When to Say No: 4 Signs Freelancers Should Not Ignore

They say beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’re a new freelancer, you’re likely of the belief or you’re likely being told that you can’t say no to anyone at your stage of the game. And this may be true to a certain extent. You certainly can’t always have your “ideal” clients when you’re just starting out. In the beginning, you’re not likely to have any at all. As one friend and mentor rightly told me several years ago: “You have to pay your dues.” He was absolutely right and it’s important to have the patience and fortitude to pay your dues even when it gets tough.

However, as you grow, you’ll not only get more selective, but you’ll develop a keener sense of when to enter into a deal and when to say no. The truth is some clients or business arrangements are more trouble than they’re worth. Something that may promise short-term gains may end up costing you dearly down the line. Furthermore, if the terms and expectations aren’t communicated clearly from the outset, you leave yourself open to a whole lot of trouble.

So, how do you know whether or not it’s a good idea to go into business with someone? There are often certain signs or phrases to watch out for that should serve as red flags. If you experience any of the following, the “bullshit meter” in your head should alert you to stay away or proceed with caution.

“We’ll have a lot more work for you in the future.”

Don’t get suckered by this line. Many new freelancers get seduced into working for pennies on the dollar with promises that it will lead to more projects later on. Often, these ‘future projects’ never materialize. Freelancers should not hold their breath and rely on these promises. While the other party may indeed deliver on occasion, in my experience and in my discussions with seasoned CEOs of successful client-service based businesses, those who present a modest offer with the promise that there will be more work later on rarely ever come through in the end.

Won’t commit to a price or sign a contract before you start, but needs it right away.

Be very wary of prospects who reach out to you so anxious to get started that they don’t even have time to commit to a price or sign a contract before you start. You may hear them use phrases like: “I need this done right away,” or the obnoxious “I need this done yesterday” (nails on a chalkboard). Either way, don’t start the work until you agree on a price and put it in writing. If it’s truly a rushed job and you agree on a fee, then you don’t have to necessarily sign an agreement before you start, but make sure the person pays you up front. With pay apps, such as Venmo, PayPal, and Square Cash, there is no reason why not. Feel free to charge slightly above your normal rate if a rushed job will take you away from other deadlines and client work or put a significant strain on your schedule.

Patronizing or disrespectful attitude. 

If you’re a new freelancer or even if you’re not so new, and especially, if you are young, you are more likely to deal with leads who might be skeptical of your abilities. Don’t take it personally. From their perspective, it makes perfect sense to doubt you and this is simply a reality of the market. I recommend using your feelings of being underestimated as added motivation to do work that is above and beyond for your clients! However, be wary if the other party seems to think you’re not yet capable of executing on a high level. Reason being, they may see you as someone they can take advantage of. If they provide mentorship, friendly guidance, and constructive criticism, that’s great! But, if they seem to derive pleasure from chastising you, undermining your performance, and reminding you of your inexperience, chances are they are under the impression that they can deal less than fairly with you. Yes, you have to pay your dues. No, you don’t have to put up with bullying or dishonesty.


If someone refuses to give you an offer that you find reasonable, chances are they don’t really value the service you provide. Likely, it has nothing to do with you. You may indeed have convinced them that you’re very good at your craft, but they simply aren’t willing to pay for it. In that case, make a cost-benefit analysis. If you think it’s worth it, then by all means. You may need the money or the potential boost to your portfolio. Perhaps, the person is influential and a good person with whom to connect. However, people who buy you solely on price are usually the biggest pains in the ass. Because they are not buying your “why” and don’t truly appreciate what it is you offer, expect them to fight you tooth and nail about price every step of the way.

Remember, when you’re a freelancer, you have the power to pick your clients. If you look at yourself as desperate and incapable of ever saying no, you will communicate this quality to every prospect you meet and you will be treated accordingly. If you’re new, you’re going to have settle for deals that may not be in your favor, but be careful to avoid setting a precedent that will be hard to escape from later on. Often, it comes down to mindset and how you view yourself. Talent, ability, and experience are very important, but if you don’t view yourself as having something to offer, neither will others. If you think you’re great or you think you’re not, either way, you’re right.


5 Ways to Get Paid What You’re Worth

You don’t get paid what you’re worth, you get paid what you negotiate.

These words first said to me by a friend and mentor are etched in my mind whenever I’m talking facts and figures with a lead.

If you’re a freelancer, you would do well to remember these words as well. Even if you’re not a freelancer, this is an important lesson to remember when you’re negotiating your salary.

Many people whine and complain that they do not get paid what they’re worth. Others are too timid to ask for a reasonable, professional rate. The truth is that as great as you may be at your craft and as much as you might love your work, you’re going to have to step up your negotiating skills if you wish to make a living from it.

You may indeed be worth more than you’re being paid, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, it won’t matter very much. Your talent, abilities, and hard work will not pay the bills if you don’t name your price.

Here are 5 ways to negotiate so that you get paid what you’re worth:

  1. Establish set fees.

Before you can negotiate what you’re worth, you need to decide on what you’re going to charge for your services. Often, new freelancers have trouble with this, but here are some ideas. Have an exact figure or a price range ready to go the next time a prospect acts you what you charge. If you hesitate or don’t have a number/s prepared, it will not reflect well on you. For one thing, having exact prices makes you look legit and professional. When you reply with: “Well, I’ll try to get you a quote later,” you seem less trustworthy in the eyes of the prospect. While it may not be your intention, it comes off as: “I’m going to figure out how much I can get out of you and come back to you when I have an answer.”

You certainly don’t have to be rigid. Obviously, you can negotiate or come down in price, and it’s good to present a flexible set of options, which prospects can choose from. You can even come up with a customized deal tailored to their needs. But, be sure to have a price range and list of fees for services as a starting point for negotiation. Also, have the courage to stick to your price and determine beforehand the lowest price you’re willing to settle for in a negotiation.

If you’re in business for yourself, then you’re in the driver’s seat and you need to steer the negotiation process. Having set prices helps you set the tone. People don’t quibble with the clerk about the price tags in Sax Fifth Avenue, but they’ll haggle with the merchant selling his wares in the bazaar because they know the merchant will come down considerably if need be. When prospects see that you are confident and have a clear idea of what you’re quantifiably worth, they will feel less able to push you toward a figure you aren’t comfortable accepting.

2. Put it in writing.

If you can’t put it in writing, then you can’t be in business. Period. Make sure to put your terms, conditions, and requirements on paper. Many new freelancers are afraid to do this out of fear that they will drive away business or come off as paranoid and suspicious of their customers. But, in reality, most people would actually be more hesitant to do business with a contractor without a contract than with one who has them sign on the dotted line. Not having a contract looks shady and unprofessional.

You do business without a contract at your own peril. Assuming that there will always be some measure of scope creep, in every business relationship, having your terms spelled out will establish mutual obligations and expectations as well as minimize scope creep as much as possible. A contract or letter of agreement helps both parties know what to expect. It also enables them to move on amicably if things don’t work out. Without a contract, you cannot expect much from your clients and you leave yourself open to getting screwed. And anyone who would refuse to do business with you, because you require them to sign a contract, is someone you don’t want to do business with anyway. Protect yourself and your interests by putting everything in writing.

3. Get paid up front.

When you purchase an item, you pay at the store or on the Internet before you take it home and use it. If you don’t like it, you can always return it or try to get a refund, but you never predicate paying on whether or not you enjoy your user experience. In other situations, such as eating in a restaurant, you pay after the fact even if you didn’t enjoy your meal! So, why should freelancing be any different? Don’t run the risk of people using your service and your time and then leaving without paying. Don’t leave it up to chance. Make sure you get paid for your work. Clients who pay up front will be literally and figuratively more invested. They will, therefore, be more likely to work with you and provide you the resources you need to do your job and succeed.

4. Say “yes” as much as possible.

People love to hear the word, “yes.” “Yes,” is what leads to sales and new relationships. It’s called a negotiation for a reason. Be open to compromise and seek to please the prospect. Bend and yield whenever possible. Now, don’t promise more than you can deliver or settle for an agreement that makes you feel less than comfortable. This can breed resentment later down the line. But, always seek to agree and reassure the prospect that the job is doable and their needs can and will be met if you are able and willing to do it at an agreeable price-point.

5. Publish, publish, publish.

Publishing content on your marketing channels (blog, social media, podcast etc.) as well as on news publications, such as The Huffington Post or Inc Magazine helps you build authority and credibility, which gives you negotiation leverage. When you can demonstrate expertise and knowledge in your field and that your thoughts are worthy of being published in sources with third-party credibility, prospects will be more willing to trust you and pay your asking price.

If you’re upset about getting underpaid, then stop complaining and venting about it to your friends, your spouse, and to strangers on the bus. Instead, try these five negotiating tactics and start getting paid what you’re worth!

Do you have any other negotiation tips that you would suggest? Share them in the comments below!

Not Everyone Who Hates on You is a Hater

Whenever you try to start something new or do something different, you’re going to run up against resistance. People who say it can’t be done or that you’re not good enough.

The nay-sayers.

“Be realistic,” they say.

There’s a convenient term we often apply to such people: Haters

And yes, some of them certainly are. Haters can manifest in the form of online trolls commenting that you’re fat or that you’re stupid or [insert ethnic slur]. Unfortunately, haters can sometimes be very close to you — jealous friends or family members who secretly wish they also had the courage and the motivation to pursue their dreams.

Nonetheless, I don’t think we should always be so quick to label someone a hater. Before we dismiss someone as simply “hating” or sipping the Haterade, we should consider their perspective.

Now, certainly, if it’s just a troll on the Internet or the like who insults our looks, intelligence, or background or offers nothing of value, we can safely place that person’s comments in the Hater bin. Their comments are irrelevant and we shouldn’t lose sleep over them.

But, what if sometimes the criticism is constructive? What if it’s coming from someone who we know has our best interests at heart? Does this mean we have to accept it or heed the advice? No, not at all. But, we don’t have to necessarily accuse them of being a hater either. Sometimes their negativity stems from genuine concern. They don’t want to see you hurt, disappointed, or face the sting of failure and rejection. They may indeed be wrong to discourage you, but their misgivings may be coming from a good place. In that case, you can simply hear them out, but then do exactly what you were going to do anyway.

In other cases, the criticism they’re giving you may be constructive. Perhaps, your product really does have some kinks that need to be worked out. Maybe after ten years of waiting tables and trying to make it in Hollywood, it’s time to reconsider making a full-time living from acting. Perhaps, your business model could indeed use some improvement. Maybe you’re not charging enough. Maybe you’re charging too much. Maybe you’re not really as funny or charming as you think you are. Maybe your presentations could use some work and you would truly benefit from a public speaking course.

Before going off on someone and accusing them of being a hater, stop and consider a) if their criticism is coming from a good place or b) if their criticism is valid. If their feedback meets either of those criteria or both, then you may want to consider it, or at least not dismiss the person as a hater.

If you’re trying to build something bigger than yourself or do something most people wouldn’t dare to attempt, then you’re going to have to get used to hearing some nay-saying. You’re also going to have to deal with haters.

An entrepreneur or anyone else trying to do something difficult needs to develop a thick skin as well as a filter that allows one to not care or take to heart what people think on the one hand, and on the other, be able to listen. Knowing when to listen and when to tune out is an important skill that will serve you well in entrepreneurship and in any higher pursuit.

It’s important for an entrepreneur, or anyone else for that matter, to be able to handle constructive criticism. It’s all too easy to be sensitive and react defensively when we think our abilities, ideas, or ways of doing things are under attack. And, it’s far easier to dismiss someone as a hater than it is to look in the mirror and examine our own flaws or the flaws in our business and discover that we may have to some changes to make that are difficult or uncomfortable.

If you don’t handle constructive criticism well, you won’t be able to grow. The big businesses that failed were often ones with a culture of “yes-men” and “yes-women” where dissent was crushed and the top ignored problems or refused to listen to criticism from customers or other members of the team or organization.

Having a thick skin doesn’t only mean letting the hate and the haters roll off your back. It also means being able to listen to and, sometimes, act on constructive criticism, rather than get upset. Use it to get better, pivot, adjust, or improve. Because not everyone’s a hater and not every hater is completely wrong all of the time.