The freelance writer and the art of saying no

By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 At 11:05 AM

I have a hard time saying no, and I suspect I'm not the only writer out there with this problem.  We are stereotyped as being procrastinators and chronically late on deadlines, but often the problem is something else entirely: We find it too difficult to say no, even when we know saying yes is going to overload us.

Over the past year, since I made some changes to my life and started freelancing seriously again, I've come to realize how important it is for me to get better at saying no.  I don't say yes because I'm afraid of saying no; I just fail to be honest with myself about whether I want to say yes.

I think I'm a pretty strong, independent woman, but the truth is I still get myself into pickles because I feel obligated to help people.  Whether it's a friend who needs a favor, one of my families when they're in a bind, or one of my freelance clients, I have a hard time saying, "No, I don't have time for that, I'm sorry."

I mention the other examples -- friends and my babysitting/nanny work -- because even though that's not about freelancing, it still affects my freelancing.  It's all income, but I tend to accept babysitting even when it complicates my schedule unnecessarily, and even when I know I won't back off my freelance work to account for my additional time commitments.

I'm equally as bad about accepting freelance work.  A client gives me a big project or asks for a rush job, and I find it hard to say no, even if I know I'll find it difficult to complete the work in time.  The result is that I sometimes have to choose between missed sleep or missed deadlines (or split the difference).

Like I said, this is something that I've become increasingly aware, over the past year, that I have to change.  Today I practiced saying no.  It was hard, but it had to be done, and I feel pretty good about my decision.

What about you?  Do you find this difficult, too, and if so how do you try to overcome it?


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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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