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Confessions of a Professional Blogger

6 Reasons to Turn Down a Freelance Gig

Not every freelance gig is worthing doing — no matter how much money you are offered.

It’s not always easy to decide which freelance jobs to take on, and which to pass on. Sometimes, money is a deciding factor. In some cases, it’s possible to put up with any amount of inconvenience if you are offered enough money.

On the other hand, though, there are a number of reasons to reject a freelance gig, even if it pays well. Some headaches aren’t worth any amount of money.

Freelance Gig

1. You Might Be Involved in Something Unethical or Illegal

Anytime a freelance gig requires you to do something illegal, your answer should be “no.” It’s also a good idea to avoid gigs that could be seen as unethical. While you might not be breaking the law, you probably also don’t want a reputation as someone seedy. Stay away from these types of gigs.

2. You’ve Been Asked to Work for Way Too Little

Recently, I was approached by a site to provide content. While the freelance gig offered a small amount of pay, the representative kept emphasizing the “great exposure” I would be getting. Be wary of freelance gigs that offer too little, or clients that keep asking you to do more without increasing your pay.

There are some instances when it makes sense to work for free or for a small payment. If you are providing gratis services to a charity, or to a close friend, for a set period of time, it can make sense. Additionally, there are some gigs that really do serve to raise your profile and help you establish credibility. An occasional free piece for these types of publications can be a smart business move.

By and large, though, stay away from “portfolio piece” and “spec” assignments.

3. You Don’t Have the Time

Really look at your schedule, and consider whether or not you have time for the assignment. In some cases, it makes sense to say no if you are afraid you will have to rush through and do a sloppy job. And don’t just look at it in terms of work. What sort of time out of your life will you have to give up to complete the assignment? Don’t give up something important just to squeeze out a few extra dollars.

4. The Project is Beyond Your Expertise

Early in my career, I thought because I had taken a class on graphic design that I could design a logo. I managed to do it, but it took hours, and was not worth the trouble. Graphic design isn’t my area of expertise. Since then, I’ve turned down projects that don’t fit into the narrow definition of “freelance writer.” If you feel like you don’t have the knowledge and skills to do a great job, turn down the project.

5. You and the Client Aren’t on the Same Page

It can be difficult to please a client when you don’t know what he or she wants. In some cases, this can be cleared up with a few questions. However, if you constantly seem on a different page than your client, or if you can’t agree on project parameters, it might be best to just let the freelance gig go.

6. It Doesn’t Pass the “Smell Test”

Some freelance jobs seem too good to be true. If this is the case, than it probably is. Watch out for phony offers. If the pay is really good, check into the company’s reputability. Yes, there are a number of high-paying freelance jobs out there for the skilled and experienced professional. However, some clients promise high pay and then fail to deliver. If you have questions, check into the background of the client, or ask for some of the money up front.

But, really, if you think there’s something fishy going on, it’s better to just say no.

What are some of the red flags you use to determine whether or not to turn down a freelance gig?

5 Responses to 6 Reasons to Turn Down a Freelance Gig

    • That is so true. I actually worked with a client for more than a year. He paid well, and on time. Like clockwork. Then, all of a sudden, he stops sending me pay. I contact him. A few days later he assures me all is well. Carry on, money is on the way. $2,000 later, I stop the work and I find out he’s in rehab. So, yeah, that is one of the downsides to this biz. Even when you do your best, sometimes you just end up messed over.

  1. Hmm. I’ve never seen a gig that seemed too good to be true (well, there was one, that paid insanely well, but that’s in comparison to the generally pathetic rates that come with online writing. And it’s been fantastic).

  2. I’ve pretty much made the mistake of taking on all the gigs that are outlined here. It was a hard lesson to learn, but now I’m making smarter choices. The biggest one I’m dealing with right now is not having the time — sometimes I want to take on the project because it sounds fun, or the money is good, but if I don’t have the time it will be a rush job.

    • I feel your pain. I think I’ve had issues with all of those, too! But it’s great that you don’t have the time. It’s a good problem to have!

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