Successful freelance writers know when to say No. That means that they have the willpower to tell people they won’t do the things that can sabotage their success. For some freelance writers, the list is different than for others. Some writers freelance precisely because they want certain freedoms and they want to be available to do certain things. In general, though, it is easy to pick out what to say no to.

No, I won’t reduce my rate

I work hard and I know how much money I need to live the way I want. That’s why my rates are what they are — because it’s what I’m comfortable with. If you’re too cheap to hire a good writer, go out and find a bad one. There are plenty.

No, I won’t pick your kid up just because I’m “at home anyway”

Working from home allows for some freedom, but I am running a small business. If I get up and run an errand every time someone asks, I will be out of business very quickly. If I’m not producing, I don’t get paid. An emergency is one thing, but every yes will cost you.

No, I won’t watch TV during the day

Sometimes the person I have to say no to is myself, and this is one of those cases. There are a hundred little temptations such as watching TV, checking social media, playing a game, going out to lunch, or taking a nice little nap. Those are reasonable breaks if you are otherwise productive, but when they become a daily habit, then the difference between a freelancer and an unemployed lump narrows considerably.

No, I won’t travel across town for an impromptu meeting

There’s nothing worse than meetings. If you can avoid them, avoid them. If they are necessary, do them over the phone or on Zoom. If a client wants you to travel to them, make them understand that they are going to pay you to do that.

No, I won’t answer the phone or respond to emails immediately

It’s good to be available for your clients, but for the most part, they are paying for results, not availability. Twice a day is plenty of interaction — too much in most cases. Unless you are conducting an interview or negotiating a contract, most phone calls are unproductive and people who call or email you ten times a day are not clients worth having.

Ways to say no

There are many ways to say no, gently or firmly. Here are a few:

  • I’m too busy.
  • I have a rule against that.
  • I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
  • I have a scheduling conflict.
  • I’m not taking on additional work at this time.
  • I think I can recommend someone more suited to your needs.
  • That isn’t the sort of work I do.
  • My fee structure is higher than that.
  • I have other commitments.
  • I can’t fit that into my schedule at this time.
  • That would be outside of my skillset.
  • Isn’t that a job you should be doing?
  • That is not the best use of my time.
  • Are you insane?
  • What makes you think I would do that?
  • Have you been drinking?
  • Stop bothering me you co-dependent leech.
  • I’ll put that on my list of things to not get to.

Yes, you’re probably safest saying some of those things in your head. Whatever the case though, get used to saying no if you want to succeed as a freelancer.

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