of different personalities is maintaining consistent, positive, effective communication. Many of your writing jobs will be online. That means that you will need to be an expert in telephone, email, chat, and perhaps ever video communications to be able to stay in touch with your clients. The majority of them will not have the time to talk to you or guide you all the time. At best, you may be lucky to get a brief idea or summary about what they're looking for, with some details regarding budget constraints and any deadlines you must meet. It will be up to you to make sure that you have everything you need a new client and to communicate directly and succinctly with them when you feel that you need more information. Under no circumstances should you ever take on a new project if you do not receive even basic communication from the client, or if the communication you have received has left you feeling unsure about what is expected of you or how you will be paid.

The communication aspect permeates every step of the process for you as a freelancer. So it's not just about getting clear instructions regarding what the client wants, this is also going to come into play when it's time for you to get paid for your work. Consider that if you're having trouble getting straight answers or responses at the very beginning of a project, you may have to beg, plead, cajole, or face many other administrative nightmares (ie. the check's in the mail for two weeks, etc... )  before you get paid for the work. Don't laugh, this happens more than you might think and even from larger companies with dedicated payroll. At that point, it's too late to back out, but you've learned a valuable lesson for next time about honoring your instincts and the importance of top-notch communication.

Which brings us back to where we started, gut instinct. You may believe that you can't use your intuition for online writing jobs – that you would need to be facing the other person to know how you felt - but sometimes your gut instinct is all you have to steer you away from a potentially devastating experience as a freelancer. If you have a bad feeling about the work, the communication (or lack thereof), or any of the people involved in the project, walk away. That feeling is your intuition telling you that the job isn't for you and that if you take it you may have bigger problems later on, or may very well miss out on something much better suited and more spectacular.

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