N is for No

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Here are 17 syllables to sum up this post:

No, no, no, no, no.
Never. No way. No, thank you.
Get used to the sound.

That’s right. A haiku about saying “no.” (Pretty awesome, right?)

As a freelance writer, the word “no” can be the hardest word we ever say–or write!–to our potential clients. But you must get used to it. The word “no” isn’t your enemy. In fact, it can be your very best friend.

The truth is, you can’t please everyone. But you can at least please yourself most of the time. And a big part of this is learning how to set boundaries. Turning down so-called “opportunities” that would ultimately make you miserable.

Drumroll, please…

7 Great Reasons to Say “No.”

1. You can’t do the work.

Don’t be ashamed. You have a specific skill set–and that’s a good thing. Those are the skills you’re offering as your services. If someone asks you to do something outside of your skill set–something you know you couldn’t complete with excellence should you accept the gig–then it’s best to turn the work down.

It is so much better to say “No, thank you. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to do that.” and let the client find someone else who can do the job (integrity move!) than to accept the gig and do a crappy job with it (a waste of everyone’s time!). 

2. You don’t want to do the work.

Sometimes a project just doesn’t strike your fancy. If you know you’re going to be bored to tears…bored to the point that you’ll do a horrible job because you’ll be resenting the project the entire time you’re working on it…then you should say “no.”

3. The client won’t sign your contract.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again!): NEVER work without a contract. If a client doesn’t want to sign your contract, you don’t want to work for them. Say “no” to clients who say “no” to signing contracts.

4. The client asks for something outside of your contract.

This one has a catch to it… If the client is willing to pay you for the extra work: Do it. If not? Don’t do it. It’s really that simple. Any services you provide deserve to be paid for.

Dana Sitar recently addressed this topic by saying:

Your clients know when they’re asking for work outside of your contract, or tacking on extra requests that will cost you more time, or being nit-picky with edits or details. But they ask anyway, because they need it.

They decide it’s not their priority to stay within the bounds of your skills, desires, and offers. That means you have to play referee and call them when they cross the line.

You two agreed to a set contract for a reason. Don’t render your contract meaningless by tacking on unpaid additional tasks. If the client wants something extra, they’ll need to pay for it–and you’ll need to draw up a new contract!

5. The client wants you to do something illegal.

This is a no-brainer “no,” but I don’t want you to be caught off guard if you should get approached with a shifty deal. And you probably will. At least once. (My favorite was the person who wanted me to help them defraud their investors. Haha. NOPE!! Pass.).

6. The client can’t afford you.

Repeat after me: This is their problem, not yours. It is not your fault that this particular person cannot afford your services. You’re a business. You’re offering a service. Just like a doctor or a lawyer or a mechanic or a chef.

Your potential client wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and say, “I can’t afford this ravioli. How about you lower your menu prices for me?” They’d be laughed out of the room! And can you imagine them pulling that stunt on a lawyer? Heck no. So why should you have to take that kind of crap?

You shouldn’t.

You’re not running a charity, you’re running a business. It’s not your job to be nice–it’s your job to write.

7. You already said “yes” to too many other people.

You know how much work you can reasonably take on. You know better than to overbook yourself and end up missing important deadlines.

If you’ve already said “yes” to your full allotment of clients for the week, it’s best to turn away the newcomers.

Be honest. Tell them that you’re fully booked. And that you’d love to work with them if they’re willing to wait.

Saying “no” doesn’t always mean you’ve lost the client. Many times, they’ll be willing to wait.

And, when they’re not, you can keep them on file and contact them later. I recently had a man approach me when I was fully-booked and I had to turn him down. I wrote to him after I was free to ask if he still needed someone to do the work. He said that the position had been filled…but came to me a month later with a different project.

Saying “no” isn’t the end of the world. Or even the end of your opportunities.

Be professional. Be polite.

Be ready to say “yes” to success!

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