Also called: How to say no to work and maintain a positive freelance career and your sanity.

Being a freelancer comes with many benefits (allegedly!), but it certainly has its off days, too.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face as a freelancer is probably learning how to say no to work. It can be tempting to say yes to every job that comes your way, especially with a cost of living increase, mortgage rates etc. But, taking on too much work can lead even the strongest among us to burnout and be harmful to your career in the long run.

Given it’s a question we’re asked a lot in our Ask Jo and Liz feature for Zerb, we thought we’d take a moment here to explore the pros and cons of saying no to work, how to maintain a positive working relationship with a company/client after declining work, and end with some tips for avoiding burnout while building a strong network of clients.

The Pros and Cons of Saying No to Work
Saying no to work can be a difficult decision to make especially if you’re feeling precariously balanced with work and finances, but it is important to take money out of the equation and understand the benefits and risks involved.

On the one hand, saying No can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout. It empowers you to focus on other important aspects of your life, such as your health, relationships, training and hobbies. Saying No can increase your value as a freelancer, as clients will see you as someone who has the confidence to turn down work and has the ability to pick and choose your projects. So far, so good.

On the other hand, however, saying No to work can also have negative consequences. For example, it may hurt your relationship with your client, and you might not be offered work again from that client in the future. Their loss! Declining work might also negatively impact your reputation as a reliable and dependable freelancer, which can harm your chances of being hired by other clients. It can feel like a vicious circle.

Maintaining a Positive Working Relationship After Declining Work
If you’ve declined work from a client but still want to be considered for future gigs, it’s important first and foremost to maintain a positive working relationship with them.

Be Professional and Courteous: When declining work, it’s important to be professional and courteous in your communication. Explain your reasons for declining the work and thank the client for the opportunity.

Offer Alternatives: If you’re unable to take on the work, offer alternative solutions, such as referring the client to another freelancer or suggesting alternative timelines for the project. We love doing this first one in particular because ‘what goes around, comes around’ and we often receive referrals in return.

Keep in Touch: Stay in touch with the client, even if you’re not working on a project together. This helps to maintain the relationship and keeps the door open for future opportunities. If you’re simply unavailable because you’re on holiday, send them an “I’m back” email on your return.

Provide Feedback: If you’ve declined work because you’re feeling overworked or burnt out on their jobs, consider providing feedback to the client on how they can better manage the workload and help their crews avoid burnout in the future.

Avoiding Burnout and Building a Strong Network:
As a freelancer, we all know it’s important to take steps to avoid burnout, while also building a strong network of clients.

  1. Set Boundaries: Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. This includes setting your work hours, taking breaks, and taking time off when needed.
  2. Manage Your Workload: Make sure you’re not taking on too much work at once. Consider saying No to work that will take you away from your core skills and areas of expertise.
  3. Network: Attend industry events and conferences, join professional organisations, and connect with other freelancers and clients on social media. Building a strong network can help you find new opportunities for work and expand your client base.
  4. Take Care of Your HEALTH: So important we’ve put it in CAPS!
    Make sure you’re taking care of your physical and mental health. This includes exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. You can also try to take time to practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or therapy if needed. Your health should be a top priority, as it will directly affect your ability to perform well in your work.

Diversify Your Skills:
Diversifying your skills and offering new services can help you stay relevant and in demand. It can also prevent burnout by keeping your work fresh and exciting. Look at CPD and what your fellow freelancers are studying or upskilling in.

Delegate: Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others where appropriate, such as virtual assistants, bookkeepers or subcontractors. This will free up valuable time for you to focus on more important tasks.

In conclusion, it’s always going to be tough saying no to work but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and make the right decision for you. Maintaining a positive working relationship with clients after declining work is also key, and can be achieved through professional and courteous communication, offering alternatives, staying in touch, and providing feedback. To avoid burnout and build a strong network, it’s important to set boundaries, manage your workload, network, take care of your health, diversify your skills, and delegate tasks when necessary. By following this advice you can hopefully ensure a successful and fulfilling career in film and tv!

If you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or just need some guidance, get in touch, and we’ll help you navigate life’s challenges with clarity and confidence using our award-winning Equa Approach® from Jo and Liz at Fusion Film and TV.