Having your own business and freelancing is a tricky job to manage. Sometimes it’s stressful because you don’t know where the next job is coming from, and sometimes it’s stressful because ALL the jobs seem to come at once!
If you’re lucky then you’ll have a constant stream of work that keeps you ticking over, but sometimes it goes mental, and sometimes you have to choose between money and self-wellbeing.
I AM RUBBISH AT THIS!! Or at least I used to be.
Until the last couple of weeks, I would accept every job going. Even if I knew I had too much to do already, I’d find time to fit it in, and then I’d totally burn out. I was living on about 4 hours sleep a night for a while and I realised things had to change.
And then I learnt that it’s ok to say no.
And it really is. Whether it be because you’re too busy or maybe you have real life things taking over, it’s ok to say no. It’s about finding the balance between what satisfies your personal finances and what satisfies you as a person.
So, why might you need to say no to a job…
1. YOU’RE FAR TOO BUSY
The work is piling up and you can’t possibly envisage fitting anything else in. Say no. If you don’t, not only will you burn yourself out, but you might end up doing a mediocre, crappy job – and that’s not the way to keep clients. Politely say no and explain that you don’t have capacity at the minute, and then make sure you let them know when you’re available again.
2. THERE ISN’T ENOUGH TIME
If a client comes to you last minute and expects something immediately, they probably expect that you won’t be able to fit them in. Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything for everyone at the drop of a hat – I’ve been there, it’s stressful and exhausting. And not only that, it sets up a precedence that they will always expect you can make time.
A lot of times I’m asked for something urgently, and when I explain that I’m not available until the following week, nine times out of ten they are fine with that – urgent means different things to different people.
From the start let people know your timelines. Let them know how long it takes to make any foreseeable alterations, and give yourself some leeway – add an extra day, and if you get it done sooner, then great! If someone really wants your product/work, they will wait.
3. YOU HAVE A PERSONAL LIFE
Sometimes life takes over. Maybe you are poorly, maybe your child is off school, maybe you’re moving house. Don’t feel guilty. You are allowed to be a person like everyone else out there. You don’t get normal holiday days when there’s someone else to take on your case load, it is you and only you. But it’s ok. You deserve to live your life. Don’t feel guilty.
If you know the client well and you think they’ll understand the reasoning, let them know. If you don’t know them, then just say you’re out of the office for the next week, or that you have a full case load right now, but can fit them in at a later date.
If you know in advance that you might be away (school holidays, operations, moving house etc), then let all your regular clients know in advance. Pop them over an email saying just to make you aware, I am out of the office on ‘x dates’, and will therefore be unavailable for work. Also put a header it on your website, on your contact page and on your email signature.
4. THE PAY ISN’T RIGHT
Know your worth. A tricky one. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to help everyone, and when that client comes to you with a small budget you think “oh, it’s only one job, I’ll do it a little cheaper”. Don’t! Not only are you not valuing yourself and your knowledge, but you’ll end up feeling resentment for the time that you are spending for half the price. Sometimes you’re just not a good fit with everyone and every business, and that’s ok.
5. THE JOB SUCKS!
We’ve all been there right? When you get asked to do a job that just fills you with dread. And I don’t mean the hard work dread where you question if you can do it – of course you can! I mean the dread that the job is actually not in your realm of working at all, or, let’s be honest, just seems completely boring.
You’re a freelancer, you have the right to say no (politely).
6. THE CLIENT SEEMS LIKE A NIGHTMARE
This isn’t too common a problem (hopefully), but it does happen. Maybe you’ve worked with them in the past and they messed you around. Maybe you just get a vibe and don’t feel comfortable working with them. Weigh up the pros and cons. Can you put your feelings aside for the job – is it a fun, exciting project? Is the money good? Or do you feel that it will just cause you too much stress and agro to proceed. If so, that’s ok. Just politely decline.
Do remember though that a lot of clients probably don’t understand the ins-and-outs of your business and the skills involved. If you find you’re having trouble with someone, start off by letting them know your process, your terms and conditions. Set out all the costs involved upfront. Sometimes it’s beneficial to just help someone understand.
HOW TO SAY NO, BUT KEEP A GOOD RELATIONSHIP
First of all, stop worrying so much. It’s your business and you are in control.
- Say thank you and decline respectfully. Tell the client that you like the sound of the project and thank them for the opportunity.
- Let them know why, but don’t give them your life story. Just tell them you are at full capacity but you would love to work with them in the future.
- Make sure that you let them know when you are next free.
Remember, you are only human, and there are only so many hours in the day.