Friday January 22, 2021 By David Quintanilla
When To Say No To Freelance Projects — Smashing Magazine

About The Writer

Becca is a UX Researcher with a PhD in Human Elements Psychology. She runs the UX consulting firm Kennason. She lives in Albany, New York along with her husband, …
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For hungry freelancers, it may be laborious to show work away. However in the long term, saying no to a undertaking that’s a nasty match will make you a greater freelancer. This text will assist freelancers and consultants suppose critically about when to say no a chance or request and the way to take action assertively however kindly.

Lots of feel-good life recommendation encourages us to say sure to new issues every time we will. This philosophy of openness can sound fairly engaging while you’re a freelancer or advisor simply starting to face tall by yourself — or using a excessive of a string of excellent initiatives.

And it’s true that saying sure can assist you develop! Saying sure to new shoppers, initiatives, and companions helps you make connections, construct your portfolio, and evolve professionally. Saying sure can even result in paying jobs, which result in much more paying jobs.

However saying no — on the proper instances — may be simply as crucial to the success of our self-employment. Increase the power and ability to say no is a part of a profession evolution and, for my part, one of many final objectives for profitable freelancing.

It’s not all the time simple to say no work, although. We will really feel reluctant to show issues down as a result of we wish to make shoppers blissful. We additionally must really feel safe with our earnings and prospects, and saying no can definitely really feel dangerous once we wish to make certain our payments will receives a commission.

On this article, I’ll share with you what I’ve discovered in regards to the significance of recognizing when it’s higher to say no to a contract alternative. It may possibly really feel scary to go work to another person, however it will likely be okay and you’ll garner a stable sense of self-understanding within the course of. The data on this article is usually about saying no to new initiatives, however can even apply to saying no when a present consumer asks for extra work than you’ve already agreed to do.

The Significance Of Saying No

Saying sure typically results in shocking, thrilling outcomes, however so does saying no.

Earlier than we get deeper into particulars of when and find out how to say no to freelance alternatives, take into consideration how this sort of selectivity could impression your wellbeing. Think about solely engaged on belongings you love? Committing to lackluster initiatives or disagreeable shoppers means you would possibly end up unavailable when an ideal undertaking exhibits up in your inbox. Once you say no to initiatives that simply aren’t proper, you save time and headspace for issues that you’ll want to say sure to.

Saying no additionally helps you keep away from or recuperate from burnout. Most freelancers will expertise burnout at instances. Burnout occurs once we work too laborious and run out of steam — actually because a consumer is unhealthy for us, or as a result of we tackle an excessive amount of, or each. Taking breaks and being deliberate about taking day off (which means, saying no typically) is a beneficial pursuit in your private wellbeing, to not point out your long-term skilled output. It’s okay to say no to one thing while you don’t have the eagerness or vitality for it. Be form to your self.

How To Resolve Whether or not To Take On A Venture

Is The Venture A Match For Your Experience?

One of many first issues to consider when contemplating a contract alternative is whether or not it’s match in your abilities and your degree of expertise.

I’m a UX advisor and I like doing lots of various things, however my core experience is consumer analysis. If a possible undertaking just isn’t a precise match for my abilities, or if it’s not one thing I get pleasure from, I’ll sometimes decline. For instance, if anyone asks me to do an accessibility assessment for his or her web site, I do know there are lots of expert freelancers who can do a a lot faster job with it than I might. I’d refer anyone if I do know they’re .

Equally, a great undertaking ought to match your degree of expertise. If the work is simply too far under your expertise degree, it could be boring and sure not pay sufficient. If it’s too far above, you would possibly end up too harassed in and out over your head. For me, if an organization is on the lookout for a UX freelancer to “make wireframes” with out digging into analysis or design technique, I do know that’s most likely a job for anyone extra junior or with completely different pursuits.

Consider it this manner. In case you say sure to a request that isn’t match, chances are you’ll really feel resentful about it. You would possibly spend an excessive amount of time on it. You would possibly even ship outcomes that aren’t nice. So though saying sure is usually a technique for growing abilities or studying new issues, it solely works if the undertaking is consistent with your objectives and doesn’t stretch too far past what you already know you are able to do nicely. In any other case, it could be a nasty expertise for you (and perhaps the consumer, too).

Is The Finances Sufficient?

If a undertaking doesn’t pay sufficient, ask for extra or say no. Easy!

Properly, okay, I do know it’s not that straightforward. Generally we’d like the cash. But it surely turns into simpler to say no to low-paying jobs while you 1.) are educated about your value and a couple of.) have a monetary cushion. Both of this stuff could take time, however the aim is to say no to initiatives which might be under a minimal quantity that you’ll contemplate. Alongside these strains, you don’t wish to devalue your value by saying sure to too many out-of-scope extras.

Pricing is its personal beast that I received’t get into right here, however as soon as you already know your value, stand strongly with it! Over time, the costs you cost can improve together with your worth, and finally, chances are you’ll go work right down to extra junior freelancers. Additionally, keep in mind that you’re a skilled who represents your trade, and when freelancers repeatedly say sure to very low costs for our providers, it may well impression everybody else in that specialty by devaluing our abilities or experience general.

So, don’t make it a behavior to simply accept initiatives that pay under your worth until you might be purposely working professional bono for trigger. After all, once more, typically we’d must tackle low-paying work simply to “preserve the lights on” with our enterprise, and that’s okay. Having a monetary cushion finally helps us say no to those gigs and maintain out for better-paying alternatives. For me, it helps to maintain my dwelling bills low so I really feel extra assured letting work alternatives go by.

Does The Venture Match Your Schedule?

When your schedule is busy, it’s simple to say no an undesirable undertaking. However what when you aren’t at present busy with work? Think about your pipeline, upcoming schedule, and monetary cushion to resolve whether or not a mediocre undertaking is value doing. You probably have loads of time, it would make sense to say sure to one thing even when it’s not an important match.

And alternatively, what if the undertaking is one thing you really actually wish to do, however time is tight? Think twice about your present commitments and deadlines and whether or not a brand new undertaking is doable. If not, chances are you’ll must regretfully decline or ask for another timeline. Saying sure to a undertaking you don’t even have time or vitality to do nicely — as a lot as chances are you’ll want you probably did — is sadly a recipe for late nights or upset shoppers. And keep in mind, having the time and vitality to say sure to good initiatives is one more reason to say no to unhealthy initiatives!

Generally whether or not a undertaking matches in your schedule is determined by whether or not you may work one thing out with the consumer. A transparent undertaking scope (understanding particularly if you find yourself wanted, and for what) will enable you to plan your time and make choices about taking over new issues. In the case of scope, additionally contemplate whether or not the consumer’s proposed timeline is simply too brief for the quantity of labor required — that is tremendous widespread, and it’s okay to supply to do the identical undertaking on an extended timeline, or a smaller model of the undertaking inside the proposed timeline, in order that it turns into extra manageable to suit into your schedule.

The fact of freelancing is that it’s typically a guessing sport in the case of pipelines, scheduling, and balancing your workload. But when you already know a undertaking doesn’t match into your schedule, ensure you say no shortly. You’ll be able to all the time let the requester know while you anticipate that your schedule will release, and perhaps one other undertaking will work out later.

Does The Alternative Align With Your Values?

Along with the experience wanted, finances provided, and time required, verify in on whether or not the undertaking is consistent with your values and objectives. Take into consideration your intestine emotions right here. What are some industries or firms you wish to keep away from? What sort of initiatives make you content? Flip these intestine emotions right into a concrete listing.

Listed here are just a few elements to consider:

  • Does this undertaking assist transfer you towards a much bigger aim?
  • Do you discover the undertaking personally fascinating?
  • Do you imagine your work on the undertaking will assist folks in a significant approach, or do some form of social or environmental good?
  • Is that this undertaking supporting an trade or firm that you simply contemplate unethical? (Kelly Small talks about in search of moral work and saying no to unethical work of their ebook The Acutely aware Inventive!)
  • Do you favor working with startups or established firms?
  • Do you favor working in small groups or huge ones?
  • Do you favor distant or in-person work?
  • Do you favor subcontracting with different businesses or do you favor direct shoppers?
  • Have you ever labored with this consumer earlier than and what was that like?
  • Will having relationship with this consumer probably result in different good work?
  • Does it appear to be the consumer will respect you?

You’ll be able to create a customized guidelines or ranking sheet that can assist you establish whether or not a undertaking is value doing. Burnout occurs rather a lot faster when our work is emotionally taxing, so consider your private values and preferences when deciding whether or not to say sure or no to alternatives. In spite of everything, working for your self ideally means you get to name the photographs.

Decline Assertively (However Kindly)

Once you’ve determined a “no thanks” is so as, it’s vital to be clear that you’re declining whereas nonetheless holding the temper gentle and productive (until they’ve egregiously offended you, I suppose).

First, I like to recommend expressing gratitude for the chance. Thank the requester for considering of you, going via the interview course of with you, or no matter they’ve performed. It takes effort and time on their finish to rent freelancers or consultants.

Second is the vital half: saying no. Be clear that you’re declining. You’ll be able to briefly clarify why when you’d like, however you don’t have to elucidate your reasoning when you don’t wish to. Simply reply in a well timed approach so the consumer can transfer on.

In case you fear about offending somebody, please don’t! Be assertive in order that while you say no, the reply is agency. If you consider the three predominant communication types — assertive, passive, and aggressive — the concept is to be clear (assertive) whereas avoiding coming throughout as too passive or aggressive.

Most individuals will respect a transparent and trustworthy reply. I’ve solely as soon as had somebody reply rudely to an e mail wherein I politely declined to fulfill, however that aggressive response cemented that I doubtless saved myself lots of aggravation by not working with them.

Third, when you’ve stated no, you would possibly supply some subsequent steps or options when you suppose it’s acceptable. In case you are open to discussing future work, allow them to know. Be clear in regards to the situations below which you could be extra more likely to say sure — similar to after a sure date, or if they’ve a necessity for a unique space of your experience.

You additionally would possibly recommend different freelancers if you already know anybody who could prefer to tackle the undertaking, or who could be a greater match than you might be. In case you don’t have particular names to supply, you may recommend assets to search out freelancers, like listings for skilled group members. You may also supply to share the chance with different freelancers in your community, similar to on social media or in Slack teams.

Right here’s an instance of how an e mail declining a undertaking alternative would possibly look:

Hello [name],

Thanks a lot for considering of me for [project description]. This undertaking doesn’t appear to be an important match for [my experience level / my current interests / my schedule / etc.] so I’m declining, however I can [share it on LinkedIn / connect you with another freelancer I trust / etc.], when you’d like.

Additionally, when you have future alternatives for [something else you’d like to do / something after a certain date / etc.], I’d love to listen to about it. Keep up a correspondence!


Saying no is a ability. Saying sure to the incorrect freelance alternatives can lead you towards distress and burnout, and we may all most likely enhance how aware we’re about our work, companions, and shoppers.

Keep in mind, when you’re undecided whether or not to simply accept a undertaking, suppose via:

  • Normal Match
    Is the undertaking a match in your abilities and your degree of experience?
  • Finances
    Would you be promoting your self or your discipline brief by taking over the undertaking for a low value?
  • Timeline
    Would the undertaking battle together with your current commitments? Is the consumer wanting an excessive amount of in too brief a timeframe?
  • Values
    How good would you’re feeling about this undertaking? Is it consistent with your values, objectives, and preferences?

Think about every thing collectively. A low-paying job would possibly nonetheless be match if it’s for trigger, or if it will get you crucial expertise to maneuver towards a much bigger aim. Think about making your individual customized guidelines or ranking sheet that can assist you fee previous, current, and future initiatives and get a greater understanding of which alternatives needs to be left on the desk.

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