I got into freelance writing for a simple reason: I needed to earn money. There was no barrier to entry. I could set up a website, start chasing clients and wind up with money in the bank at the end of the week, provided that I wrote quickly enough.
And freelance writing has done well by me. I’ve been able to build up a stable income with enthusiastic clients who come back month after month.
But I Have to Learn to Say No
I have so many projects that I want to work on — more ebooks, a few classes and plenty of other things. Most days, I don’t work on the projects that really interest me, though.
I’ve worked hard and built up a reputation as a reliable writer. I don’t have to chase clients at this point — my marketing and networking is so automatic at this point that I get at least a couple of emails from prospective clients every week. And I can’t say ‘no’ — I’ll write up an estimate for just about any project that crosses my desk, even when I’m not sure how I can do the work. I have an incredibly hard time turning down work.
But that work is just short-term money. If I can clear my schedule and finish one of the projects I’m excited about, I know it will make me more than I’ll earn working on client work for an equivalent amount of time. The long-term wins are so much more that, if I could handle the situation based on pure logic, there’s no reason I should be spending so much time on my clients.
The Scarcity Mindset
Recently, I wrote that writers have to get out of the starving artist mindset. In a way, this is just another example of how it’s hurting us. One of the reasons that I have such a hard time turning down work is that I remember when I was starting out — when I didn’t have enough work to support myself.
I’ve gotten past the point where I can’t turn down any work at all. There were times when I’d take any project with even a little money attached, but now, if a project doesn’t hit my basic requirements, I won’t touch it. As long as it does pay at least my minimum rate and fall into what I consider my specialty, though, convincing myself not to take a project is incredibly difficult.
It’s something I’m working on. I know exactly the sort of things that I wanted to spend the majority of my time on, and the type of work I do for clients doesn’t really fit. The things that excite me today just aren’t the same as when I started out as a writer. I’ve found some ways to make this more manageable: I’m pretty much avoiding any new projects where I’m actually doing the writing myself — I tell clients that I’ll put everything together, but one of the writers I work with will do the actual work. And sometimes, I just flat out say ‘no’ to a new client.
At the end of the day, we each have to do what’s right for our businesses in the long-term. If that means turning down the short-term money, sometimes that’s just what it takes.
Image by Flickr user epsos