Some Thoughts on Turning Work Down…

Last week I had to turn down a writing job I was offered.

I never enjoy doing this, but sometimes there is no alternative. So today I thought I would share a few thoughts about turning down work.

Of course, for those of you who are just setting off on your writing careers, turning down an offer of paid work might seem unimaginable. But soon enough you will find yourself in a position where you have to consider this.

One common scenario is when you already have lots of work on and another offer arrives. This has happened to me on various occasions, typically just after a period when work dried up! It’s frustrating, but there can be ways around it.

One thing I have sometimes done is subcontract the work (or part of it) to another writer. This is not something I do with any great enthusiasm, though.

For one thing, I know I will still have to edit that writer’s work carefully and possibly even rewrite it. Also, I will have to pay the writer out of the fee I am getting. By the time you allow for all the extra admin involved and the time spent editing their work, there will be very little money in it for me. If I do this nowadays, it is generally to avoid disappointing the client and try to ensure they don’t stop offering me work in future.

The other thing you can sometimes do is negotiate a longer timeframe. This is easier with regular clients who understand that as a solo freelance I have other jobs that need to be fitted in. With a new client a request for more time may not be so well received – but you can’t put a regular client on the back burner just to accommodate a new one.

The other situation that can occur is when you look at a job offer and realize it’s not something you feel confident or competent to take on. That was actually what happened last week. The job was for a regular client, although it came to me via a new contact there.

The clients in question are novelty publishers. While I can’t go into detail about what they wanted, essentially it involved coming up with a number of “challenges” for a book they were producing (pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, and that sort of thing). I thought about it and my mind went totally blank. I tried a few online searches, but they produced very little I could use.

I quickly realized that this had the potential to be the job from hell. I might have been able to come up with some ideas eventually. But it would have taken me a long time and I couldn’t quote a fee that the client would have regarded as reasonable. So I had to reluctantly turn it down.

Since then I’ve heard nothing from the clients in question. That’s obviously disappointing and a bit worrying, as they have been good clients over the years. I just hope they found another writer who was able to take the job on. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they come back to me with something else eventually!

To sum up, turning down work is never something to do lightly, but sometimes as a professional writer you have no alternative. If you can’t do the job to a good standard and in a timely way, it is better to decline the work, and maybe suggest another writer if you happen to know someone who might be suitable.

* Have you ever found yourself in this situation and had to turn down work – or conversely taken on a job and wished you hadn’t? I’d love to hear your views and experiences!

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