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As freelancers we need to manage our work, our time, our money, the direction we’d like our business to go.

Learning to say no is a key step to grow your business exactly the way you want to. And a way to become a trusted professional.

But saying no to what?

NO to bad payers

Is it worth keeping a client who always seems to forget to pay you by your terms, or altogether? Is it worth having to work hard with the worry all that time will go to waste?

You know the answer.

Yes, it is scary to say farewell to a client, let’s not lie to ourselves. But then you’ll find it is liberating, too. It is, trust me. You will find other clients and you’ll be able to work with the peace of mind of knowing your time, efforts and knowledge will be rightly rewarded. And with people as reliable as you.

Trust and reliability must be there on both sides: you do your work at the best of your powers, on time, under the agreed terms, and the other side pays you the agreed sum on time, on your terms. This is the business you want.

NO to working during the weekend or at night

I work in the translation business, and some agencies have the bad habit of taking for granted freelance translators who can (or want to) work over the weekend, sending you work on Friday late afternoon for delivery at the start of business on Monday.

Of course this is a personal choice, and every one of us has had to work weekends or holidays once in a while, due to work overload (there are times when clients seem to call out to one another and come knocking at our door all at the same time, aren’t there?).

But it should not become a habit. Once you have worked for the whole weekend, how do you think you’ll feel on Monday? Fresh with new energies? Don’t think so.

It is also a matter of professional dignity and of avoiding going from being a freelancer to being chained to your desk. Finding a balance between work and life is difficult for everyone, but it can be even more difficult for freelancers. In the back of our minds there’s always a tiny (sometimes not-so-tiny) nagging voice asking you, “What if I refuse this and no other project comes along?”

In time, we all learn work isn’t (usually) steady and not to be too scared of dry spells (remember that in those times when you can’t even come up for air).

NO to work beyond your abilities or capacities

Saying no can help us become better professionals as well. Like refusing more work where we are already overloaded, knowing we couldn't give the additional work all of our usual attention, time and focus.

Equally important is learning to saying no to work that is beyond our expertise. Being jack-of-all trades is not a smart choice in today’s business world, where the holy grail is, on the opposite, specialization.

Saying yes may be easy. Most of the times, saying no is not. It is scary, it generates doubts, sometimes regrets.

But it is a stepping stone in becoming a better professional. And in leveraging the free side of our work approach to get a better quality of life.

I am an Italian specialist in marketing, creative and legal translation and editing. I put my many years of experience to the advantage of my clients by creating texts resonating with the Italian-speaking audience and making brands locally relevant. Connect with me on Twitter or visit my website.