I Turn Down Writing Projects All The Time
Here’s why- and there is an important lesson about the value of time involved
I have a threshold and it involves two things, time and money. Well, one more, quality of life. I was recently offered an assignment from a content service that occasionally sends me work. The project paid well on a per word basis but after reading the brief I turned it down. I simply could not make money doing it. Here’s why.
The hidden costs of freelance writing
The brief required a deep knowledge of a technical subject that I only have a passing knowledge of. It was sent to me because I have done a lot of tech marketing work. I knew I could do it but I’d have to do a deep dive on the subject matter, which would consume too much time. Otherwise I would not get it right.
Handing in an article that is poorly researched to a client who knows the subject well is a recipe for failure. That’s one consideration. The platform this came from, Clearvoice, allows their customers to rate the experience with the writer and these reviews determine your future success. So the cost of not getting it right was reputational.
The future value of new expertise
If the subject matter had been something that interested me and that I could leverage for future work, I might have taken a loss on the project and viewed it as getting paid to improve my knowledge base and build my business. But I did not think it was potentially lucrative, nor did the subject interest me. So, I passed.
If you are new to freelancing, passing up work is hard
I understand that saying no to a new paying client is tough, especially when you’re learning the ropes and need the practice and money. The secret to freelance writing success, especially in content marketing, is subject matter expertise. Clients know that if you know your stuff, your work will be much better and much more relevant. That, in turn, means you can command higher rates.
To recap, there are times when turning down a project is simply good business. I learned this the hard way when I first started out. I pitched a national magazine a business article and they accepted my pitch with several specific requirements. And they offered one dollar a word, which was not that unusual back then (alas!). So I agreed. And then I screwed up.
I didn’t have any idea how to actually do the project. This was pre-internet and getting up to speed was much more challenging. I realized I could not meet their requirements and ended up passing on the project, burning my bridges with that publication in the process, a doubly costly mistake.
The lesson: Don’t take work you don’t want or can’t do. You’ll thank yourself later.
A final note about that last point. During the past year I decided to only work on things that offered more than a payment. It seemed a luxury but the amount of stress you avoid is worth it. And even if you need the money and experience, start thinking about what kind of work you like to do in a perfect world. That process will move you towards that world on a subconscious level.