How to Turn Down Work as Freelancer

Because You Can't Say "Yes" to Everything

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

If you work remotely, you may be a freelancer, and if you’re a freelancer, you may find yourself needing to turn down work from time to time. Let’s face it, not every gig is perfect, and if you’re sitting comfortably with your current workload, you may not want to pick-up any new projects unless they perfectly fit your bill.

However, just because you’re turning down work doesn’t mean you want to be rude about it. You never know when you may be on the hunt for new work, or when a potential employer may have something to offer you aside from the job you’re going to say no to.

Freelancing is all about building and maintaining healthy and productive relationships with various employers and clients, and you certainly don’t want to lose any connections because you turned down work in a way that was far from polite.

If you find yourself in the current predicament of wanting to turn down work as a freelancer, but still wanting to maintain your ties with potential employers, don’t fret. We’ve got answers.

1. Consider negotiating the offer.

Sometimes the work you’ve been offered isn’t the problem. Sometimes it’s the rate. If such is the case, don’t be afraid to negotiate with the potential employer to see how flexible he or she is with the project’s budget. You usually want to shoot high when you make a counteroffer, and then, ideally, both parties can meet at a compromise in the middle. Sometimes, however, you might just luck out and strike it rich with your actual counteroffer.

When you write back to an employer asking about negotiating the rate, make sure you justify the reason why you believe the rate should be higher. You may also want to word your counteroffer in a way that reads something like this: “While I’m quite interested in this project and would love to work with you and your company on this, the rate is a little low for the parameters of the workload. If you’d be willing to negotiate the pay rate, I’d be happy to talk to you more about this.” Play around with your wording until you think that you’ve struck the right chord. Remember, you’re still trying to get the work, so you want to stay in the employer’s good graces, not leave the conversation having insulted him or her because of a lowball offer.

2. Turn down the offer, but do it in a way that doesn’t make the company look bad.

If you’re not at all interested in taking the word, regardless of whether or not the rate changed, then it’s time to officially turn down the offer. You want to do this promptly (so that the company isn’t sitting around waiting on you before asking another freelancer). You also want to do it in a way that leaves you on good terms with the employer.

Honesty is important, and letting the employer know why you don’t want to take on the work (be it because you already have a full plate or you are moving in another career direction), will be appreciated and remembered.

3. Make sure the employer knows that you’re available for future projects.

Just because this job offer didn’t work out doesn’t mean that there won’t be another one in the future that could work out better. Before you close things off with the employer who contacted you, make sure you include a note that mentions you’ll be available in the future for any projects that better fit what you’re looking for.

Remember, the more professionally you handle your correspondence this time, the better chance you’ll have of being called upon next time.

4. Thank the employer for thinking of you.

Similarly to letting the employer know that you’d be grateful for future propositions, you also want to let him or her know that you are grateful that he or she thought of you in the first place.

You never want to appear jaded or “too good” for a job, and thanking the employer for reaching out is the best way to go about avoiding that image. People liked to be thanked, regardless of if you end up taking a position or not. Besides, you never know when you may be in need of that work you once turned down.

5. Check-in with your connections from time to time.

Finally, once you turn down a work offer, that shouldn’t mean that you’re out of communication with the employer who offered it to you. Check-in from time to time with previous employers or previous potential employers to see if any projects that are more up your alley are a possibility.

If there’s one thing that a freelancer should never stop doing, it’s networking.

How do you turn down work as a freelancer? Share your tips with us on Twitter.

This article was originally published on

You might also like...

Remote working

How to cope up with the challenges of remote working?

by Deen Dayal Yadav

Mamie Kanfer Stewart On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

by Karen Mangia

How Professionals And Organizations Need To Prepare For The ‘Great Resignation’

by Kathy Caprino
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.