As a freelancer, your time is your most valuable resource. Accordingly, you have to make decisions daily about which projects are worth your time and which are not. Even more importantly, you have to make sure your clients will pay you what your time is worth.
Depending on where you are in your career, you may feel pressure to take every writing gig that comes your way. Of course, sometimes you might have to take a crummy job to make ends meet. However, once you’re in a relatively stable position, it’s a good idea to start being selective with the clients you take on. Not all jobs are created equal, and some posts might hinder your career progress.
You shouldn’t ever feel bad about turning down a job you don’t think is right for you. When you’re selective about the projects you take on, you’re choosing to value your work and demanding that others do the same.
However, it’s not always easy to tell which jobs will serve you well and which may not. Differentiating the good clients from the bad can be challenging for old and new freelancers alike. Before you agree to take any job, you should thoroughly evaluate the client, the task and your capabilities.
With that goal in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether or not to accept that next freelance gig.
1. Who Is the Client?
Working with the client is a massive part of any freelance endeavor. Before you accept a job, you want to ensure that you’ll work well with them. One of the fastest ways to determine this answer is to look at who the client is.
When you get a job request, take a moment to look up the client, especially if the request comes from a company or individual you’ve never heard of before. Websites like The Better Business Bureau and secure job boards like Glassdoor can help you determine whether or not a client is legit.
If you find solid results about the client and no other freelancers seem to express concern about the company being a scam, it’s probably okay to proceed. If you find no results on Google, however, proceed with caution — or don’t proceed at all.
2. What Is the Scope of the Project?
When you agree to take a freelance gig, you should know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Most legitimate clients will know what they need and about how long they think it will take. However, some inexperienced clients may be vague about their needs or underestimate the effort their project will take to complete.
Before you accept a job, find out exactly what the project will entail. Ask how much the client needs written, how much research will be required and how soon they expect the project to be complete. If the scope of the project seems to exceed the client’s budget or time limit, discuss your concerns with them, and explain your perspective as a writer.
It’s reasonable to request a more realistic time-frame or higher pay for a project that’s large in scope. However, if the client won’t budge, you may want to decline the job.
3. Does This Client Value Your Work?
When you take on a freelance project, you want to ensure you’re getting paid what your time is worth. Your rate will depend on your experience as a writer and the demands of the project, among other factors. Before you accept any work, you should have a set rate and agreement on how much work should be delivered.
If a client asks you to lower your rate or asks you to do work for free, it may indicate that they don’t value your time — or that they’re looking to take advantage of it. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate an acceptable rate with a client to suit both of your needs. However, you should never accept an underpaying job just because you feel like you should.
Though writing tests and samples are to standard, you should never do spec work for free on the stipulation that you might get paid in the future. Even if you’re strapped for cash, your time is better spent looking for a job that pays what you need.
4. Is This Client Willing to Sign a Contract?
Unfortunately, shady clients do sometimes take advantage of inexperienced writers. A client has stiffed a whopping 44 percent of freelancers, and the hours it takes to track down missing payments are hours of your life that you won’t get back.
To avoid trouble down the line, you need to protect yourself legally. Before you do any work for a client, work out an explicit contract. Though the client might not follow every stipulation correctly, a contract gives you room for legal recourse should they ever try to get out of paying you.
If, for whatever reason, a client refuses to sign a contract, avoid them, and tell your friends to do the same.
5. Do You Have Time for This Project?
Maybe the client is legit, and the price is right. But do you have enough time in your schedule to devote to their project? New freelancers can sometimes feel pressure to overbook themselves to take as many projects as possible. However, taking on too much work can cause stress for you and your clients.
You want to build good relationships with all your clients, so it’s important to know when to turn down work when you don’t have time. If you find yourself consistently having to put in more than eight hours a day to meet your clients’ demands, it might be time to re-evaluate.
Turning down a great opportunity just because you don’t have time can be hard, but it’s the best decision in the long run. When you’re all booked up, you need to decline job offers politely. Just make sure to let clients know that you’d love to work with them when you have more room in your schedule.
6. Do You Want to Accept More Projects Like This?
The last question you should ask yourself before accepting a job is whether or not you want it. Though sometimes you need to accept a job for the money alone, you should avoid taking too many jobs that exist outside your general areas of interest.
If you’re hoping to make a happy career out of freelancing, you should only accept the types of gigs you’d be pleased to get more of in the future, since the work you do today will represent you to future clients.
This rule goes for subject matter as well as content type. Don’t ever feel pressure to take a job that would require you to write on topics you ethically oppose or with which you disagree. Find what you’re comfortable with, and stick to your guns. If you do, you’ll look back and feel proud of all the work you’ve done — not just some of it.
It’s not always easy to decide which freelance jobs to take. However, declining jobs when necessary allows you to cultivate your portfolio and drive your writing career in the direction you want it to go.
By clarifying your goals and weighing the pros and cons of every job carefully before accepting, you can protect yourself financially and professionally and enjoy your work more.