Why it’s OK to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’

Geraldine Jones

Every Word Counts Ltd | Experienced copywriter, copyeditor & proofreader

Turning down work as a freelancer is never easy, but I recently did just that.

“What?” I hear you say. “You must be mad!”


But I like to think it was a rational decision. And the right one for me.

Let me explain my reasoning.

In the client’s favour…

On paper, it was an ideal gig for a freelancer.

I was always given a choice as to which projects I wanted to take on.

The rates for each job were agreed in advance, and seemed fair for the amount and type of work involved.

The deadlines were realistic.

Both the agency and the end clients seemed happy with my work, based on the minimal amends I was asked to do.

And I got paid pretty much on time, with minimal chasing.

It’s me… not them

So, in many ways, the perfect client. Just not for me.

The problem was that I felt completely out of my comfort zone with the subject matter and the very specific nature of the agency’s briefs. Not just challenged, in fact, but out of my depth.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favour of stretching myself creatively and cerebrally. But I don’t think it’s worth saying ‘yes’ to work that I really don’t enjoy or want to be doing.

And certainly not if it’s going to stress me out. Or make me question my abilities as a writer.

Turning work down takes guts

I guess I’m in a fortunate position compared to many freelance copywriters.

With over 2 decades of freelancing behind me, I’m at the stage where I can afford to decide which jobs to accept and which to decline.

Not only that but I’ve also developed a reliable gut instinct, which has taught me – the hard way – when to say ‘no’.

I’m well aware that not all freelance copywriters have the luxury of being so picky, especially in the early days when it feels obligatory to accept every piece of work that comes along.

But if you do have a choice in the matter, my advice is to listen to your heart as well as your head. Take time to reach your decision. And then be confident that you made the right one.

Je ne regrette rien

As for me, I certainly felt a huge relief once I finally pressed ‘Send’ after much deliberation and tweaking of the email.

And I was reassured when, within minutes, I had a reply from my contact saying she fully respected my decision and admired my integrity. Furthermore, as a former freelancer herself, she appreciated that walking away wasn’t a decision I’d made lightly.

She also wants us to stay in touch on LinkedIn, so at least I know I haven’t burnt any professional bridges.

Over to you

Have you ever turned freelance work away? If so, was it an easy or difficult decision? And have you had any regrets since?

First published on

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