The hardest thing in the world is for the freelancer to turn down a paying job. There will be times when this is a necessity. The worst thing a freelancer can do for their career and professional reputation is to accept a contract and then blow the deadline. You should only accept a contract if you know you can complete it in the allotted time.
When Should You Turn Down a Job?
It is your responsibility to know when you should turn down a job. There are a couple of ways you can determine this. This is how I do it: I look at all my due dates and the word count due on those dates. I calculate the minimum amount of good, publishable words I need to produce per day to make my deadline. Then, I add in the amount of research I will need to do to complete my job and then add in the lost days I know I will have if I am traveling during that time.
If I can look at that number of words per day and not wince, I’m doing good. I keep a queue going of all of my contracted jobs in a document I look at every single day. I remain aware of my obligations and as job offers come in, I weigh my current obligations against the incoming work and see if I still can do it.
The moment I look at that word count per day and pause, not sure if I can do it, I either turn the job down with regret or I ask if the due date can be moved out to a date that accommodates my current schedule. I will not take on a job I cannot finish.
Figure out your productivity level and schedule accordingly.
Refreshing the Well
There will be times in your professional career where you will hate your job and the idea of writing another word will seem like torture. When you hit this point of burnout (or, preferably before it), you need to pause and refresh the creative well. The only way you can do that is to not write and go do something else. Something that inspires and pleases you. Something that gives your creative writing mind a rest while refilling it with new ideas and new motivation.
This refreshing the well can happen for only one afternoon or one day. Or, you could need to take a week away from the work. Go read books for fun. Go to the museum. Change your physical location or just give yourself permission to sleep in and play video games. All work and no play is detrimental to the freelancer. We all need time to relax and relax that creative muscle.
I frequently take one or two days in-between long projects. I allow myself the time to refresh the well and, thus, have a much more energetic and fresh approach to the new project.
Know When to Say When
Repeat clients and ongoing jobs are the bread and butter of a freelance writer’s life. Regular columns, serial fiction, and consistent monthly world building are ideal jobs for the freelancer—until they’re not. There will come a time when that regular magazine essay becomes just a job and not the joy that it used to be, and as hard as it will be, that is the point in which the freelancer needs to step back from the consistent, regular, repeating work and resign.
It may be nothing more than a lack of time or having said all you want to say that tells you it is time to “say when.” Such is the case with me. I have a number of new projects coming up and not as much time as I would like for this column, Dice & Deadlines. That means this is my last column. However, it does not mean the end of Dice & Deadlines. Geek’s Dream Girl is continuing Dice & Deadlines with a new RPG insider. I know who she is and I think you all are going to enjoy her perspective for the next year as much as I will enjoy reading her column.
This is farewell. Feel free to look me up on the web. I have had a marvelous time over the last year with Geek’s Dream Girl and Dice & Deadlines but I know when to say when and that time is now. Thank you all for reading.
If you have any thoughts or questions or just want to say good-bye, please comment below. I’d love to hear from you.