Health + wellbeing

4 times it’s ok to knock back work

- April 13, 2016 3 MIN READ

When you’re establishing your business, it’s tempting to say yes to All. Of. The. Work. But sometimes, it’s not just okay to knock back work. It’s absolutely necessary.

I’m Emily. I’m a writer. I’m a proofreader. I’m a marketing consultant, social media manager and editor.

I do all this work as a freelancer. Because I’m also a mother who’s decided to remain at home with my children during their early years. And perhaps beyond.

I fit this work into evenings, weekends and the one day each week my children are not at home with me (although the ‘one day’, in practice, becomes approximately five hours).

When I first started freelancing, I said yes to just about everything that came my way. I needed experience! I needed a portfolio! I needed to be able to reference actual living, breathing clients while pitching for new work! I needed to feel valuable again! I NEEDED WORK!

Now, I’ve pulled back.

I know that it’s okay to say no to work.

And I know that sometimes, it’s not just okay. It’s necessary.

Here are four occasions where it’s necessary to knock back work:

1. When you’re too busy to do your best work

Congratulations! You have clients, you have work, and you’re busy. In fact, your calendar is full. Winning!

But now, a new client has asked for some work. It’s tempting to say yes; after all, it’s what you’ve been doing since you started your business. Say yes, and worry about the how later.

But if you’re too busy to give this client the best of yourself, you’re probably better off saying no. You might miss out on the business, but if you can’t produce your best work, you might miss out on the next opportunity with them anyway.

And your work may not be the only thing affected by the stress of trying to fit it all in.

Want more articles like this? Check out the wellbeing section.

2. When you have a conflict of interest

You write for Flying Pigs Inc. You have a great relationship with them and the work is steady. Then Frozen Hell Inc., their biggest competitor contacts you.

It’s a perfect fit! You know the industry. You know exactly what works for the market. You know how to write content that sells, or encourages email sign-ups, or encourages customer engagement. You’ve got this.

But tread carefully. Of course, there are some industries and businesses where it’s not going to matter.

But not all industries are created equal. If you’re a bit squeamish about accepting the job, think about why. At the very least, you should mention to Flying Pigs Inc. that you’ve been approached by Frozen Hell Inc. so that it doesn’t create headaches if they find out later.

3. When you don’t agree with what the client does or stands for

If you have values, whether as an individual or as a business, then it’s important you stick to them.

You may have an opportunity to work in an industry you don’t agree with. You might be approached by a company whose values don’t mirror yours. An existing client may come up with a new project or campaign that just doesn’t sit right with you.

You will have to decide whether or not you work in that industry, for that client or on that campaign, and you’ll have to live by your decision.

I faced this very early on in my freelancing career. I had the opportunity to write for a large corporate with a huge marketing budget. It was tempting. Very tempting.

But the organisation operated in an industry I didn’t agree with. I therefore didn’t feel comfortable writing copy for them.

Yes, they will find another writer anyway, and promote their goods anyway, and pay someone else anyway. And that money could be mine. Mine! But in the long run, I wouldn’t have liked myself very much if I’d said yes. So I said no.

4. When your friend has asked you for a ‘favour’

You do not have to do things for friends for free just because they’re your friends. Even if you have done them before. Especially if you have done them before, and each request gets just that little bit bigger.

As a writer, I get this a lot. Can you just look over …? Can I show you …? Would you mind …?

It’s tough, because often you want to help your friends. But, it is okay to tell friends that you are too busy with paid work to help right now.

And if an acquaintance won’t take no for an answer, you can always prepare a quote. Sometimes, it’s the quickest way to make someone realise what your time and skills are worth!

Have you said no to work? When is it okay to say no?

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"