It's hard to turn down a freelance opportunity. However, there are times when that “opportunity” really isn't.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for the Plutus Awards website about the 10 things I'd do if I were starting out as a freelancer today. It was a fun article to write, since this year marks my 10th anniversary as an online freelancer. (Congratulations to me, right?)
Since I wrote the article, I've been thinking a lot about item #7 on that list: Don't accept every “opportunity” presented to you. As you evaluate each freelance opportunity that comes your way, it's important to understand what truly constitutes an opportunity for you, and what really isn't.
What Makes a True Freelance Opportunity?
A true freelance opportunity will help you reach one (or more) of your goals as a freelance writer. Before you can evaluate an opportunity, you first need to determine your goals. Some common goals for freelancers include:
- Increase visibility
- Boost your regular rate
- Find new clients
- Expand your offerings
- Boost credibility
You might have other goals as well. Think about what you want to happen with your freelance business, and then figure out how the freelance opportunity in question actually helps you accomplish your goal.
If you are trying to increase your freelance rate, or increase your income, it doesn't make sense to do a lot of work for free (or for “exposure”). If you want to expand your offerings, you might be willing to do something for a discount — just to get your foot in the door and have something to show other potential clients.
Another part of evaluating a freelance opportunity is whether or not it is a quality opportunity that will actually help you in the long run. One of the reasons that I started getting pickier about guest posts and sponsored content on my sites is that I don't want my long-term reputation damaged. I've had people offer to pay me a lot of money to link to online casinos and adult content from some of my sites. While it would be nice to have the extra income, the reality is that it doesn't mesh with my long-term goals.
This rule applies to visibility as well. I once had a site try to get me to provide them with multiple free articles a month in the name of “exposure” to their “great” social network. However, most of those in their social network are people that already know me. I don't need more exposure amongst them. If I want better visibility, it makes more sense to guest post on a site whose readers are a little outside the general demographic of my own sites.
These rules apply to writing for credibility as well. How much time do you have to write for sites with a high credibility factor, but that don't pay well (or at all)? Sometimes I write for a site like AllBusiness or HuffPo because it's social proof I can use. I still kick something over to U.S. News & World Report every now and then, since that's something I can tell my aunts and uncles at holiday parties. And there are times that I “do content” because, frankly, that's what I'm paid to do. As long as it's of reasonable quality, and doesn't jeopardize my reputation, I'm on board.
Before you accept a freelance opportunity, even one that pays well, think through the consequences. Consider how it will make you look. Also, think about whether or not you will be working with someone you want to be associated with. There are times in my past that I've worked with somewhat shady people in the name of getting paid. I didn't feel good about those deals, and there are times I worry that something will happen — even now — that will cast a shadow over my freelance future because of the people I worked with in the past.
There are reasons to turn down a freelance opportunity, even if you think that you need it and will fail in some way without it. Keep your focus on the long-term goal, and be assured that something is a true opportunity before you agree to get involved.