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So I’ve got big news.

See, I’ve made it to the big league.

How do I know?

First, I’ve turned down a handful of assignments so far this year.

Second, I’m firing my first client.


Saying No: Getting Beyond Desperate

For the first three months of the year I piled on the work—as I shared last year, I knew I had a large tax payment coming up and didn’t have the cash in reserve to pay for it.

That meant taking what I was earning on average each month and increasing it so that I’d have enough saved to pay Uncle Sam in April.

So early in January I began piling on the work. I did a bunch of cold emailing and filled up my schedule through March so that I knew I’d be able to meet my obligations.

Of course, it’s hard to know exactly how much marketing to do to make sure you have just enough work and not too much—or too little. I intentionally overdid it, since it fall short of my financial goals was not really an option.

And, predictably, work continued to come in after my calendar was full.

That meant I got to cherry pick which clients I wanted to work with and which assignments I wanted to tackle.

One of the assignments I decided to turn down was a project from a self publishing house I do editing work for, because the book didn’t interest me and because they wait on author approval before sending a check, which sometimes takes a few months. I knew I needed work that would bring in money in a predictable time period, so they were out.

I couldn’t just turn down projects willy-nilly; but I could be a lot more selective about what I took on. And that led to the second event that let me know I’d made it.

Firing A Client Without Burning Bridges

Because I could be more selective about which projects I took on, and because I was working a lot more than I had until that point, I began looking at which projects I enjoyed and which I procrastinated even opening.
There was one client in particular whose emails I always avoided; I’d open them and glance over what was written and then put off responding as long as possible.

Every time I had a project from this particular client on my to-do list I dreaded starting on it — even though the work paid well and didn’t take that long to complete.

It didn’t matter… I just didn’t want to do it. So I decided I didn’t have to.

Yet I didn’t want to just write the client a “fuck off” email… so I came up with a way to make everyone happy.
I told the client —truthfully—that my schedule was much busier these days and I didn’t have enough time to take on all the projects she had in the works. I told her that I had another freelancer in mind who could likely take on some of them, if she was open to such an arrangement.

I spoke with the other freelancer, someone who was newer to the business and looking for clients, and explained the situation. She was game.

So I sent an introduction email. Now the client has someone to do the project and my freelancer friend has a new source of business. It’s a total win-win.

And that’s not all. . .

That’s not the only win-win so far this year either. As I mentioned, I needed to kick things into overdrive if I wanted to make enough to cover my tax bill.

That, in turn, led me to increase my average monthly income.

After crunching the numbers so that I could file my taxes this April I realized I’d managed yet another major accomplishment—not only did I have enough in savings to pay my taxes, if I keep earning money at the same rate for the rest of the year I am on target to make about $6K more annually than I used to when working full time.

As I said: I’ve made it to the big leagues. And man it feels good.

Have you ever fired a client? Do you remember the first time you turned down work? Share it in the comments!

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Melissa Breau spent the last three years as an editor at a magazine but in 2011 decided to launch full speed ahead into the freelance life. She currently offers copywriting for small businesses and professional editing for authors, as well as blog posts on each of the above, over at
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