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Should You Ever Turn Down Work as a Freelancer?

As a freelance proofreader, turning down work can seem really difficult. Not only are you reducing your potential earnings, but you’re turning away clients you’ve worked hard to reach. But you should never feel pressured into taking on work. After all, isn’t freedom the whole point of freelancing? We think it is. So if you’re having doubts about a new job offer, we’ve got some pointers to help you decide whether you should turn down work, and the best practices for doing so.

When Should You Turn Down Work?

There are several instances where it’s best to turn down work. As some general rules, you might want to consider turning down a client:

  • When you already have enough work and taking more on could lead to stress. You may feel pressured not to let a client down, but explaining why you are unable to work will always be better than taking on work you can’t manage. Burning out or delivering work that isn’t up to the standard the client (or you) expects will be far more damaging.
  • If you’re experiencing any illness or other personal circumstances that will affect your ability to work. There come times in our lives when it is best to take some time off. In these situations, explain what you can to your clients and give yourself the time you need. No job is worth sacrificing your mental or physical wellbeing!
  • If the client requires you to work in a document type or subject area you don’t feel comfortable with. You don’t need to be an expert in a subject to proofread a document. But if a potential client wants you to proofread a physics paper in LaTeX and you only have experience working with humanities essays in Word, for example, you might want to reconsider.

In these situations, saying no is not only acceptable, it’s advisable! It’s always better to turn down work than accept a job you can’t manage and risk getting negative feedback.

Clients to Avoid

While you may be concerned about letting down trusted clients, in some cases there are clients worth avoiding altogether. These include:

  • Untrustworthy clients. If a client has given you any reason to distrust them, walk away. Look out for the red flags of freelance scams. It’s worth losing a client to prevent the headache of becoming involved with someone you have a bad feeling about.
  • Clients who are unwilling to agree on a reasonable brief. If a client is being difficult before the work has even begun, it’s probably best not to get involved with them. If a client will not agree to your terms of work, reiterate your position politely and say goodbye.
  • Clients who expect an unreasonable turnaround time. Some clients don’t understand that you are juggling the work of multiple clients at once, or how long it can take to proofread a manuscript-length piece of writing, for instance. Don’t let a client push themselves to the top of your list or put you under stress simply because they’re demanding a faster turnaround than is humanly possible.

Avoiding these kinds of clients will save you a lot of stress down the road, letting you put the right clients first.

How to Turn Down a Client

Once you’ve decided that you want to turn down work, you’ll need to consider how to do so. To say no without risking your reputation:

  • Begin by thanking the client for their interest. This will show the client that you care about their proposal even if you can’t take them on.
  • Explain your reasons honestly. Telling the client why you are turning down the offer will make them much more understanding of your decision. If your reasons may appear rude or are too personal to share with the client, try to phrase your explanation in the best way you can.
  • Point the client toward someone that can help them instead (unless of course it looks like a scam!). Referring a client will show that you’re willing to assist them even when you’re not working for them. They’ll be more likely to come back to you in the future because of this, plus your proofreading associates will appreciate the referral.
  • Be polite and considerate. This means contacting the client as soon as you know that you won’t be able to take them on, and continuing to be friendly and professional should they have any further questions.

Though you may not be taking the client’s work now, they should leave the exchange feeling welcome to approach you again in the future. If you follow these tips, you should be able to turn down work as a freelancer without jeopardizing any of your future business.

Becoming A Proofreader

Choosing who you work for is just one of the many perks that come with freelance proofreading. Another is the fact that you don’t need any specific qualifications to get there. And our Becoming A Proofreader course guarantees you work when you pass the assignments with distinction. Sign up for the free trial so you can see if freelance proofreading is right for you with no strings attached.

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