How to Turn Down or Leave a Freelance Writing Gig Tactfully

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At the start of your freelance writing career or during times when work is a bit hard to come by, turning down gigs may be the furthest thing from your mind.

When you are beating the bushes looking for work and checking your e-mail often waiting to hear back from prospective clients and all you are hearing is crickets, you may be wishing that you had the luxury of being busy enough that you could turn down work. Being too busy is only one of the reasons why you may want to pass on a gig. There are other reasons why it can make sense to let an opportunity slide, even if you did have the time to take it on.

Another part of freelance life is leaving a writing gig. If you decide that it’s time to move on from a gig, there is a right and wrong way to let a client know that you won’t be available to take on any more assignments right now. If you have to say, “No” to a client, being tactful is definitely the way to go.

Why You May Need to Turn Down a Freelance Writing Gig

Why, oh, why would you ever turn down a freelance writing gig? When you were first starting out, may have taken on anything and everything to build your portfolio and get your name “out there” as a writer. Over time, you probably became a little more selective about the kind of work you decided to take on. Rather than simply saying, “Yes” to every opportunity that came up, you made more of a point of evaluating the gig before making a decision. After due consideration, you may decide to pass on a gig for the following reasons:

Rate of Pay is Too Low

This is a deal-breaker for many freelancers and if you and the client are not able to come to terms on compensation, then you won’t be able to work together. The rate you feel comfortable charging for a project is a very personal decision.

Some writers have a minimum rate per word or per hour that they charge and won’t budge below it, no matter who the client is. Others are more flexible, and are prepared to take on a project they can complete quickly at a lower rate of pay, since they still meet their minimum hourly rate.

Turning Down the Gig: If you decide you can’t do the job at all, you can explain to the client that your rates start at $X or are in the $X to $X range and you hope that they will keep you in mind for future projects. As a courtesy, you could offer to refer the client you think would be a good fit who would be comfortable with the rate the client is willing to pay.

As an Alternative: Instead of turning down the gig, show some flexibility by preparing a custom package of services for the client’s review. If a client is looking to hire for a long-term gig, this strategy could be to your benefit.

Impossibly Tight Deadline

In a situation where a client wants to offer you a gig, but you are already swamped with work, you may be tempted to just say no because you can’t possibly take on one more thing or your head will explode, especially if you are already under the gun close to month end. Look at your current workload carefully, and if there is no way you can possibly take on this project and complete it to the best of your ability and turn it in when the client has specified, you’ll have to respectfully decline the opportunity.

Saying No Due to Scheduling: If you need to turn down the freelance writing gig because you can’t make it work with your schedule, keep it simple. Tell the client that due to prior commitments, you won’t be able to accommodate their request. If you are interested in working with the client in the future, add that you hope they will contact for future projects.

As an Alternative: Rather than simply giving a flat “No,” or putting your health at risk to meet the deadline, ask if the client has any flexibility in the deadline. It’s possible that you may be able to negotiate a later date to turn in the work that will save your sanity and mean that you still get the gig. It won’t hurt to say that you are fully booked until ‘X” date but can have the work done by “Y,” would that day work instead? By suggesting dates to the client, you are in the driver’s seat in setting a new deadline that will work for you. The worst that can happen is that the client will say that the deadline is firm and move on.

Gig is Outside Your Comfort Zone

Once you have been working for a while, you may find yourself drawn to either a particular type of writing or a few topics. This makes your work easier, because once you get familiar with them, it’s much easier to complete assignments. If a new or existing client comes to you with a gig that is outside of your comfort zone, you may decide that it isn’t something you want to take on.

Saying No to Something Doesn’t Feel Right for You: If, after considering the project, you really don’t feel the project is a poor fit for you, your first step should be to thank the client for having thought of you. Next, be truthful and say that you’re going to have to pass on this opportunity. You don’t need to explain other than saying that it would not be a good fit for you.

Alternative to Turning Down the Chance to Stretch a Little: Depending on how big of a stretch the gig would be for you, do one article or a small part of it on a trial basis. Consider this an opportunity to learn and grow, and keep the client in the loop.

Quitting Job

You Don’t Want to Work with the Client

You’ve heard from the prospective client and found out the details about the gig. The work would be fine, but there is something about the client that you don’t like and you have decided to pass on the opportunity. There is really no polite way to say, “It’s not me; it’s you,” so how do you handle this situation tactfully?

Saying Thanks, but No Thanks: Keep it simple and thank the client for the offer, but say that you’ll have to turn it down. No further explanation is necessary. If you add something else, like saying you’re swamped, that can come back to haunt you. Keep in mind that prospective clients may be able to see what you are posting on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and message boards. The last thing you want to do is tell someone you’re too busy to take on new work and then pop up saying that you’re looking for work.

Leaving a Gig You Already Have Tactfully

If you are already working with a client and have decided that it’s time to move on, it’s important to behave with tact and class on the way out. Here are some reasons why you may want to make the choice to drop a particular client:

  • Your workload has increased and you can’t juggle all of your existing clients
  • You’ve found higher-paying work and it’s time to start weeding out lower-paying clients
  • You’ve gotten bored with the work and no longer feel that you are giving it your best effort
  • The relationship with the client has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer productive

When you decide that you’re ready to let a client go, do so professionally. Finish up the project you are currently working on and submit your invoice as usual.

If you have been doing ongoing work for the client, such as a regular blogging gig, the fair thing to do is to provide some notice that you no longer be providing services. The amount of notice you provide is up to you, but you might want to give at least a couple of weeks for the client to find a replacement.

You don’t need to go into detail about your reasons, just simply send the client an e-mail saying that as of “X” date you will no longer be able to accept any more assignments. If you do decide to say anything, you could say something about wanting to streamline your schedule or take your business in a different direction. That way, the client has a reason without your being confrontational.

Check out these online resources for turning down freelance writing gigs:

 7 Tips for Turning Down Freelance  Work the Right Way

Just Say No: When, How, and Why You Should Turn Down Work

Should You Ever Turn Freelancing Work Down?






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