Friday, April 27, 2012

Just Saying "No"

When I was in business school, one of the ideas that repeatedly came up in discussions about business strategy was that being successful is just as much about what you don't do rather than what you do. I'm realizing that this is true in the world of freelancing, as well.

Today, I decided to turn down a project from someone who was referred to me by my main client, and it wasn't an easy decision to make.

While I enjoy the work I've been doing, I've recently decided to expand and try to take on new clients. Because of this, I was thrilled when I found a job offer in my inbox that, for once, wasn't full of poorly spelled promises for ways to make thousands of dollars a week from home.

Unfortunately, the client was looking for someone to provide ongoing SEO work - while I've done some SEO work for clients in the past, I'm certainly not an expert on it, nor do I particularly enjoy it. So, although it would have been nice to have the extra work, I turned the project down. I tried to be as professional about it as possible, telling the client that I didn't think I'd be a good fit, explaining why, and offering to pass along the name of anyone I came across who would be better for this.

I've only had to turn down one other potential client so far (for the same reasons), and the response was almost exactly the same both times -- they understood, and appreciated that I was honest with them about not being suited to the job.

In the work I do for my main client, I've seen firsthand how easy it can be to take on projects that are 'sub-optimal.' While my real area of interest and expertise is technical writing, I'm currently working on a number of projects for this client that have nothing to do with tech writing, mainly in software development and IT. While I'm glad to have the work, I'm concerned that I've gone, in the eyes of my client, from "skilled writer" to "jack of all trades who'll be available to help us solve whatever problems come up."

Again, I'm glad to have the work, but most of the projects I work on nowadays aren't ones that are helping me build a portfolio, grow my client list, or practice and improve my writing skills.

A friend of mine (an extremely skilled technical writer, actually) once told me that, "money is like education - more of it is always a good thing, as long as you don't think it makes you better than others." 

Hopefully, in the near future, I'll be able to pick up some projects that are more writing-oriented. In the mean time, though, I'm glad for the education (and money) provided by working on projects outside of my comfort zone.

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