Freelance Writing Tip: Know When to Say No

During my time as a freelance writer, I’ve learned a few things that either make the job easier or at least help keep me out of trouble. One of the most important tips for freelancers of any kind is to know when to not do work. I know that sounds crazy because typically the goal is to find work and get you name out there as much as possible. Sometimes, however, knowing when to say no is just as important. If you have entered into this industry, there are several reasons you might find yourself turning down work.

Don’t Let Buyers Take Advantage of You

A common thread in the life of a freelancer is the issue of predatory websites and individuals looking to get a lot for nothing. Working on Fiverr, I have made great relationships with return buyers who are always respectful and pay well, however, I have also seen my share of people expecting a full novel written for pocket change. Now, of course, when you are starting out as a writer and don’t have a reputation to support you, you might not be successful charging top-dollar. You may have to work cheaper for a little bit and get some good reviews to demonstrate your worth. That does not mean, however, that you should accept orders that are clearly far below the value of your work. It also seems at times that the people who are willing to pay the least at the most likely to raise disputes, refuse to pay, or in other ways cause you a headache.

Be Realistic About Your Knowledge and Skills

This one is very important and should be obvious. Don’t try to work beyond the scope of your knowledge and ability. Think of it like this, a podiatrist won’t perform heart surgery. Both the pediatrist and cardiologist are professionals and experts in their field, but they stick to their scope of practice. As a writer, you will have people ask you for help with content that is outside your knowledge base or comfort level. It’s important to not push your limits. I will give you an example. I have a gig writing comic scripts. I’ve done several ranging from small promotional pieces to full comic book scripts. I also have a gig for video scripts, which again, I have written many. I was contacted not long ago to write a script that was heavily influenced by manga and featured a lot of references and head nods to the genre. I happen to know little to nothing about this genre, which is exactly what I told the buyer. Had I accepted an order for something I know little about, it would take much longer to complete and, honestly, yield poor results. Putting yourself in this situation means you earn less for your time and don’t deliver the kind of work that will benefit the growth of your career. This brings me to my final point.

Protect Your Image

Your reputation as a freelancer is everything. If a project is going to look bad on your resume, don’t do it. If it is not in line with you morally, don’t do it. Don’t sell your soul for a paycheck. One more example: I had a buyer who wanted political satire content. I am not opposed to this on its own. However, upon further review, it was clear that what he was looking for leaned heavily more toward propaganda and deception. I do not want to be a part of that, so I politely refused. I’ve also had people ask to hire me to write fake reviews. I understand that that is an unfortunate part of the marketplace these days, but I am unwilling to contribute to it. These are the sort of moral questions you will run into as a freelance writer. Always take time to consider the implications before making a decision.

In the end, the message is the same. Your career as a writer is based on the decisions you make. It’s not only about what you do, but what you don’t do. Knowing when to say no is key.


If you found this information helpful, stick around for more of my articles and check out additional helpful resources below. Thanks for reading, and good luck writing!

The Ultimate Freelancing Guide

Is the Gig Economy Good for Freelance Writers?

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