How I Learned to Say “No” to Copywriting Opportunities That Don’t Fit

Saying “no” can be challenging, especially for freelancers. I used to think passing on a gig seemed counterintuitive because I needed to pay the bills and put food on the table, even if it meant working extra hours. Little did I know saying “yes” to every opportunity meant depriving myself of future projects that align better with my goals.

Why Is It Hard to Say “No?”

As a freelancer, having enough projects is paramount. It’s hard to turn down opportunities, especially if I have bills to pay and a family to feed. Even if there’s a lot on my plate, I still find it hard to decline a less than enticing offer. I spent years struggling to land clients, so it feels wrong not to accept every opportunity, no matter how small.

Saying “no” as a freelancer isn’t easy. There’s also the fear of a regular client cutting ties if you decline an added project, and they might start finding someone else to do the job.

Some freelancers might also have difficulty setting boundaries. Saying “no” can be challenging for those people-pleasers, leading them to accept projects that don’t align with their interests.

When to Say “No” to an Offer

At some point, you need to say “no” to opportunities that don’t fit. Here are some signs that tell you not to sign up for that new project.

Your Plate Is Full

As a freelancer, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and personal life, leaving you exhausted and overwhelmed. Burnout can also manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach problems. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it clearly indicates you should not accept another job.

Low Rates

Time is your greatest resource, and every project you take on is a trade-off. Accepting an offer with lousy fees means missing out on more profitable gigs, valuable networks and portfolio-building opportunities. It’s about time to know and show them what you’re worth.

The Project Is Outside Your Wheelhouse

It’s normal to think saying “yes” to a project can help you grow. However, declining at the right time can be just as critical to your career success. When you decline something that doesn’t feel right, you save headspace and time for opportunities you want to agree to.

Before accepting a project, I assess if it matches my expertise and experience. If it doesn’t, it might stress me out and take time away from work I enjoy. I only take on challenges when I’m ready for them. It’s all about choosing your battles carefully.

Contract Red Flags

A contract helps protect the business interests of both parties. Without it, your client may wrongly assume they own the entirety of your work product by default. Ensure every project — no matter the size — is backed by an agreement with the following details:

  • Payment terms and schedule
  • Ownership provisions
  • Revision limits
  • Project time frames and deadlines
  • Deadline extension provisions
  • Other relevant details

For contracts with questionable clauses, consider consulting a lawyer to avoid paying compensatory damages and breaching the contract unintentionally.

New Opportunity Doesn’t Excite You

As a freelancer, you can work on projects that make you happy. There are many reasons not to feel excited about a new opportunity — maybe that client is difficult to work with, or the assignment isn’t challenging enough. Regardless of your reason, if you’re not feeling the spark, don’t feel pressured to accept responsibilities that’ll make you hate your work.

How to Decline an Offer Politelyhow-i-learned-to-say-no-copywriting-opportunities-that-dont-fit-copywriter-collective-2

Declining is hard but sometimes necessary. Here’s how you can protect your freelance career against opportunities that don’t fit.

Set Clear Boundaries

Communicate your boundaries and expectations from the get-go. This conversation is crucial before accepting any project. Provide your rates, scope of work and expected deliverables. Being transparent while discussing the offer sets a professional tone and indicates your seriousness about your business.

Stand Your Ground

It’s challenging not to apologize when you’re a people pleaser. Constantly apologizing can make you feel worse instead of better because you feel like they did something wrong when you didn’t.

Ask for a Well-Drafted Contract

If contract red flags are your main issue, insist on a comprehensive contract. It’s your safeguard in case of disputes. If understanding or drafting an agreement isn’t your forte, invest in legal counsel to handle complex details and protect your interests.

Do It Politely

Be grateful for the opportunity, even if you’re not accepting it. The client has put time and effort into informing you of a new job, which deserves appreciation. Say your thanks and provide a brief reason for your decision so they aren’t left feeling confused or blindsided.

Then, provide a referral to soften the blow and support your freelancing community. If you’re referring your freelancer friend, let them know — brief them about the client, ways of working and services. Lastly, wish them all the best and let them know your lines will open for other opportunities.

My messages often go like this:

Thank you so much for providing me with this amazing opportunity! Unfortunately, I’m all booked up until December and can’t take any more work this time. I reached out to a friend who might be interested in the project, and I think they’d be a great fit! You can contact them at — they may be just up your alley.

I hope to keep in touch and work with you soon.

Wishing you all the best!

With just a single email, you’ve graciously turned down an offer while safeguarding your professional relationship and reputation.

It’s OK to Say “No”

They say missed opportunities are chances you’ll never get back, but they can be blessings in disguise, redirecting you toward paths that’ll serve you better. The best thing about being a freelance copywriter is you can choose the jobs you want to take on.

Never feel bad about saying “no” to work that doesn’t serve your purpose. At the end of the day, it’s nothing personal, just business.

Continue Reading: 9 Tips for Maintaining Your Physical Health as a Freelancer.