Should You Ever Turn Freelancing Work Down?

Do you have more work than you can do right now?

Here on Freelance Folder, we spend a lot of time talking about how to get more freelance work…and rightfully so. Many freelancers struggle to find freelance work.

However, there’s another side to freelancing that many experienced freelancers will attest to–freelance overload. This is the feast aspect of the infamous freelancing feast or famine cycle.

In this post, we’ll take a look at this common freelancing problem–that of what to do when you have more work than you can handle. Then, I’ll turn the floor over to you in the comments. You can share your tips for handling a busy workload or explain when you turn work down.

So, Should You Ever Turn Freelancing Work Down?

In a word, “yes.” But, the reasons for turning work down are not necessarily what you might imagine them to be.

You should definitely turn work down when:

  • The client seems shady
  • They are asking you to do something that seems shady
  • You are uneasy about working for the client
  • The client is unwilling to pay you a reasonable rate

You probably already know that there are many ways to say “no” to a potential client.

Is being too busy to get the job done yourself one of those times when you should say “no” to a prospective client?

It depends. Recently, I was chatting with a freelancing friend and was surprised to hear her say, “you should never turn down (legitimate) paying work.”

Her comment got me thinking about the options that we freelancers have (but often don’t consider) when we are too busy to handle a particular project.

4 Options for Getting the Job Done

Do you have to turn new projects down when you’re too busy to get it done yourself? Your first reaction may be that you should turn work down when you are too busy to get it done. (At least, that was my initial reaction.)

Did you know that there are actually four alternatives to turning new projects down that you can consider:

  1. Negotiation–You may be able to keep a project if you can get the client to change the scope of the work or the deadline. Remember, most clients are more willing to negotiate than many freelancers realize.
  2. Organize–Re-organizing your schedule and your office can help you to work more efficiently. When you get organized, you may realize that you have additional time that you didn’t know you had.
  3. Outsourcing–You can give another writer a much-needed career boost by outsourcing some of your overload work. Of course, you’ll need to supervise your subcontractor’s work and pass on client communications.
  4. Referrals–You can develop a reciprocal agreement with one or several other freelancers to share each other’s overload work. Naturally, these need to be trusted top-notch professionals since you won’t be overseeing the project personally.

Of course, each of these options still requires effort on your part. And there’s always the risk that an arrangement could fall through (in which case you may find yourself working lots of extra hours to get everything done).

You may wonder whether these options are even worth your trouble.

Why Accept Even More Work?

Is it worth it for you to accept more freelancing projects when you are already overloaded with your existing projects?

The answer is, “it can be.”

If you manage the additional projects well using one or more of the tips above, then you’ve satisfied that client’s needs. Clients tend to remember freelancers who perform well. The next time that client needs to have freelancing work done, they are likely to turn to you (and you may not be as busy when they do).

On the other hand, if you just turn the extra work away every time you are too busy to do it yourself, then you may be missing out on some great opportunities. It’s possible that you will never hear from those prospective clients that you turned away again.

Your Turn

When you are overloaded, do you turn new projects down or use one of the strategies above to meet the prospective client’s needs?

Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.