Being a freelancer is great. You get to work from home, set your hours, and take on projects that interest you. But with this freedom also comes a lot of responsibility.
One of the most important things to remember as a freelancer is when to say no – especially when it comes to jobs that you really don’t want or are over your head. Saying no can be difficult, but it’s always better than taking on too much work and risking burnout or poor quality results.
Here are my best tips for saying no (the polite way) so you can stay happy and productive in your freelance career.
Why it’s important to say no
As freelancers, we often have more free time than people who work traditional 9-5 jobs. This can be great for taking on extra projects or exploring new opportunities.
However, it’s important to remember that too much work can quickly lead to burnout. And when you’re burned out, your work suffers – which can damage your reputation and cost you losing clients.
It’s much better to focus on a few high-quality projects you’re passionate about than to try to take on everything that comes your way. In the long run, this will lead to happier clients and a healthier work-life balance for you.
What to do if you’re struggling to say no
If you’re struggling to say no, you can do a few things to make it easier.
First, take a step back and think about your goals. What do you want to achieve in your freelance career? Do you want to work with a certain type of client? Do you want to focus on a specific niche?
Clarity about your goals will make it easier to turn down projects that don’t align with them.
Second, remember that it’s okay to outsource or delegate some of your work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hire an assistant or virtual assistant to help with the administrative tasks that take up too much of your time.
Several great project management tools can help you keep up with things, so you’re not trying to do everything yourself.
And finally, don’t be afraid to give clients a detailed explanation of why you’re saying no. Most people will understand if you explain that you’re already working on a big project or that you don’t have the bandwidth to take on anything else.
The dangers of taking on too many projects
While it’s important to be strategic about the projects you take on, saying no all the time isn’t good either. If you’re turning down every project that comes your way, you’re not going to make any money!
It’s okay to say yes to the occasional project that doesn’t fit perfectly with your goals. Just be sure to set boundaries, so you’re not taking on too much work and stretching yourself too thin.
How to say no (the polite way)
Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to say no and some of the dangers of taking on too many projects, let’s talk about how to say no without burning bridges.
Here are a few phrases you can use to decline a project politely:
- “I’m sorry, but I’m already booked for the next few weeks.”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t think this is a good fit for my skill set.”
- “I’m flattered you asked, but I will have to say no.”
- “Thank you for the offer, but I’m going to have to pass.”
Remember, it’s always better, to be honest about why you’re saying no. If you try to make up some excuse, the client may not believe you – or worse, they may think you’re just trying to get out of doing the work.
When it’s okay to say yes
Even though it’s important to be selective about the projects you take on, there will be times when you need to say yes – even if the project isn’t a perfect fit.
For example, if you’re just starting your freelance career, you may need to take on a few projects that aren’t exactly what you want to be doing to build up your portfolio.
Or, if you’re struggling to find clients, you may need to take on a few projects at a lower rate than you normally would attract more business.
The bottom line is that you should never take on more work than you can handle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you’re sacrificing your quality of work, it’s time to say no.
Tips for managing your time and workload
You can do a few things to ensure you’re not taking on more work than you can handle.
First, make sure you’re realistic about how much time each project will take. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into a project, so add a buffer to your estimates to account for any unforeseen delays or complications.
Second, try to batch similar tasks together, so you’re not constantly switching between different types of work. For example, if you know you have a few writing assignments coming up, schedule them all for the same day or week so you can get into a flow and be more productive.
Finally, don’t be afraid to delegate some of your work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hire an assistant or virtual assistant to help with the administrative tasks that take up too much of your time.
The importance of self-care
When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to get caught up in work and neglect your personal life. But it’s important to remember that your physical and mental health should always be a priority.
If you’re working too much, you may feel burnt out. This can lead to a decline in the quality of your work and negatively impact your mental and physical health.
Make sure you’re taking some time out for yourself every day – even if it’s just a few minutes to relax or take a quick walk around the block. And don’t forget to schedule regular vacations so you can recharge and return feeling refreshed and ready to work.
So, how do you scale your business?
There will come a time when you need to start scaling your business to accommodate more clients and grow your revenue.
One way to do this is by hiring employees or contractors to help with the work. This will free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business, like marketing and sales.
Another way to scale your business is by creating systems and processes that others can follow. For example, if you’re a web designer, you could create a detailed guide that outlines the steps for designing a website. Employees or contractors could then use this guide to help with future projects.
Finally, outsourcing some of your work can also scale your business. This is a great option if you’re not ready to hire employees or contractors or only need help with specific tasks.
Bonus: This book you must read – The E-Myth
I highly recommend The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book is all about how to build a successful business, and it covers everything from creating systems and processes to hiring employees and outsourcing work.
The E-Myth is a must-read for anyone serious about starting and growing their own business. And if you’re struggling with managing your time and workload, it can be a helpful resource for learning how to delegate and build a team that can help support your business.
Related article: 5 must-read books for entrepreneurs In 2022
It’s important to be selective about the projects you take on and ensure you’re not taking on more work than you can handle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time for yourself and delegate some of your work to others. And when you’re ready to scale your business, consider hiring employees or contractors, creating systems and processes, or outsourcing some of your work.