more than myself?

The freelance life: that time I told somebody no


As a freelance writer (or gig worker), I’ve found it’s incredibly hard to tell people no.

If I say no, I won’t get the work.

If I say no, they won’t ask me again.

If I say no, that’s one less chance I have to put something in my portfolio.

If I say no, that’s one less gig I get paid for.

If I say no, every other gig will certainly dry up or disappear.

If I say yes, however, then anything else I’ve possibly drummed up will come asking at the same time. That’s how it works, you know? When you decide to pick up the temporary contract that would take up all of your scheduled work hours, all of those other possible projects you’ve had your sights on will suddenly materialize as well!

A few weeks ago, I said yes to a gig that I didn’t WANT to say yes to because of two things: time commitment and not-super-fun work. It meant working with a software development company to write responses to government Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Doesn’t that sound riveting? I mean, it’s just a tiny notch down from writing the next Great American Novel, you see! To begin with: I would have the opportunity to read dozens of RFPs, and from the government, no less. This is the stuff of page-turners that you can’t possibly put down and go to bed!

In the end, it turns out, it really was riveting, in a way. It put me back in touch with the world of software development that I once lived in for a decade. I missed that world. Of course, my memory of it is gold-tinted and only remembers the glorious burn down charts, the laughter during retrospective meetings, and the perfect production launches (which didn’t actually exist so COME ON, memory: at least don’t make up that one). I have to really dig to unearth the truthful memories of corporate politics, painfully long planning meetings, and four a.m. production releases that fail due to one tiny field that wasn’t updated in a database table.

But back to writing RFP responses: I think I did alright. They even took my first response and sent it to a company that they’ve partnered with to review and offer feedback on these to help them better their chances of winning the bid. They passed on this succinct feedback to me after going over it all on a conference call: “The writing was clean and read well. It was a fairly short call… [they] had mostly good things to say about the proposal…”

In the end, I am glad that I said yes.

But what about the time that I said, NO?

I received an email last week while on vacation. I thought about it all day and I knew: I really, really wanted to say no. I was frustrated about the email so I had to wait to respond anyway, to make sure that my NO wasn’t simply because of that.

But then I remembered: I am on vacation with my family.

Last week, my husband and I took our two kids with us on an airplane down to San Antonio where we met up with extended family for the week.

I said no because I wanted to spend time with family.

I said no even though I would have been paid.

I said no and I’m okay about it.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself: I really can say no as a freelance writer. The world will still turn. I’ll still have writing to do. The cat will still love me.

Do you remember to say no so you can take time for yourself?

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