Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
I’m not a passive person, but I have a really hard time saying “No.”
Especially when it comes to work.
When an assignment or gig comes my way, I can almost always find a way to justify it:
“It’ll be great experience!”
“That byline will lead to a better byline.”
“Ok, so the pay’s bad, but at least it pays something. And I need something right now.”
“I’ll learn something by working on this project.”
“I’ll make a contact or make a connection that will lead to something bigger/better.”
“This will give me a chance to publish a piece that’s been collecting dust since I haven’t been able to place it elsewhere.”
And so on.
None of these reasons is bad, but as the primary breadwinner of a 3 (soon to be 4) person family living in New York City, I’ve increasingly needed to be more thoughtful about that whole “work smarter, not harder” koan. And working smarter typically means holding out for the assignments and gigs that pay better.
For those of you are well-established in your freelance writing career, especially if you’ve worked in the online world with its traffic bonus structures that aren’t so different from pyramid schemes, you’ll know that this offer is a no-brainer of a “No.” But I actually considered it for a day. Here was my thinking:
“I can write about X destination more often!”
“If I combine this gig with 5 other gigs that pay the same thing, I could pay our rent!”
“Yes, the pay’s low, but at least it’s consistent.”
I didn’t talk it over with Francisco or anyone else, but as I mulled over my response, I received email from two other friends who’d been offered the same position for different destinations. Both had realized how much of a pittance they’d be making and they dashed off polite, professional “Thanks but no thanks” messages. That made it much easier for me to open up a new message and write:
“After reading the style guide and looking at the scope of the expectations, I’ve decided that I can’t sign on for this project, as fun as it sounds. As primary breadwinner and mom of a 3 year old, I’ve got to start turning down projects that don’t make financial sense for my family. I hope you’ll keep me in mind if other projects that might be a good fit come up, and I wish you the best; the site looks fantastic.”
It felt good to plug my ears to the siren song of the consistent income, when I know that the massive, almost-never-worth-it trade-off is having even less time to work on the projects and pieces I’m really passionate about.
Do you have a hard time saying no to gigs that don’t pay well? Feel free to vent– or offer a dissenting opinion–in the comments.