How To Save Your Sanity And Say No To Clients
We now have a mere 5 weeks left in our lovely Laos and it's busy. There’s sorting and packing, farewells, finding homes for cats (sob!), end of the school year, holidays, visitors, playdates, shopping and numerous lunches, dinners and get togethers.
And there’s work.
Oh yes, I feel like my work is busier now than it’s been at any point in the last 3 years. How did that happen?!
Here's what's on my plate right now:
I’m doing a communication strategy for a big organisation here in Laos. I probably shouldn’t have taken it on but it was so interesting that I really wanted to. So I squeezed it in among all the above stuff.
Then a friend asked me to edit some of her articles. And they’re about coffee farming against the backdrop of tumultuous history and politics which is also so. interesting. So, I had to take that too.
Then 3 people approached me for new websites. This is my bread and butter and I love the creativity that comes with it. I’ve also spent an age developing a streamlined system to move projects through pipeline without undue stress. So, I figured I could do it. In they went too.
Then a former client wanted website content edits. Another client asked for LinkedIn profile reviews.
Finally, a friend here in Laos asked me to meet up to discuss marketing and comms for a new business she’s starting in Australia. And I had to do that because it's, well, so interesting!
Yep, I’m pretty swamped.
Which is in equal parts awesome and stressful. Awesome for all the new projects and the moolah (yay, my superannuation will get some end of financial year lovin’). But also stressful because how the hell do I fit it all in? While doing all the other stuff and enjoying my last few weeks in Laos.
And it reminds me of that simple concept - just say no.
While it’s glorious to be so in demand in work - and I truly hope you all find yourselves here at some point - it shouldn’t be a stressful thing.
So, in the interests of cutting down on the stress, here’s a valuable lesson - you can say no to clients and save your sanity. Here’s how.
Say no to the problem clients
I’ve been pretty lucky in that most of my clients are easy going, awesome people. That’s probably because so many are referrals. But when your business plays the Google roulette, you can end up with a client that sets off the warning bells. They may be loud or faint but you’ll hear them.
And the last thing you want when you’re strapped for time, is a problematic client nitpicking over your work, asking inane questions and not giving you materials or feedback in a timely fashion.
If you can recognise a problem client early on, be a ruthless mama hippo and nudge them firmly out of the way.
Say no to the stuff you don’t like
Or rather, prioritise the interesting jobs. Because they don’t really seem like working, do they? Those coffee articles I mentioned are like that. I love editing - other people’s work is so much easier to shape and tweak. And the subject is interesting. So I enjoy the work and it doesn’t feel quite like, well, work.
Hello marked comments! I'm loving working that red pen...
Prioritise your existing and former clients
This is no brainer! Retainer clients or even just those who return to you again and again because they love your work are gold. You want to always have time for them.
Of course, you may not know when the urge takes them. The website edits I did for a former client popped up last Friday and were entirely unexpected. But I took them anyway.
The great advantage is that you’re already familiar with the work and with the client’s style, branding and personality. Plus, if they’re a regular, they’ll be more likely to understand if you have to push the deadline back by a few days.
Go for more money
This may sound mercenary but it’s not. You’ve got a limited amount of time and it’s precious. So, you’re well within your rights to increase your prices. And let clients know why - time is really short and if you fit them in, it will be at a premium.
This is a win-win strategy really - if they really want you, they’ll be happy to pay; if not, they’ll walk away and you’ve got one less client!
Just say no
If it’s all too much, then exercise your human right to just say no. Don’t work to the point that it’s stressing you out trying to finish something. That’s not why you became a freelancer. There’ll always more jobs and client - yes, trust me, there will be.
And if working yourself into a lather means you’re compromising on quality, then you’re doing yourself and your client a disservice. Say no, walk away and live to fight another day.
I hope you find yourself in high demand like this very soon! But maybe without the international migration. At least we’ve taken care of the stress.
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is a freelance communications specialist for small businesses and organisations, based in Canberra. She works on Squarerspace web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff".