Career Advice

4 Scenarios When Freelancers Have to Say ‘No’

By Aubre Andrus December 11th, 2014

Freelancers must learn to say “no”—and not just to clients. I’m specifically talking about giving a big fat “no” to family and friends. Why? Your time is precious, and you need time to make money.

Yes, you’re lucky enough to have a flexible schedule. But friends and family often hear the word “free” in freelance and assume you’re open to play, run errands, make dinner, or chat. But the complete opposite is true. You run your own business and should actually be considered the most inflexible person they know.

It’s your responsibility to educate those around you when you mean business. Here are a few scenarios most freelancers encounter that require a firm response so you can get back to work.

Unofficial Holidays

Unofficial holidays like Black Friday or the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are “gimme” holidays for freelancers, according to your extended family. Of course you’re taking off, right? No boss is making you sit your butt in an office chair. But that doesn’t mean your workload disappears or clients aren’t relying on you to complete assignments.

Legitimate excuses like “I’m on a tight deadline,” “I’m working with a demanding client right now,” or “I haven’t met my income goal for this month” should get your point across. If those don’t work, say you have a 5 p.m. deadline you absolutely cannot miss—even if that’s a lie.

Don’t sacrifice your career to put in face time with your extended family. Everyone should understand you are just as busy as someone with a traditional career, and some days just can’t be taken off. You’re the boss, and that’s reason enough.

Daytime Phone Calls

Family and friends know you’re available to answer the phone at any moment —and they may abuse that knowledge. The best strategy? Never answer a (non-emergency) call from a friend or family member during the day. As far as anyone knows, you’re on a conference call or you’re 1,000 words deep into an article or you’re in a coffee shop with no signal. Those with office jobs could be tied up in a meeting, out to lunch, or putting out a fire. Your career shouldn’t be treated with any less importance.

When you call back a friend or family member, do so after 5 p.m. and say, “Sorry, I was busy working.” They’ll get the message loud and clear.

Daytime Errands

As a freelancer, you might think it criminal to not take advantage of running errands during off-hours. Why would you chose to deal with traffic and lines at the grocery during rush hour when you can stroll through aisles at noon? Oh, right. Work.

I’d recommend carving out a consistent block of time every week—say, Tuesday afternoons between 2 and 4—to take care of errands. That way, you can build productive tasks into your work schedule rather than parsing them out haphazardly and potentially ruining a creative flow.

Interruptions at Your Home Office

Even those of us lucky enough to have a home office are still susceptible to constant interruptions. Sometimes a significant other chooses to “work” from home—which means sleeping in then turning on the TV—or maybe it’s the weekend, and family members are nearby.

If you face these obstacles, start by notifying everyone you are 100 percent out of commission for the next three hours. Make a “Do not disturb” sign and hang it on your doorknob, then close your door and lock it if necessary. Lastly, put on noise-cancelling headphones and turn the music up.

If your family interrupts you every time they get home from a traditional job, be clear that the end of their workday is not necessarily the end of your workday. As a last resort, you can even instate a “no hello policy”: Your significant other can’t greet you until you exit your office—the one with the closed door—and initiate the greeting yourself.

It sounds like freelancers have to be jerks, right? Well, sort of. But taking control of your own time, while not easy, is necessary as you build your freelance career. As Tina Fey once said, “Bitches get stuff done.”

Image by wavebreakmedia
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