Why You Should be Turning Down Freelance Writing Work

What? Turn down freelance writing work? I thought you were here to tell me how to get more freelance writing work?

Don’t stop reading just yet. Hear me out…

You see something keeps happening that feels a bit strange to me.

It started a while ago and I’ve noticed it’s been happening much more lately. I’ve also noticed that the more it happens the more productive I am and the more money I make from my freelance writing work.

What’s more, this is not one of those things that’s happening to me while I passively sit by and watch – this is something that I’m actively and purposefully doing.

I’m bringing this on myself.

So what is this strange occurrence?

Well, I sort of keep turning down freelance writing work.

It’s not ‘sort of’ actually; I point blank, unabashedly keep turning down the work.

There I said it.

>> I went from full-time worker to full-time writer online – from scratch. Find out how you can do the same RIGHT HERE.

So how might this help you?

To explain let’s go back to the very beginning of your freelance writing career. The very beginning (even if it wasn’t that long ago.) If you started from scratch, as most of us do, there’s no denying that it was probably pretty tough.

There’s no two ways about it – if you want this life you have to work damn hard at it. In the beginning you’re constantly on the look out for freelance writing work of any nature – and I mean anything – that will pay the bills, build your portfolio and perhaps lead to more interesting, better paid work somewhere down the line.

At an undefined point along this bumpy road however, you suddenly become aware that something has changed. There’s been a switch. You were too busy to notice it at first (and of course that’s sort of the point here) but you’ve suddenly realised:

You’ve got freelance writing work.

Lots of it. You’ve got clients. You’re busy. Too busy – in demand even.

Will you even have time this week to write that blog post for Client X or research that new article for Client Z? Perhaps you haven’t had time to tend to your own website or blog for longer than you’re comfortable with. As for making time to interact on social media or market yourself for more freelance writing work in the future – forget about it.

But this is what you wanted, right? You wanted lots of freelance writing work; you wanted to be busy. The trouble is, now you can’t cope with the workload – a workload that probably isn’t even covering half your bills.

So what do you do about it?

Firstly if you haven’t done so already read my post on Why You Need to Make Freelance Writing Your Business (Not Your Hobby). It’s always important to be in a business frame of mind as far as your freelance writing career is concerned.

Secondly you need to increase your rates. No, don’t feel embarrassed or coy about this – you’ve put in the groundwork; you have experience and a portfolio of work to show for it, so why shouldn’t you be paid what you’re worth?

Work out how much you need to earn per hour in order to make a comfortable career out of this. Take into consideration things like taxes, bank holidays and sick days and break it all down from your ideal annual salary to an hourly rate. However busy you feel it really is worth taking the time at this juncture to just sit down and crunch some numbers.

Once you’ve worked out your hourly rate (or set rate per word if you’re more comfortable with this) don’t take on any more freelance writing work for anything less. You heard:

[Tweet “Turn down all freelance work that doesn’t pay what you know you’re worth.”]

It really is that simple. It will feel strange at first, as it did for me, but you’ll soon find people will respect your work and your time a lot more. Naturally some clients will be unwilling to pay you sufficiently for your time, and that’s OK too. In fact this is why it works so well – you’ll find that all that time spent on low paying freelance writing work is now free for you to spend more productively.

You can spend your time working for clients who know your worth, making them happier and more likely to hire you in the future and recommend you to others.

So yes, it does feel strange at first but turning down freelance writing work can be the best thing you ever did for your writing career. I wouldn’t necessary recommend this approach until you’ve got to a stage where you can prove your mettle as an adept, capable and reliable writer.

But you’ll know when the time is right. Trust yourself. Do what you have to do.

>> Get step-by step instructions on how to earn a living from freelance writing online, including pitching templates and proven strategies to attract writing clients, in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.

9 thoughts on “Why You Should be Turning Down Freelance Writing Work

  1. Kirsty:

    I haven’t been paid a dime yet as a freelance writer. My blog does finally pay for itself, which is a wonderful thing. I invested a good bit getting started out and there is the continual investment of paying for my e-mail service (quarterly) and anti-virus software (a yearly charge, and yes, it’s a business expense because all my work is on my computer), etc. I make a little bit of money through my Amazon Associate’s links and a little bit of money through a link to a health product I am a distributor for, but that’s it. Still, I’m thrilled that my site is paying for itself.

    Six months ago I decided that I needed to extend my freelance work to actually get PAID for it. I’ve been learning, putting myself out there a little bit. So far I’ve only been offered one gig…and I turned it down! It was for a local women’s mag that I respect. Initially I contacted them and was told (politely) “no, thanks.” Then a month ago they contacted me and offered me $30-$35 per magazine article. Sorry, but that would mean making way less than my minimum. We parted company on good terms.

    Bottom line for me, just because I’ve never been paid yet for my writing (actually that’s not entirely true…I did get paid for some mag writing 20 years ago!) – in any case, I am not going to start writing for others for peanuts. The time I would spend can be better used building my blog, working on e-guides for Kindle or sending out pitches. I learned from all my research on various freelance writing sites that low-balling your prices does you no favors, even if you’re just starting out. I simply won’t do it. My time is too precious and valuable.

    1. Agreed Anne. Getting freelance writing work that pays peanuts is no way to make a living. I did it back when I was first starting out so I know! The only way I’d advocate agreeing to be paid anything below what you’ve worked out your hourly or set rate to be is if you’re solely doing it to build up a portfolio from scratch (I’ve written about this before). Even then, there are so many ways to do this now what with blogging and the like that even this is questionable – and definitely shouldn’t be done for too long.

      Well done you for turning down that magazine work – politely turning it down and parting on good terms will do more for your writing career and self esteem than you probably realise! All the very best to you and thanks for leaving such an insightful comment – as you say, your time is precious and valuable so I appreciate it.

  2. Great post Kirsty and it’s exactly where I’m at. It was difficult initially but it’s freed up my time to write for the clients who will pay my rate. I recommend this approach to all freelancers who are serious about their writing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kate. This definitely seems to be the ideal way to solve two of the most common problems that freelance writers are faced with: earning enough to make a living and having enough time to actually do all the work we accept! It’s the classic catch 22 situation that most freelancers of any trade are faced with at one point or another. Sticking by your rate and turning down low-paying work can really make the difference between being a success or not.

  3. Powerful stuff, Kirsty.

    Being in a position to turn down poorly paid work is a fantastic feeling. However, the hard work to find yourself in that place should never be forgotten.

    Far too many freelancers sell there soul’s for just a few bucks. Perhaps it is not surprising that the quality of some of the content that can be found on the web is a little poor.

    Thanks so much for sharing your succinct points.

    All the best,

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback Glenn. I agree – particularly about the hard work that goes into getting to that stage. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. My first year was very difficult. I worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week through a bidding site and still had to dip into my credit cards. After I got better paying clients, I started making much more in 3 six hour days than I made before. I still like to stay busy, but won’t take poorly paying assignments. I feel like I’m cheating myself and other freelancers. It’s just not worth it on any level.

    1. You’re so right, Rob. I couldn’t agree more. Good to hear you’ve moved into the world of better paying clients now. All the best!

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