5 reasons why you should turn down a freelance assignment

Posted on: February 14th, 2013

Welcome to guest writer, James Leckie.

I was an IT contractor in London for several years, before setting up a series of freelancer news sites from 1998 onwards. I’ve worked for quite a few large contract clients, and still do occasional freelance editing and marketing work.

There have been quite a few occasions when I’ve had to turn down freelance projects – even well paid ones.

Five classic reasons for saying ‘no’ to a job

Some of my own site regulars, and colleagues have had similar experiences – so here are five reasons why you might have to turn down a freelance job offer:

1. Needy clients

You can often tell if a prospective client is going to be ‘needy’, and may require you to do lots of extra work beyond your initial brief. They may be fussy, or overly picky when you deliver perfectly good work. If you’re in luck, you may be able to detect such characteristics during your initial discussions with the client, or better – a fellow contractor or freelancer may warn you off in advance.

2. Timing

You may be offered a lucrative and interesting piece of work, but if you are already committed to existing clients, you run the chance of spreading your expertise too thin. This can be a stressful situation to be in – where you let everyone down, and feel drained as a result.

3. Not rewarding enough

Clearly, if the remuneration on offer doesn’t reflect the time and effort you’ll need to spend to complete the project, you will have to decline the offer.

4. Exclusive contracts

Some clients will expect you to work solely for them, particularly if you are a career IT contractor. If you enjoy your freedom, and have any number of reasons to remain a true free agent, then you should not commit to providing exclusive services to one client.

5. Boredom

If you are in the lucky position to be able to pick and choose your freelance assignments, some briefs will be simply too awful to contemplate. These will often be for work that doesn’t use your current skill set, or won’t allow you to expand your knowledge.

Opportunity Cost

The dilemma many freelancers face lies in the opportunity cost of turning down one project on the expectation that a better one will be offered soon after.

There are so many variables that will affect this cost; the state of the general economy, the number of assignments typically on offer in your area of expertise, and how strong your personal network is (if you gain most of your work via existing contacts, or by ‘word of mouth’.)

So, of course, you may say ‘no’ to a potentially difficult client, only to find yourself without work for several weeks. This is probably a general risk we all take as freelancers, and is difficult to mitigate against.

About Me

James Leckie worked as an IT contractor for several years before setting up a series of online business advice sites, including small business site Bytestart, and more recently Contract Eye and Company Bug (both aimed at contractors and freelancers).

Related posts: When do you say ‘no’ to a freelancing job?  10 reasons to turn down a freelance project


2 Responses to “5 reasons why you should turn down a freelance assignment”

  1. Jake Townsend
    February 14th, 2013

    Thanks for the tips. I agree with the opportunity cost bit – we’re constantly hedging our bets that something better will come along :-)

  2. Carole
    February 14th, 2013

    I know! The worst bit is when you say ‘no’ to something because you have something else lined up but that something else gets cancelled. Pet peeve of mine.

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